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How to give new managers the best possible chance of success.

How to give new managers the best possible chance of success

Surveys have revealed that around 60% of front-line managers fail within their first two years in the job. More than a quarter feel that they were not adequately prepared for their new role and over half concede that they received no management training at all.

Yet there is plenty for new managers to master. According to Linda Hill, of Harvard Business School: 'They must learn how to lead others, to win trust and respect, to motivate and to strike the right balance between delegation and control.' Add in such managerial duties as settling conflicts between members of staff, carrying out performance reviews, creating career paths and finding the resources needed for support, and it is little wonder many new managers become overwhelmed and fail to make the transition to leadership.

Maria Plakhotnik and Tonette S. Rocco (P29, T+D) present a three-year succession plan for first-time managers.

The first two years cover selection and preparation. During year one, the candidate takes part in seminars, focus groups and interviews and is given opportunities for job shadowing. In year two, the potential manager is given formal and informal training, plus experience as a project manager and an acting manager.

The next four months are the transition stage. Here the potential manager takes part in more formal and informal training, plus mentoring and networking.

The final six to 18 months are devoted to settling in and developing a professional identity as a manger. Formal and informal training continue during this stage, and are supplemented by mentoring and peer evaluation.

Early tasks for the successful manger include meeting the group, asking key business questions and setting initial goals. Later, the manager should plan work and projects, communicate and establish goals, hold performance discussions, manage time, and resolve problems and remove obstacles. The successful manager's ongoing tasks include networking, monitoring group progress towards goals, seeking improvements, managing change and ensuring regular communication with the team.

Stressing the importance of ensuring that the benefits of any training programme outweigh the costs, Lucio Zonca (P33, API) distils his experience of performing training at various multinational corporations to advise companies how to design the right programme for their business.

Firms need to carry out a proper assessment of training needs in order to ensure that valuable resources are spent in the most important areas. Businesses should seek an instructor who comes from the same profession as the trainees. The programme should have a clear and practical approach and respect people's knowledge, experience and motivations. The training should include role-playing, case studies and simulations to help those who do not respond well to abstract theory.

The training environment should be as comfortable as possible. Sessions should be short, with adequate breaks. Visual aids such as PowerPoint presentations, computer graphics, whiteboards, flip charts, videos and hand-outs can help people to understand the structure of a presentation.

Every training programme should be assessed according to its effectiveness, results and outcomes.

'It is vital that employees begin using the knowledge and skills gained in the training session immediately,' Lucio Zonca concludes. 'If they do not, only a small portion of the experience is likely to be retained. Positive reinforcement helps-both during training to shape the participants' behaviour and when the trained person begins using the new skills on the job. In the end, it is essential to retain a commitment to ongoing education and training from all levels of the organization, as they are a means for supporting strategic goals and objectives.'