illustration showing growth

Whether you’ve found yourself in a leadership position for the first time or aspire to lead a team one day, figuring out where to start your journey to become a great leader can be tough. You’re probably already excelling at the day-to-day tasks required for a promotion in your department, but knowing how to lead and manage people requires an additional set of skills. First-time manager training can come in many forms, and some methods are better than others.

What does good leadership training look like?

Leadership and first-time manager training is a continuous process. It’s not something that’s completed with an all-day training session or a weekend retreat. In fact, studies show that learners forget 90% of what they learn if the information isn’t reinforced.

The best managers and leaders develop a continuous learning mindset and strive to learn more about themselves and others on an ongoing basis. Continuous learning reinforces skills and ensures managers retain the knowledge they gain over time.

Ebbinghaus forgetting curve
The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve demonstrates how information that isn’t reinforced is lost.

Great managers also focus on both the traditional professional skills needed to execute in the position and the personal emotional skills needed to be a great leader- like self-awareness and empathy. At Verb, we call this combination of professional and personal skills whole person development. It’s where being and doing come together.

What skills should be taught in first-time manager training?

The traditional professional skills first-time managers need to know can vary from role to role- skills like using software and tools or understanding company processes.

But there are also personal and emotional skills that every manager, regardless of years of experience, department, or role, needs to know. Here’s a combination of both the professional and personal skills that apply regardless of your role specifics:

  • How to be a supportive leader
  • Ways to offer personalized support
  • Supporting people holistically
  • Giving fast and continuous feedback
  • Knowing how to spend your time
  • Set clear expectations
  • Creating a safe environment
  • Communication expectations continuously
  • How to have an effective one-on-one
  • How to make difficult decisions
  • Fighting indecision
  • How to facilitate better decisions
  • Responding to conflict in the workplace
  • Creating repeatable processes
  • Avoiding bias in performance reviews
  • Understanding the cost of high turnover
  • Knowing how to hire the right candidate

The skills above are important for leaders regardless of level, industry, or title. They can also be helpful when navigating personal challenges outside of the workplace, which allows managers to be more present during the workday.

first-time manager skills chart
The best managers are developed as whole people. They know themselves and others, so they can improve themselves and others.

Tips for first-time managers

  1. Never stop learning
    The best leaders try to learn something new from each day and each new experience. Find ways to make learning a priority like reading regularly, taking advantage of your organization’s learning and development resources, or focusing on one new skill each week.

  2. Get to know your team
    Understanding each member of your team so you can lead how they need to be led can make a huge difference. Exhibit empathy and try to learn how your team prefers to be managed, their communication styles, and how they best receive feedback. Knowing how your team thinks and operates can help you avoid misunderstandings and create a deeper sense of trust.

  3. Understand that role shifts can be difficult
    As a first-time manager, it’s likely that peers who you used to work alongside now report up to you. As roles shift, the way you interact with your former peers needs to be considered. Spending lots of time with existing work friends who now report to you can create feelings of favoritism and unrest throughout the rest of your team. Keep your work relationships in check and remember that with your new role comes new responsibilities. And while putting old work friendships at a reasonable distance isn’t fun, it can be important for creating a fair and comfortable workspace for your whole team.

  4. Find a mentor
    Mentorships have proven to create career and financial opportunities for both mentors and mentees, and increased productivity and retention rates for organizations. Ask your company if they offer any sort of internal mentorship opportunities. If not, find out which leaders in your organization you admire and ask if they’d be willing to mentor you.

    If your organization is interested in starting their own structured, scalable mentorship program, we’d love to talk about how Verb can support that initiative. Let’s talk!

  5. Ask for feedback
    Getting settled in a new role takes time. Ask those you work with for feedback so you can see where you’ve grown, and what areas you have more opportunity to improve in. Part of being a leader is being able to accept and take action on both positive and negative feedback. The sooner you become accustomed to this process, the better you’ll fare. The Verb platform has feedback tools that allow learners to solicit feedback from peers in real-time, but asking face-to-face or in your one-on-one meetings is always a valid option if your organization doesn’t have scalable tools to aid in this process.

  6. Set an example
    If you hold your team to high standards, make sure you’re living up to those same standards as their leader. Keep an open line of communication, show up to and participate in company events, never stop learning, and share the skills you develop with your team. As a new leader, it’s important to show your team that you’re there to support them and the company so they can do the same.

If your organization is interested in learning more about how Verb can train your first-time managers and provide tools for mentorship and feedback, schedule a time to talk to one of our experts.

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