Have you recently been promotion into (or accepted) your first ever management role?

Have you found that you might need a little bit of help to transition smoothly, but, and you knew there was a but coming, if you ask your boss for training or coaching you fear you’ll either look incompetent or it may be a sign to the boss that he / she made a mistake in promotion you?

This is a very real scenario; Mark was promoted to his first management role and within a short few weeks he started to see gaps in his performance, was struggling to handle difficult conversations and support his direct reports, plus get his own work done. He’d been promoted out of a technical role into a more ‘people management’ role. Mark was concerned that if he spoke up about his performance, pointed out where he was struggling, his boss may have demoted him.

Would Mark’s boss really demote him? Probably not but Mark’s angst was real.

It’s often thought of as imposter syndrome, that feeling that one day you’ll be found out as not being the right person for the job.

This whole situation could be anxiety producing yet it need not be.

So how do you ask for the development you need without losing face or risking some sort of backlash or looking incompetent?

Here is a suggested process:

I can’t give you a 100% success, 6-steak knives and your money-back type of guarantee but I can assure you it will help you think through the situation professionally, strategically and confidently so you will have a much greater chance of getting the development and support you need.

  • First and foremost, you need to get very clear and honest with yourself about what the real issue(s) or challenge(s) are; the skills you need to develop; the situations where you need a bit of assistance. here are a few examples; of course, you may be experiencing something else:

    Understand the strategic vision so you can translate it into terms the team can understand, and then actions can be set and implemented.

  • Letting go of some of the technical tasks you either like doing or believe only you can do.
  • Not knowing how to delegate properly.
  • Now having to manage people who were your work mates.
  • Now having to manager people who also applied for the job you won, including work mates.
  • Managing your time so that you can do your work and lead the team and check that the work is being done.
  • Influencing across departments to reach the outcomes you need to achieve without annoying or frustrating other departments.

Self Diagnosis

When you can identify what is exactly at the heart of your issue, you have already reduced the perceived magnitude of the supposed incompetence or concern for your lack of ability.

Yes, it’s like a mind game. When we say to ourselves, “I need training but if I ask the boss, he / she will think I’m competent”. this can play on our insecurities and create bigger than necessary  – yes, unreal – anxiety. When you break it right down to what the specific are, you now have bit size chunks that can be dealt with much quicker and easier! Give yourself a diagnosis: work out what the key challenge is so you can then move to the next step.

The next step is to identify what will be the most effective and efficient way to help you address the issue. Depending on the size of your organisation, you may be able to draw on help from the HR or training department.

Consider if you will need a workplace coach to support you or if a short training course will get your skills up to speed. Maybe a training video will be enough. Not only think of your needed topics but also how you like to learn.

Create the List

Next, give yourself an hour of searching the internet to get some ideas of the training or coaching that’s available in the market. If you do have direct access to HR or the training department discuss with them your issue and that you would like some training, coaching and/or resource options. HR or training should have their finger not he pulse of what’s in the market so use them to help you get a good picture of what can be done to help you work towards your development needs.

Just as an aside, if you do have the expertise of the HR or training department to rely on, they should have information relating to other managers in similar situations and so they could be better placed to organise an in-house training course or group coaching program. The department may conduct training needs analysis across the organisation from time to time.

Create the Business Case

Once you have a few options, including relevant details like timing, cost, availability, you have the basis of a business case for your professional development.

As you’ve worked through these steps, can you see how you’ve moved from what could be quite a stressful situation to a well thought-out business case that identifies real, specific target area(s) within your professional development. Add in the benefits of getting the development, answering the question, how will the organisation benefit from you undertaking the training or coaching.

When you development is addressed this leads to boosted productivity, better leadership and greater confidence in yourself. 

I’d love to know your thoughts …