New manager challenges – is SA any different?

The scarcity of talent that leads to fast-tracking leaders is a global phenomenon; however, South Africa has legislative pressure to transform organisational leadership in a specific way. Does this result in different or additional challenges for new South African managers? This was a burning question for me as I undertook a work-based project to gain my Masters in Coaching from Middlesex University.

There is a substantial body of research that identifies a variety of challenges faced by new managers during their transition into the new role. Typical challenges arise out of the process of organisational socialisation that every new employee goes through. It is common for new managers to experience difficulties while finding their way in a new organisational structure, building new relationships and alliances, as well as discovering and aligning themselves with a new organisational culture. New managers have widely reported that in their view, they started out on the job without the full information, authority, relationships, tools or plans to make them successful.

In bygone days, employees with leadership potential had the luxury of the time to develop into the organisation’s leaders. As you moved steadily up the ranks, so your job skills-set and soft skills-set were developed and honed by hands-on, real-time experience. By the time, you earned the nod and sat down in the manager’s seat, you pretty much knew what the job was all about, you understood what you were expected to do, and you had some fairly solid insights into how you could do it successfully. You could afford to have a fair measure of self-confidence and self-belief from day one.

But we are fast-tracking talent into leadership positions today, and so it is common throughout the world to get the managerial position without having the necessary managerial, leadership and even, job skills that you need to be a success in your new role. While Employment Equity legislation in South Africa creates a pressure on companies which may well result in the appointment of under-skilled and under-experienced Black managers; sheer skills shortage creates the same pressure on global companies and they too, promote or employ under-resourced managers, of whatever racial grouping or ethnicity.

Finding yourself in a new job and realising that you don’t have the skills and experience to perform it successfully is a highly stressful experience that negatively impacts on individuals in many ways, some of which can have long-lasting effects.

Dogged by fear of failure and self-doubt, frustrated by one’s own drive for perfectionism and hamstrung by a lack of self-awareness, it is not hard for a new manager to find themselves in private turmoil while they do their best to present the required image of seamless self-confidence. Researcher and co-founder of The Resilience Group, Beth Weinstock identified more of what she termed ‘hidden stressors’ of transition such as identity shifts, boundary realignments and a growing awareness of what it means to be a leader, which of course, highlights your own shortfalls.

Grappling with, and feeling overwhelmed by these transitional challenges has serious impacts such as poor performance and low levels of satisfaction, as well as the lack of commitment and intent to stay. If a transition into management is not managed properly by the company it often leads to compromised productivity, low staff morale, wasteful disruption and high recruitment expenses.

Businesses need a proactive strategy to support transitioning leaders in order to avert failure and create added value by increasing a new manager’s effectiveness. When I embarked on my research project I aimed to develop a coaching course to help South African companies improve their support for their new Black managers. Having concluded my study, I have realigned my training programme as I am convinced by my findings that it is relevant and beneficial to any company fast-tracking leaders.

Learn more about ‘How to coach your managers in transition’ training programme by contacting Phryne Williams on 021 419 4800 or at