First-time managers play a crucial role in this process, as they are responsible for supervising their teams to meet organizational goals

Developing the Essential Skills of a First-Time Manager: How Career Coaching Can Help

April 26, 2023

Posted by Alexandra Lamb

As an organization grows, it is vital to have competent supervisors who can effectively manage teams and drive results. First-time managers play a crucial role in this process, as they are responsible for supervising their teams to meet organizational goals. However, taking on a new managerial role can be challenging, and learning how to be a good first-time manager often comes with unique obstacles.

Challenges such as lack of experience, navigating complex office politics, managing difficult team dynamics and meeting performance expectations can be daunting for an inexperienced manager. The academic research into the experience of first-time managers gives a significant body of evidence defining the real challenges this group face, including:

  1. Dealing with role ambiguity: First-time managers often experience ambiguity about their roles and responsibilities. They may struggle to balance their new responsibilities with their existing ones, leading to confusion and stress (Puffer, 2016).
  2. Adapting to new expectations: As first-time managers, individuals are expected to display leadership qualities, inspire and motivate their team members, and achieve organizational goals. These expectations can be daunting and may lead to feelings of inadequacy (Leiter & Maslach, 2019).
  3. Developing interpersonal skills: Interpersonal skills such as effective communication, active listening, and conflict resolution are critical for managerial success. However, many first-time managers may lack these skills and require training to develop them (Gerhardt, 2015).
  4. Managing a diverse team: Managing a diverse team with varying personalities, work styles, and cultural backgrounds can be a significant challenge for first-time managers. They may struggle to understand and appreciate these differences, leading to conflict and misunderstandings (Shore, Cleveland, & Sanchez, 2018).
  5. Coping with stress and pressure: The pressure of meeting organizational goals, dealing with personnel issues, and managing one's own workload can be overwhelming for first-time managers. They may experience stress, anxiety, and burnout, which can impact their job performance (Puffer, 2016).

Consequently, this makes it imperative for first-time managers to hone their skills if they want to succeed, become better managers, and build stronger teams that achieve success in a sustainable manner. With this, the skill sets needed for a first-time manager are necessary. This blog aims to identify these skills required and examines how career coaching can support their development.

What are the Essential Skills of First-Time Managers?

Let’s examine each of these skill sets so we can learn how first-time managers can develop them and achieve success in their new roles.

Communication and Interpersonal Relations Skills

Effective communication is an essential skill for all managers. First-time managers must master this skill to effectively convey instructions to their team, listen to feedback, and understand the needs of their team members. Active listening involves being fully present and attentive when your team members speak to you. Empathy, on the other hand, is understanding a person's feelings, thoughts, and perspectives concerning a particular issue. Conflict resolution is also crucial as it helps new managers identify and reconcile differences between team members, thus fostering a positive and collaborative work environment.

Decision-Making Skills

First-time managers must think critically and creatively to develop actionable strategies that lead to the achievement of organizational goals. Critical thinking involves analyzing complex situations, questioning assumptions, making logical conclusions, and presenting logical solutions. Problem-solving involves identifying issues, researching alternative solutions, evaluating the options, and selecting the most effective resolution. Lastly, creative thinking involves generating unique and creative solutions to everyday problems, which can be an invaluable asset to organizations that seek innovative solutions to challenging problems.

Team Management and Motivation

Managing and motivating a team is a critical skill set required of every first-time manager. Delegation involves assigning tasks that are aligned with team members' skills, strengths and weaknesses, setting expectations and ensuring the completion of their responsibilities. Effective performance management is also vital to identify team members' strengths, weaknesses, and areas of improvement. Offering feedback and constructive criticism will also allow team members to improve and avoid the same errors in future tasks. Employee engagement involves creating a supportive work environment that fosters team members' happiness, motivation, and commitment to achieving organizational goals.

First time manager training one of his team members one on one

The Role of Career Coaching in Developing First-Time Managers

Career coaching is an effective way to support first-time managers in honing and developing the necessary skills required in their new roles. A career coach can offer valuable support, guidance, and insight to help them gain confidence and improve their abilities. In this section, we will look at the benefits of career coaching and how it supports skill development for first-time managers.

How Career Coaching Helps First-Time Managers Get Acclimated to Their New Role?

Career coaching is an essential tool for first-time managers to adjust to their new roles in a professional and seamless manner. Entering a new work environment can be challenging for individuals as they navigate unfamiliar territory, including new people, a new hierarchy, and new power dynamics. An experienced career coach can work with first-time managers to identify potential roadblocks, provide guidance on navigating office politics, and help in developing the necessary skills to succeed as a manager. By offering a personalized approach, career coaching allows first-time managers to build the confidence they need to effectively lead their team and succeed in their new work environment.

How Career Coaching Supports Skill Development for First-Time Managers

Communication and interpersonal skills are the cornerstones of effective management. A career coach can help new managers develop active listening skills, empathy and conflict resolution skills. They can provide management tips that refined strategic thinking abilities through careful guidance. They can assist managers in evaluating critical factors, analyzing problems, identifying issues and selecting the most effective solutions.

A career coach can use a variety of techniques to support first-time managers in their new roles, including:

  1. Clarifying goals and expectations: A career coach can help first-time managers to clarify their goals and expectations, both for themselves and for their team. This can help to ensure that they are focusing on the right things and are aligned with organizational priorities.
  2. Facilitating feedback: A coach can provide ongoing feedback and support to the manager, helping them to stay on track and providing guidance when needed. This can help the manager to feel more confident and capable in their new role.
  3. Defining highly effective networking and relationship-building: A coach can help the manager to build relationships with colleagues, mentors, and other professionals who can support them in their career development. This can help the manager to expand their network and gain valuable insights and advice.
  4. Encouraging self-reflection and self-care: A coach can encourage the manager to take time for self-reflection and self-care, helping them to manage stress and stay focused on their goals. This can include practices such as mindfulness, meditation, or exercise.

By using these techniques and others, a career coach can help first-time managers to develop the skills and mindset needed for success in their new roles.

Enhancing managerial and motivational capabilities are also critical to the growth of a manager, as these skills contribute to team success, which ultimately results in business success. The career coach offers guidance in the delegation, performance management and employee engagement, helping managers develop effective management strategies.

Creating a Career Coaching Program for First-Time Managers

Creating a robust career coaching program within your organisation is essential for the development of first-time managers. Such a program is designed to identify and develop specific skills that align with organizational goals. In this section, we will explore the steps required to create an effective career coaching program for new managers.

Identifying Coaching Goals

Assessing individual needs involves working with new managers to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and areas of development. From this starting point, coaches can develop customized coaching plans that address the specific needs of each manager. Establishing performance metrics is also critical to determine how well individuals meet coaching expectations.

Structuring the Coaching Process

Setting coaching schedules ensures a regular touchpoint between coaches and new managers, allowing for regular feedback and progress tracking. Providing training and resources alongside coaching equips new managers with the skills they require to meet organizational goals successfully. Monitoring progress and adjusting plans enables both the coach and manager to modify plans to reflect changing needs and address areas of improvement.

Career coaching programs for first-time managers are critical for setting them up for success. By identifying coaching goals and structuring an effective coaching process, organizations can create an environment that fosters the growth of new managers while driving organizational success.

A first time female manager working with her teammates via a virtual call

Work With the Best Career Coaches

In summary, career coaching provides essential benefits to new managers. It helps develop  their communication and interpersonal capabilities, refine strategic thinking abilities, and enhance management and motivational capabilities.

Investing in the success of first-time managers is crucial for the growth and stability of an organization. Supporting new managers with a career coach ensures that they acquire the necessary skills to lead their respective teams effectively. By investing in first-time managers' success, organizations will benefit tremendously by achieving their goals, fostering a conducive workplace, and improving overall productivity.

If you don’t have an in-house coaching team, there are several resources you can tap, like BOLDLY. To get access to the most formidable career coaches in the industry, check out BOLDLY’s global coaching marketplace. Work with aptly screened, qualified professional coaches and create competent and internationally competitive first-time managers. Get in touch with our team today.

About the Author:

Alexandra Lamb is an accomplished organisational development practitioner, with experience across APAC, North America, and MENA. With 20+ years in professional practice, conglomerates, and startups, she has collaborated with rapid-growth companies and industry innovators to develop leaders and high-performance teams. She is particularly experienced in talent strategy as a driver for business growth. Drawing from her experience in the fields of talent management, psychology, coaching, product development, and human-centred design, Alex prides herself on using commercial acumen to design talent solutions with true impact.


Gerhardt, M. (2015). Developing managerial skills for the workplace of the future. Journal of Management Development, 34(10), 1162-1172.

Leiter, M. P., & Maslach, C. (2019). New managers: The risks and rewards of the first years on the job. Organizational Dynamics, 48(1), 1-8.

Puffer, S. M. (2016). The challenges of first-time managers. Journal of Management Development, 35(3), 323-327.

Shore, L. M., Cleveland, J. N., & Sanchez, D. (2018). Workforce diversity and management: An update. Academy of Management Perspectives, 32(3), 305-323.

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