Raise your profile as an inexperienced or young Line Manager
Inexperienced and young line managers can find it especially challenging to be taken seriously by their team, their peers and more senior managers. A gifted individual that has proven their ability to perform well and achieve high levels of performance themself can then struggle to raise their profile and be seen as an equal amongst other more experienced managers when they become part of a wider team.
Some typical challenges that young or new managers may face include:
Limited experience: new managers may have limited experience in managing people and teams, which can make it difficult to navigate complex situations and make sound decisions.
Managing former peers: new managers may be promoted from within the team and now be managing former peers. This can create challenges in establishing authority and setting boundaries.
Imposter syndrome: new managers may feel like they don't have the necessary skills or experience to be effective managers, which can lead to self-doubt and imposter syndrome.
Balancing work and life: new managers may struggle to balance work and life, particularly if they are taking on additional responsibilities for the first time.
Lack of support: new managers may not have access to the same level of support and resources as more experienced managers. This can make it difficult to handle complex situations and make difficult decisions.
These challenges can play out in a variety of ways and may leave a new manager feeling that others are dismissive of their ideas or they simply cannot seem to get any air time during meetings or discussions. This can be demotivating and leave the manager feeling frustrated.
Practical steps to help improve confidence and raise your profile in a measured way
Imagine you are part of a project team that is in the early stages of brainstorming ideas. There are some strong characters in the project team and most have worked together before so are familiar with each other’s working styles and strengths. There is a project team leader who has ultimate responsibility for the team output and is chair of the team meetings. You have joined this project team because you have the right skills and knowledge and as a newly promoted manager this is an excellent opportunity to get involved with something new. You are enthusiastic and excited to be able to contribute your ideas and feel that you have something valid to add.
However, during the first few meetings, it is evident that other members of the project team are dismissive of your ideas and rarely give you the opportunity to speak. Some speak over you and others just ignore what you have to say. Occasionally the project team leader intervenes and asks you to repeat yourself but then the conversation is steered away from you. You are feeling pretty despondent, and you are not sure how you can penetrate this clique of more experienced managers, so you spend most of your time listening, nodding, and accepting the tasks being allocated to you.
So how can you make yourself more visible and be accepted as part of this team?
The first thing you can try doing is to appeal to the project team leader to give you some support. I would recommend that you speak to them on a 1-2-1 basis; prepare some examples of when you have felt you were ignored, or the team was dismissive of your contribution. Explain to the project team leader that you felt the team was dismissive and that you had wanted to contribute more of your ideas but were unable to. It is not necessary to be critical of the team leader, instead, ask them if they noticed this and if they can suggest how you can raise your profile and be taken more seriously. The Team Leader will likely feel awkward and may say something along the lines of ‘I will have a quiet word’ but be careful of this as this might not actually help; instead ask them to wait until the next meeting. Say it will be really helpful to you if they can keep a watchful eye and if they see you are being ignored or dismissed, they intervene and ask others to wait until you have spoken and then encourage discussion about your idea even if it is only to explain why it is not a good one. Ask the project team leader to regularly ask your opinion about what is being discussed to draw you into the conversation. You could even agree on a visual code that you can use such as if you are trying to join in but don’t seem to be able to, you could ‘tap your pen 3 times’ and this will be the queue for the project line manager to invite you to speak uninterrupted. Eventually, the team members will see that your contributions will have some value and will start to seek out your views without being prompted.
Another suggestion is to speak to individual team members themselves, also on a 1-2-1 basis. You can provide them with some feedback about how they came across to you in the meeting using a specific example. If you ask them why they did not feel your idea or contribution was of interest they may share with you the reason in which case you can ask them, going forward, to discuss this with you at the time rather than dismiss your contributions as this has made you feel invisible. If there are egos at play, you can appeal to their experience and seniority to help you learn from them.
You might prefer to try to deal with things at the moment. In this case, you could prepare some narratives that you can use in different situations as a kind of toolkit to reach for when the moment arises. This will help you to come across as constructive and professional and will give you the confidence to engage. E.g. if you put an idea out there that one of the other team members did not acknowledge and instead just spoke over you, you could say something along the lines of “That’s great, we seem to have a lot of energy and ideas are flowing, let's pause a moment to capture these so they can all be evaluated fully” then either use a flip chart, Jamboard or another tool that the project team uses to start to capture the discussion. This can then form the basis of a fuller conversation about each idea, ensuring your own is amongst them. The project team leader will hopefully jump on this opportunity or will be happy to allow you to lead on this. If not, then during a break, or after the meeting, you could sit with the team leader on a 1-2-1 and ask why they did not feel it was right to have a process of evaluating all ideas. Either they will help you to understand why not, or they will take your feedback on board and help to support your ideas at future meetings.
Another example of when new managers can feel intimidated is when they have been promoted over a much older worker, this older worker might find it difficult to be told what to do by you and you might find it difficult to communicate with them if so you could arrange a 1-2-1 conversation and, as before, prepare an example of when you felt it was difficult or that the staff member had been disrespectful and ask them why they felt it appropriate to say what they said or do what they did. Put the onus on them to explain to you rather than tell them what you think. You may need to prompt them to speak and a good way to do this is to highlight the impact of their behaviour – perhaps they didn’t complete a task and the impact was that a customer didn’t get their order on time. Preparing for a conversation that can take place in private in a calm and constructive manner will likely earn the respect of the staff member and will improve the working relationship. This may take a little time, but you will be able to see progress.
There will always be individuals or groups of people that are more difficult than others and therefore may take longer to come around, but persistence will pay off. You will manage different situations differently so you will need to adapt your style and response to something appropriate each time.
Here are some useful dos and don’ts:
take your time to build relationships
speak to individuals on a 1-2-1 to give feedback
in meetings continue to try to speak, even if you are feeling ignored
make notes of examples of when you felt undervalued/ignored to aid a 1-2-1 conversation later
listen to feedback about how you come across to others
try to learn from others
make an effort to understand team dynamics
listen to others and join in the conversation when you can
believe in yourself, nobody else will if you don’t
set clear expectations, particularly of people under your span of control
be consistent – always!
show your frustration during a team meeting
criticise somebody directly, especially in front of others
keep repeating yourself until somebody acknowledges you
ignore feedback, holding the mirror up to yourself is equally important
wait too long to address an issue as it will become a ‘norm’
feel that you are too young or new to management to be respected or to add value, if you have the knowledge, skills and capability, age or tenure doesn’t matter
Tip: As a young manager, why not conduct your own personal swot analysis to allow yourself the opportunity for growth? Check out our article on how to conduct a personal swot.
Resource #9 – April 2023