Moving up the career ladder is what many people want as they start out in their career.

But why?

Often, it is driven by an ambition for more status, a better package, and a general sign of career progression. I have not had many conversations with a young person whose aspirations for Line Management centred on a desire to lead and develop others.

There is nothing wrong with that. How can you be expected to know exactly what a move into Line Management looks like? The reality is, it can be a very challenging transition and one that, in my experience, is massively underestimated by most businesses. There is a big assumption that a functional expert (and let’s face it, you are unlikely to get that promotion unless you have performed well in your function) will automatically make a good Line Manager. And often that move comes far too early in someone’s career, and they are totally unprepared.

Would you allow an inexperienced Salesperson to manage a big negotiation with one of your biggest customers? Would you allow an unqualified accountant to manage your year end?

It is a definite ‘no’ to both scenarios (or it should be!)

Then why is it OK to move people from a function into Line Management without any consideration for how well prepared they might be for that transition?

During my 30+ years working in corporate environments, I have seen and experienced pretty much everything there is to experience both as a Line Manager myself, but also as an employee working for some really good, and some really bad, Line Managers.

So, what are the main challenges for newly appointed Line Managers?

  1. Dealing with underperforming members of your new team – many new Line Managers are promoted from within, so facing into some difficult conversations can feel very daunting. Many will simply avoid doing this, which can lead to continued underperformance and a lack of respect from other team members due to lack of action.
  2. Struggling with Imposter syndrome – feeling like you are not quite good enough, and do not deserve the promotion. This can lead to you trying to appease everyone as you want to be ‘liked by all’.
  3. Not understanding the different character profiles of your team. This can mean that an inflexible management style might work for some but not others, which can lead to frustration.
  4. Lack of clear communication, which can lead to confusion around expectations, and lack of confusion as your team are not clear on what they are doing well, and what they need to work harder on.

So, what are my five top tips for new line managers?

  1. Be comfortable to admit errors and seek feedback from your team – this will help to build trust and rapport with them.
  2. Be clear what you expect from each person. Align on goals so that your team know what is expected of them.
  3. Take some time to understand the personality profiles, strengths, and weaknesses of your team. Use this information to find the best way of getting the most out of everyone.
  4. Face into any performance issues. Avoiding them will only create a bigger issue and dealing with them will gain you respect within the team, if managed fairly.
  5. Find a good Coach or Mentor to help you through the process of transition in Line Management – it can feel quite isolated at times.


Chris Harvey spent over 30 years working in traditional corporate environments, with the final 12 years at Nestle, before deciding to step out on his own. In that time, he gained extensive experience working across several functions – Sales, Marketing, Supply Chain and HR – with many of those roles as a Line Manager. Chris helps Line Managers who feel either unprepared, underdeveloped or are underperforming to get greater engagement, enablement, and output from their teams.