The Accidental Manager – Just About Managing

This article first appeared in the February edition of SHD Logistics.

The accidental manager, a scenario a lot of us have faced ourselves or been witness to. Ruth Edwards, Business Development Director at Talent in Logistics, offers some advice on how you can navigae this complex situation. 

Deemed as a great worker who is excelling in their current role and needs to climb the development ladder, the first step is very often to move into a management position. It feels brilliant to be recognised and rewarded with such a fantastic development opportunity. Whether you’ve been promoted from warehouse operator to team leader, or from transport planner to transport manager, you may not have the tools or experience to excel in your first people management role.

The job will feel very different to anything you have done before. The list of responsibilities can stack up, and there is a lot more expected of you from both senior management and your team. Your team will depend on you. You will be expected to act as a support when they seek advice on the job, when they require support for things that are going on at home, when they fall ill or have childcare issues etc. But do you know how to navigate your way through these issues?

On many occasions, you will also have to take that difficult step of moving from within a team of colleagues and friends to becoming their leader. How do you make that step change?

Many large organisations, across all sectors, will have centralised HR support services that you can lean on for advice to tackle complex matters. In logistics, where 98% of organisations are SME’s and often don’t have a dedicated HR department, it is even more vital to have the skills within your management team to help support your workforce.

Workforce productivity is another key issue we need to talk about when exploring the impact accidental managers can have on your business. The UK’s productivity levels are very poor and have been for some time now. Poor and inefficient management and leadership can of course be linked to this trend. The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) found that organisations with effective management and leadership development programmes have on average 23% better results and are 32% more productive.

Effective Leadership

Within our sector, talent retention is also a deep-rooted issue and once again this can be impacted by accidental managers. People leave jobs for all sorts of reasons and here are just a few of them:

  • They don’t feel appreciated for the job they do
  • They don’t feel like their development is being invested in
  • They don’t feel empowered to take the lead on things
  • They get overwhelmed and overworked
  • Or conversely don’t get challenged enough and so they get bored

More often than not this will be a direct impact of poor management. Could this be because an accidental manager is in charge of them, who hasn’t been developed themselves and so can’t identify their team’s needs and lead them effectively?

Some people have a natural flair for people management, their personality lends well to that sort of role. But no-one (and I mean no-one) can do this role 100% effectively without some form of training, coaching and/or mentoring.

So, what steps can you take to upskill the accidental managers within your workforce?

Coaching and Mentoring

Try and team up your new managers with an experienced member of the leadership team. Maybe someone who has been through a similar transition that can understand the challenges the newcomer could be about to face. Having someone to support them, learn from and provide inspiration will prove very valuable for an accidental manager.


Invest in your accidental managers and you will reap the benefits as a business, focus on areas such as:

  • Self-management – including problem solving, time management, decision making and the art of delegation
  • People and team management – including performance management, managing different personalities and conflicts, nurturing and developing your talent and employee engagement
  • Communication – at all levels, whether it be your team, your manager or the board. Communicating change is a big learning curve for all managers
  • Looking at the bigger picture – how you contribute to the organisational strategy, goals and objectives

Personal Development

Whilst it is important for employers to actively promote a culture of continuous personal development and provide the necessary resources, as a newly promoted manager, you can really benefit from a self-driven approach to development too. There are lots of blogs, books and forums out there that can help you grow into your role.

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