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3 Tips for Startup Founders Promoting New Managers

New managers are critical to the success and growth of a company — set them up for success early.

It’s an exciting time for a founder to begin to grow their team. Their hard work is starting to pay off, and they need more people to move faster. And eventually, they need to add a layer of management that will focus on team performance, so the founder can focus on growing the company.

This is a big milestone that sometimes trips up new founders. They’re entrusting part of their new team, their company’s culture, their company’s performance to another person. Trust is critical, but not yet established. And if they’re lucky enough to be promoted from within, this person might even be a first time manager.

How can a founder make sure this new leader is ready - that they have the right skills, mindset, tools, and resources to be successful? How will they know this new manager will add to the culture and not damage it?

Here are a few things a founder can do to set up their managers for success.

Tip #1 - Align on Outcomes Early

This is a new role for both of you. What is the measure of success? Setting clear, realistic expectations is critical to alignment. What is the outcome you want to see from the team? For the company? For the individual?

Write them down, and sequence them together, if possible. This will force you to be clear about the next couple of milestones for the team, and encourage the leader to start making the mental shift into their new role. Their success is now determined by the success of their team, not just their own work. As such, their effort has to shift to the team, and their thinking has to shift to longer term, more strategic objectives. Be open about this shift.

Tip #2 - Empower Them to Be Authentic

In order to empower an employee, especially a manager, they have to have a degree of autonomy. They need to be able to make decisions about their role and their team’s work, within the context you’ve set. Let them know where they have freedom to do things their way, even if it means making a few mistakes, and where they should consult you as their partner.

Keep in mind, this person will do things different from the way you would. That’s a good thing. As long as core values and mission are aligned, you should want this person to be different from you. Diversity of thought leads to greater outcomes, and since every team member is different, every leader will be too.

Employees often join the company because of the founder, but when they leave, it’s due to the manager. Hopefully you’ve chosen this person to manage others because you believe in their ability to lead, support, and drive team results. Give them the space to become the person that inspires the team, not just the executor of your instructions.

"People leave managers, not companies." – Marcus Buckingham

Tip #3 - Continue to Invest in Their Development

Becoming a good leader is more than simply being promoted into the role of manager. Inevitably, leaders will make mistakes. It takes time to grow. The more a founder invests in the company’s leaders, the larger the impact on the team.

As a founder, you are the source of inspiration, leadership, and support for the managers you promote. Managers will draw from your leadership as they guide and support their own teams, but they will also have their own career goals, which founders should support. Find out where they want to grow. Use your network and budget to offer mentorship, coaching, books, workshops, or projects to these new managers. Your efforts will pay off.

Last but not least, maximize your weekly 1:1 time with these managers. Ask them outcome-based questions, give them space to give you difficult feedback, be supportive and candid in your feedback to them, and leave time for relationship building.

Founders and New Managers Learn Together

Promoting the first few managers is an exciting time for a founder. This moment allows for scalability by investing in the team and freeing up the founder’s time to grow the business. It also sets the tone for the culture of the company, and stress tests your core values. Be confident and flexible in your communication.

Not everything will be perfect, and there will be mistakes, but each one is an opportunity to show vulnerability and learn something new. Stay focused on the outcome and encourage the new leaders to do the same.

Do you have more to add to the list? Drop a comment below.

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