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The “Management Death Zone”

October 18, 2021
By: Patrick Bosworth in the Leadership Development category.

Mistakes New Managers Make that Lead to Failure

Nobody promotes a manager or leader expecting him or her to fail. They don’t hope that the manager will be ineffective, demotivate their team, or put the company at risk. And yet we see managers like this every day.

What happens between the points of a high-potential being promoted to a new manager and the failure to adjust and adapt to their new position of leadership?

We call it the “Management Death Zone.” When a new, young, or inexperienced leader is promoted to a managerial position, the first few months of their transition are where they are at the highest risk of becoming ineffective, floundering, unsuccessful leaders.

Most organizations believe this period (sometimes called the “grace period”) is just a normal make-it or break-it stage that determines whether or not a new leader is up to the job… But if this new leader fails, then you’ve wasted the potential talent of that employee, and also wasted several months making the determination that they’re not the right fit.

Avoiding Failure as a New Manager

So what if most organizations are looking at this the wrong way? What if there’s a way to drastically reduce the number of managers who fail during this “Management Death Zone?

We say that there’s a way, and here’s why:

The Killing Zone Pilot Flight Hours GraphIn the aviation industry, there is a point in pilothood where a pilot is most at risk of a fatal accident. This period of time is after their initial training, and early into their piloting career. This period of time, between 100-350 flight hours, is considered the “Killing Zone.”

57% of fatal accidents occur during the “Killing Zone” compared to all other levels of flight hours. These fatal accidents occur due to failure to exercise due diligence, failure to follow safe practices, inability to have or execute alternate plans, and more. 99% of these accidents are preventable through improved pilot attitude, awareness, or training.

In other words, 99% of these accidents are preventable if the pilot hasn’t developed ineffective mindsets or skillsets during that first 100 leading up to the “Killing Zone.” This means that flight instructors really have to make those first 100 hours count.

The same is found in management. The first several experiences as a new manager shape how a manager will handle all future challenges. If he or she is armed with the right mindsets and skillsets during those “first 100 hours,” and armed in such a way that they maximize application and retention, then they are much better equipped for success.

We challenge our clients to stop wasting high-potential new, young, or inexperienced leaders. Maximize those “first 100 hours” of leadership, and your leaders will come out to be the strong, effective, successful managers that you planned for them to be.

Want to learn more about the “Management Death Zone” and how to better enable new, young, or inexperienced managers to become successful leaders? View the recording of our recent webcast hosted by Patrick Bosworth, one of the top leadership development minds in the Western United States, talks about the Management Death Zone and, more importantly, how to overcome it.


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