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Tips for First-Time Managers

If you’ve been offered a role in management, congratulations! Your hard work has earned you a promotion. Now it’s time to develop some new skills that may be different from the ones that got you here.

New managers face some stark realities. According to the Centre for Creative Leadership:

  • 60% of managers say they did not receive any training for their first management role.
  • 26% feel they weren’t ready to lead others when they were promoted.
  • 20% are doing a poor job, in the opinion of the people they’re managing.

This article will help you make sure you’re prepared to do a good job in your new role.

Address your work friendships

You may have developed a sense of camaraderie with your co-workers. It makes tackling difficult tasks or meeting stressful deadlines easier and even fun. Having friends at work increases your job satisfaction and productivity. But a promotion can challenge and weaken these bonds, especially if you and a close work friend competed for the same position. These suggestions can help you navigate the new relationship:

  • Recognize the power shift. Speak candidly with your friend and acknowledge that you feel uncomfortable about the discussion and the necessary changes to the relationship. Talk through what your future will look like.
  • Acknowledge your friend’s hurt feelings. If both of you vied for the same job, focus on your friend’s feelings instead of your promotion. In conversation, avoid gloating about your new position or using terms such as winning or losing.
  • Step into your new role. As a manager, you need to respect and treat all your staff equally. Don’t play favourites, engage in office gossip, or vent about office politics with team members. A leader can’t be seen as untrustworthy or given to spreading negativity.
  • Understand you’ll have to make hard decisions. Accept that you’ll have to call out all your team members on poor work, including your friends. The same applies to layoffs or terminations. You cannot use different standards because of friendships.
  • Re-evaluate your social media. You may need to unfollow or unfriend your work colleagues to prevent feelings of jealousy from other members on your team. Not only will this make your boundaries clear, but it will prevent you from oversharing. Never post anything on social media that you wouldn’t speak about at your workplace.

Build your skills

Since the majority of first-time managers feel they don’t receive enough management training, assume that you’ll need to do some serious research:

  • Find all the management tools, resources, and classes that your company offers. Industry groups and professional organizations may offer further management supports.
  • If your organization offers formal supervisor training, sign up for it whether it’s offered to you or not.
  • Read your organization’s manuals and HR policies. Bookmark them in your web browser or keep them on your bookshelf.
  • Learn all you can about the people you’ll be managing. This means combing through their personnel files, resumés, and performance reviews while also taking the time to get to know them on a personal level.

Focus on being effective

Your main role as a manager is to serve and support your team as an effective leader. Don’t worry about being liked above all else. And don’t think that being tough with people will necessarily bring results. Create a collaborative and positive atmosphere by keeping a few dos and don’ts in mind:

  • Try not to micro-manage. Your team needs to know that you trust and value their work. Give them some space to do their best.
  • Be clear and precise. Telling your team that they need to increase sales is probably not enough. If you give them a precise goal, they will be more likely to hit new targets.
  • Use inclusive language. When you’re talking to your team about projects and goals, say “we” instead of “I”. For example, “We want to make sure our clients feel supported.” This sends the message that you’re working together.
  • Share the credit. Make sure your team understands that you appreciate their work by sharing wins, such as pointing out their success in meetings. Never hoard credit.

Empower your people

Knowledge is power. But there is more to empowering people than just giving them information. You also need to build a culture of trust and generosity. 

Delegate

As a manager, you’re doing more than checking tasks off lists. You’re working to help others do their jobs well.

It’s often easier to do a job yourself. That way, you know it was done the way you want it done. But doing things yourself instead of teaching and delegating to your team will wear you out and make your team resentful. They need to know you trust and value them.

As a manager, take time to teach others how to do the work. Remember: If your team succeeds, you succeed. And a high-functioning, well-supported team can achieve a lot more than you’ll ever be able to achieve alone.

Learn from your team

Often, the people doing the work know their jobs better than you do. This is especially true for a manager who has been recruited from outside an organization.

Show your team you value them by learning from them. Ask them to recommend solutions. Consider their input. Make them feel that connection. If you do this well, your team will reward you with loyalty and hard work.

Hold your team to high standards

Don’t make excuses for people who are not performing well. If you have empowered your team and been precise with what you expect, most people will rise to the challenge. If someone does not, you have an issue to address.

An underperforming team member is not necessarily a major problem. But you need to deal with it, no matter how much you like the person—even if they’re someone you hired yourself.

Aim to be replaceable

A great manager builds a team that can function well on its own. Ask yourself: what would change day-to-day in the office if I took an extended vacation? You should be working toward the answer: “nothing much.”

Once you can trust your team to perform without you looking over their shoulders, you know you’ve built an effective unit. In a sense, your goal as a manager is to make yourself obsolete.

Communicate clearly and often

A great manager always communicates well and transparently.

Be clear and precise with your instructions, and make sure that each team member understands what needs to be done. Set expectations for how you'd like them to behave and contribute to the work of the team. Let them know about upcoming changes in the organization and decisions made in management meetings. When you communicate with your team, you build trust in your position as an ally rather than an authority.

If great communication is your objective, use team meetings to discuss larger goals for the organization. Take questions from your team, let them know if you’re unsure of the answer, and assure them that you’ll find the information for them. Meetings like this will help build trust.

Take the high road

We all endure highs and lows. By all means, celebrate good news with your team. But when things are tough, keep your emotions under control. If you need to vent, your team are not the people to do it with.

This management skill is about showing leadership above all. Your team looks to you to set the tone in the workplace.

Find a mentor

Learning to manage your team will be easier if you have a mentor of your own. Whatever challenges you’re facing, they’re likely not new. Find someone with management experience to guide you through the hard moments and encourage you to be the best manager you can be.

By following a few practices in your everyday work, you can increase the chance of being an effective manager. The keys are to lead and communicate well. Pay close attention to these qualities and you’ll grow to become an experienced and valued manager for your team. When the time comes, don’t forget to pay it forward by mentoring the next generation of new managers.

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