Are you ready to be a first-time manager? Perhaps you’ve had some bad managers in the past, and you think this is your chance to do it right.
Well, it IS your chance to do it right. But you can’t wing it.
Research reveals that nearly 60 percent of first-time managers underperform and often end up leaving the company.
Here are six tips to start off right and avoid finding yourself alone on the edge of a precipice.
1. Approach your new role with humility.
You might have an idea of what a manager does. You might have had some bad managers and think you know how to do it better. The truth is, it’s not as easy as it looks. It takes time to get it right. If you act like you always know what you’re doing, people won’t believe or trust you. You will earn much more respect by being open, asking for help when you need it, and making changes when you’re off track. Recognize that you will make mistakes (it’s inevitable), and when you do, own up to them. Be open to feedback and be willing to make adjustments.
2. Change your focus.
You might have been promoted to a management position because you were great at doing your job. But you now have an entirely new job. The jump from the role of individual contributor to first time manager is one of the biggest leaps you can make. Instead of doing the work, you now need to work through others to get the work accomplished. Your focus should be on building your team and supporting them in doing their work. On of the most challenging things you will need to do is to delegate effectively – to be willing to delegate and to know when to delegate.
3. Learn the skills of management.
Becoming a good manager is not simply a matter of attitude. There are skills that are essential to managing others. In addition to learning effective delegating, you need to learn communication skills like how to hold difficult conversations. You need to be able to set SMART goals and the RIGHT goals. And you need to know how to adjust your management style to the specific needs of each direct report. One of the best ways to learn how to adjust your style is through Situational Leadership® II. If you can’t take a workshop, I recommend reading Leadership and The One Minute Manager.
4. Understand the big picture.
At times you will need to provide a rationale for the things you are asking your direct reports to do. You need to have a good understanding of where the company is going and how your team supports the company’s goals. Don’t just wait for your boss to fill you in. Be proactive and read information on the company website and ask your boss and other leaders strategic questions.
5. Acknowledge your changing relationships.
One of the most confusing aspects of being promoted to a first-time manager is figuring out your relationship with your former peers. You need to find a place in the middle – not aloof and not just pals. You can still be friends, relax, hangout and laugh with them, but you need to be clear about your boundaries. You can’t gossip about others or confide confidential information. It’s important to be fair to all and not let your personal relationships cloud your decisions.
6. Find a mentor.
Ideally your new boss will coach you as you grow into your new role. But if not, find someone, ideally who knows the company’s culture, to give you advice and act as a sounding board. Knowing something in theory and in reality are two different things. In the beginning especially, you need someone you can talk with about some of the complicated situations you are actually facing.
I’m not a new manager, but I have several who report to me, and I will be sending each a copy of this. And it will be part of our new manager packet in the future. Great article!
So glad to hear that! Wen new managers struggle, it’s often because they’ve been thrown into the deep end of the pool without swimming instructions or a life jacket.
This issue is one of the most frequent ones facing organizations. Finding ways to train potential managers so that they understand how big a step this one is is crucial.
Also counseling people before they decide to go into management. It’s not the right step for everyone. Unfortunately in most organizations, it’s the only path to increased pay and rewards.
You have created a simple and useful list to help launch new managers. I love it! Much more useful than giving them a book to read or class to attend when they have so many distractions, including their fears around what is best to do first.
Thanks Marcia. I agree there’s so much for new managers to take in. This post provides guidelines for where to start.
Very good article and sound advice. I often find that 1st time managers are too hard on themselves setting their own expectations too high. Your advice on Styles is perfect and will help new managers know themselves and others so they can effectively communicate and put people in areas of strength.
I agree that first-time managers are not good at setting realistic expectations for themselves. They need a manager who can flex styles to support them as they develop competence and confidence.
Excellent article. Direct and helpful. I’d like to suggest that after someone has been a new manager for 6 months or so, they might take a free assessment of their management tendencies and how they can become more effective.
Thanks Peter. Please share (or send a link to) the theory and any psychometrics (reliability, validity, sample size, etc.) so I can evaluate your assessment. Once I have an opportunity to evaluate it, I would be willing to include a link to it from my website.
Love the reinforcement here, plus the reference to 1-Minute Manager. Those in official roles wield more influence over their teams than they realize. There is huge upside positively impacting the largest number of lives when people keep in mind the principles you mention here.
Appreciate your pointing out that when people are in official roles, they need to be aware that their words and actions carry a lot of weight. A negative comment from a manager has significantly more impact than the same comment coming from one’s peers. Thanks for your insights David.
Jesse, this is an excellent post. Each of your points is critical to the success of the new manager.
What amazes me is how many times I have seen people promoted to management positions without any training.
Your post is just as valuable for the first time manager’s boss.
Thanks Frederick. Too often first-time managers are tossed into the deep end of the pool with no swimming lessons. I’m encouraging new managers to be proactive about getting the training they need if it’s not being provided by their organization.