The jump from the role of individual contributor to a first-time manager is one of the most dramatic and most challenging leaps you can make. It requires a complete shift in how you see your role and in how you deliver results. But unfortunately, most new managers are ill-prepared.
Typically, organizations promote their high performers into the role of manager. But just because you’re great at doing the work yourself doesn’t mean you know how to get the work done through others. The skills that served you as an individual are not the same ones you need to be a good manager. This is a new and different job. Unfortunately, most first-time managers are simply thrown into the role without any support. The consequences, according to research, nearly 60% of first-time managers underperform for at least the first 2 years. Many are frustrated and unhappy and they often end up even leaving the company.
The good news is you don’t have to wait for your company to provide support. These tips for first-time managers will point you in the right direction.
1. Approach your new role with humility.
You might have an idea of what a good manager does, the truth is it’s not as easy as it looks. It takes time to get it right. Recognize that you will make mistake—it’s inevitable. And when you do, you need to own up to them. You will earn much more respect by being open to feedback, asking for help when you need it, and making changes when you’re off track.
2. Change your focus.
You might have been promoted to a management position because you were great at doing your job, but now you have an entirely new job. It’s not about you anymore, it’s about your team. Your focus needs to be on building your team and supporting them in doing their work. One of the most challenging things you will need to do is around delegating. It’s hard to give up responsibility and still be accountable for the results especially when others don’t do the work as well as you did. Your new job is to help them learn to do the work and to be successful, not for you to do the work for them.
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 such as communication skills, how to give feedback and how to delegate effectively. Even if your company doesn’t provide training, you can learn by reading blogs, books, and there are even lots of free online training programs. The bottom line is, take responsibility for your own learning.
4. Acknowledge your changing relationships.
One of the most confusing aspects of being promoted to a first-time manager is figuring out your relationships with your former peers. You need to find a place in the middle. Not aloof and not just pals. You can still be friends, but you need to be clear about your boundaries. It’s important to be fair to all and not let your personal relationships cloud your decisions.
5. Understand the big picture.
At times you will need to provide a rationale for the things you are asking your team to do. You need to have a good understanding of where the company is going and how your team supports the company’s goals.
6. Find a mentor.
Ideally, your new boss will coach you as you grow into your new role. But if that’s not the case, find someone else you trust who can give you advice and act as a sounding board. Ideally, someone who knows your company’s culture and politics and can help you with some of the complicated situations you are facing.
Research says that most people leave their company because of their relationship with their manager. If you follow these tips, you will become a manager who makes your team want to stay.
Video of 6 Tips for First Time Managers
I recently filmed several videos for Accel5. If you’d like to sign up for a trial subscription, you can watch my video on 6 Tips for First-Time Managers and others such as how to create a shared vision.