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First time boss? What you must know to succeed

Robert Half International

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You were recently promoted to your first management position. You're excited about the opportunity ... and also a little nervous. You're worried about establishing authority and winning the trust and respect of your new staff.

Don't worry, many new managers find their role a bit daunting. Although you may initially feel hesitant, keep in mind that your boss promoted you because he or she has confidence in your abilities. Chances are you have good management instincts, or you wouldn't have been singled out for advancement.

Even though the thought of managing former peers, friends or those who are older than you may cause some anxiety, you can reduce your uneasiness by establishing a set of ground rules and earning your employees' respect.

The following tips can help you succeed in your new role:

Keep an open mind

A common mistake that new managers make is to walk into the job with an action plan that is one-sided and lacks employee input. Resist the desire to make immediate changes in your department in a show of authority, or you run the risk of damaging employee morale. While you most likely will make adjustments and possibly even reassign some of your team's roles, you should first work to obtain employee feedback and, eventually, buy in.

Solicit input from the group by asking what changes, if any, they consider necessary and the reasons for their recommendations. Remember that some members of the team may have been doing their jobs for many years and are likely to have good ideas for improving the group's cohesion and productivity.

Get to know your staff

It's vital that you form strong working relationships with your staff members. As their manager, you play a large role in their career advancement. Workers today appreciate employers that place a priority on their professional development.

Start off on the right foot by arranging one-on-one meetings with every person on your team. Before each meeting, do your homework. Review employees' personnel files and evaluate their recent performance reviews. Find out if they have interests or talents they would like to develop. Determine what you can do to foster such interests and how you can take best advantage of the person's skills and experience. Set measurable goals and incentives, as well as a method for making sure these objectives are met.

Set the tone

Your actions will determine how your employees view you. Your goal is to establish your authority while also becoming worthy of respect. Ask yourself if you are "walking the walk" or just "talking the talk." For example, when a tight deadline hits, and you ask workers to put in extra hours, do you stay late yourself? Do you stand up for your employees if conflict arises with another group? Are you available to resolve problems or discuss challenges your staff members face?

Also examine your behavior with colleagues. Some new managers make the mistake of lowering morale inadvertently or in subtle ways. Take care not to cut off a team member who is speaking during a meeting, for example. Or don't allow multitasking to prevent you from giving your full attention to an employee seeking guidance on a project. Likewise, don't be the boss who keeps forgetting to include a particular team member on group e-mails. While these indirect offenses may seem minor, they could cause employees to resent your new role.

Be prepared for tests

As you establish your leadership, you may initially find that an employee will test your authority, possibly by missing deadlines or meetings. Create rules from the start on how you will deal with such behavior, as your actions will set the tone for your tenure. Meet with the employee and explain the impact of such actions. You might point out, for example, that failing to turn in a report by a set date may cause more work for other members of the group who rely on the information. If the employee has normally been a high performer, try to find out what the current problem is, and see if there is a way to help him or her resolve it.

It's important not to become rigid as you move into your management role. A certain flexibility is required when dealing with your new employees. As long as you remain open to suggestions, create strong lines of communication, and set clear goals and incentives for staff, your chances of succeeding in your new position are high.

Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, please visit or follow us on Twitter at

Last Updated: 08/03/2011 - 4:45 PM

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