First-time manager? Here’s what to know
Keep these tips in mind as you take on your first management role.
Going from “employee” to “manager” is one of the clearest upward career moves you can make. In terms of day-to-day tasks and necessary skills, it also may be the biggest career change you’ll ever make. If you’re considering taking on a managerial position for the first time, here are a few tips to help you make the transition successfully:
Don’t boss, lead
Landing a management job may make you the boss, but it’s up to you to become a leader. The first step is understanding the difference.
“There's a tendency for first-time managers to micromanage and 'show them who's boss,' which are both mistakes,” says Jason Lavis, partner and webmaster at Drillers, which provides professional support for workers in drilling, oil and gas. “The reason for doing this is obvious; the micromanaging helps prevent any disasters. The authoritarianism can help prevent staff taking advantage. The problem with this approach is that it sets the wrong tone. When treated this way, normally cordial people will turn passive aggressive, and relationships will get damaged.”
Instead of a “show them who’s boss” mentality, Lavis suggests new managers adopt a “show them who’s leader” mentality. “A new manager should exude the mindset that he or she plans to help everyone as much as they can, a servant leader. Giving people the freedom to continue what they're doing will encourage them to work to a higher standard. The vulnerability in admitting that you're new, and need their help as much as they might need yours, will foster team spirit.”
Know your team
There will almost never be a one-size-fits-all solution to managing a team. Just as you have your own way of processing and sharing information, communicating and working, so does each member of your team. As a manager, it’s crucial that you make an effort to understand those preferences.
“Who are your team members? Not just their names, how much experience they have and their job descriptions,” says Laura Handrick, HR analyst at Fit Small Business. “[Get to know] who they are as people, their personality type, how they prefer to communicate, what drives them to do a good job. If you know these things, you'll be much better prepared to step into the management role.”
A new world of responsibilities
While you may be focused on the new feeling of being in charge of a group of employees, in many cases the biggest change will be your role outside of and on behalf of the team.
“My favorite tip is that your job as a manager is to buffer your employees from the 'crap' that rolls downhill. It's your job to provide tools, remove barriers and help clear obstacles so your workers can get their job done,” Handrick says. “That may mean you ask for help from HR to ensure employees are paid properly or have the right office chair. When corporate drama or company miscommunication occurs, you interpret it for your employees to reduce their stress. Your job is to manage the 'human capital' by working with each person, not as an automaton, but as a human being with goals and skills, but also with stress, family and fears.”
Look for help
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Just because you’re in a role with more authority and responsibility doesn’t mean you automatically have all the answers. In fact, it’s more important than ever that you seek advice when you’re unsure about something. And there are plenty of ways to get whatever assistance you need.
“Does your company offer any business training classes? If so, sign up! These classes will help fill in any skills gaps,” says Pamela Shand, CEO of career coaching services firm Offer Stage Consulting. “Adopt a mentor who's been where you're going and can share some tips and tricks. Remember that you're not alone. Network with other new and experienced managers to share experiences.”
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