The step up to management is an exciting one to take, and it’s normally a very steep learning curve as well.
You’ve certainly been promoted because you’re very good at what you do, yet there’s an important change of perspective you need to make if you’re going to really succeed at management. It lies in this: Previously, your success was based on what you did. Your success was measured by your performance. Now, as a manager, your success is based on what your team members do: on their performance. Your function now is to help them shine.
It can be hard for star performers to make this shift in perspective, to fully embrace this new understanding of what your success looks like. While it can take a little getting used to, you will be valued by the company even more if you can create a team of high performers for them- great managers are worth their weight in gold.
So, assuming that you’re ready, willing and able to encourage other people towards reaching their potential, here are 7 steps to success for first-time managers.
1. Don’t keep doing everything you did in your old job. It’s their job now, remember? If you ‘help’ your team with their jobs, using your skills as an expert you a) won’t be able to do your managing job properly and b) will be instantly known as a micromanager.
2. Learn to trust. It’s terrifying to know that your reputation now lies in the hands of your team, so it’s very understandable that you want to hover over them checking everything they do and insisting it’s done ‘your way’. If you actually want to be a good manager, you need to allow people to do their jobs, in their own way, so that you can assess strengths and weaknesses and decide what coaching they’ll need. You never know, you might learn a thing or two in the process.
3. Don’t hide in your office. It’s tempting sometimes to hide behind a computer— particularly if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed or get the feeling you’re being judged, but don’t resort to giving orders by email. Show your face and get to know everyone from the outset. Remember, it will be hard to begin all over again as a ‘hands-on boss’, if everyone had you pegged as a ‘hands-off, remote’ kind of boss when you spent the first week hiding behind a closed door.
4. Don’t make sweeping changes straight away and all at once. Particularly if you’re new to the company, you need to give the ‘old ways’ a good chance first, despite all your bubbling ideas. You’ll cause resentment if you fix things that weren’t broken- and you’ll damage productivity too while everything gets changed (and quite possibly changed back again when you realise the original way was better.) Bide your time, and consult the team about any changes you’re considering.
5. Avoid wanting to be everyone’s best friend…or their worst nightmare. A great deal of damage can be done in the first few days because you either set a standard of being too easygoing, or too strict. Don’t draw attention to your flaws and make yourself unnecessarily weak- i.e. talking about how bad you are at computers, or that you’re not feeling confident. It’s too early to show significant vulnerability at this stage. It is also definitely too early to come out making ultimatums, getting angry at mistakes, or yelling. In fact, none of those three things will serve you very well as a leader, but we’ll cover that some other time. Be mindful not to enforce your authority, allow it to grow as people see your dedication, effort, and competence.
6. Create a positive tone from the outset. Make sure you bring everyone together with a fun breakfast meeting, or have one –on-one meetings to discuss your team goals. Remember to ask what the previous manager had as their goals, as there might be some great stuff in there and you won’t have to reinvent the wheel.
7. Set aside time for coaching and strategic planning. It can be easy to get bogged down in the everyday
management tasks and forget to look to the future. Once you’ve got a handle on the mechanics of your management role, it’s time to envisage a winning battle plan to take the team to the next level. Establish a coaching plan and find out what motivates each employee (you can find motivational tips in last week’s blog), and bring them into your strategic long-term plan for the team.
We certainly don’t want to scare first time managers, and one study by DDI International said that for many leaders, making the move to management was as stressful as divorce! Not sure about that- but it can definitely be a challenge to remember. If you follow these key steps and remember to keep your cool and set a positive image, your move to management will be a grand success. Keep in mind: you excel when you help them excel.
At Excel Communications we have developed a number of leadership and management programmes that help organisations develop their own high performing first line managers. To find out more call us on; +44 (0) 1628 488 854