You’ve recently been promoted to “manager” because you have the most experience on your team, you’re a star performer, and you have great people skills. Congratulations! You’re probably stoked about the new job title, the nice salary bump, and having more authority within the company. Of course, as a first-time manager who’s now responsible for the growth and well-being of an entire team, you have no idea what you’re getting into.
To help you out, I spoke with a few recently-appointed managers and an executive coach to get some pointers. Here are five tips for new managers they shared with me.
1. Get to Know Your People and What They Want
If you were promoted from within your company, you may already have working relationships (or personal ones) with the people you’re now managing. You now need to get to know them in a different way.
For instance, one of your new responsibilities is helping your direct reports reach their career goals–a topic you might not have discussed with your former colleagues before. You should have this discussion soon. Some questions to ask: What are your career goals? How is this job going to help you get there? What do you want out of this position? How can I help?
Deirdre Walsh, senior social media manager for Jive Software, started managing a team of two in November 2011. According to Walsh, “If you start by understanding the career goals and plans for each person, that will help you make better decisions that will benefit the company and the individual.”
By taking as much as time as possible in the beginning to get to know her direct reports, she was able to build good rapport, which made tough conversations easier down the road, and she felt better equipped to address business needs as they related to her team.
2. Learn to See Your Work Through Others
As an individual contributor, you had the opportunity to let your work shine through projects, presentations and exceeding sales quotas, for example. But as a manager, you spend more time in strategy meetings, discussions with senior management, and one-on-one conversations with your team, leaving you with less time to work on projects that are more visible to the organization.
“At first you may feel like you’re not getting tons of tangible things done,” explained Andria Elliott, Senior International Marketing Communications Specialist at National Instruments who previously managed a team of nine for two years. “All your work now shows through a team of people instead of your individual self,” she notes.
This paradigm shift can be rough and takes time, but most recently-appointed managers come to master it. As Elliott explains, “You learn to work through others, offer guidance and give direction, while finding the right balance between people management and driving your own projects for the business.”
3. Listen Up!
The ability to listen (really listen) will be critical as you spend more one-on-one time with your employees.
“If this is the only skill a manager has, he or she will progress farther than anyone else,” said Cheryl McMillan, executive coach at Vistage International. “There’s so much power in an individual feeling like they’re being heard by management. Employees can accept a lot, like a decision they may not agree with, because they feel like they were heard.”
And along with that comes restraint–the ability to listen without assuming you immediately know the right answer. That’s Mike Lee’s biggest piece of advice for first-time managers. As an assistant branch manager for Randstad, a staffing and recruiting agency, Lee says new managers should “strive to truly listen during discussions rather than prepare in your mind what you will say next.”
“If you’re not a listener or a patient person, then you’ll constantly be asserting your will on people. That approach is antiquated.”
4. Develop Your Own Style
New managers may be tempted to follow in the footsteps of their former supervisors, especially if they were promoted from within or have only worked under one or two managers. While it may feel easy or natural to mimic the management tactics of your previous boss, those same tactics might not work for you.
According to Houston Neal, our marketing director here at Software Advice, as a new manager “you have to be true to yourself and develop your own style. Otherwise, your management will seem forced or ineffective as a result.”
5. Don’t Expect to Be Awesome in the Beginning
One of the biggest misconceptions held by first-time managers is that they’ll be good at management from the get-go. In most cases, though, new managers need training and development just like any new hire within an organization.
“Some people can be good at it right away,” said McMillan. “But there’s a big misconception that people can do this stuff naturally. Management is really a science and an art. People need basic knowledge first and then practice.”
Building a solid training plan with development goals and consistent performance reviews with your supervisor is a great way to assess your progress during the first few months on the job.