“If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’ve recently landed a new role, and you’re about to become a manager for the very first time. Congratulations!”
As a new manager, it’s possible that you’ll be faced with some unfamiliar challenges, like developing processes, setting goals and priorities for your team, and making sure that everyone is working to their full potential.
You may be feeling anxious about others’ expectations of you. Will your boss expect you to “hit the ground running”? Are your team’s goals too ambitious? What kind of guidance and support will you receive?
Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to get off on the right foot. In this article, we’ll look at some strategies and tips you can use to make your new managerial role a success.
Succeeding as a New Manager
Whether you’re managing a small team or an entire department, your principal concerns are likely to be the same:
- Can I still perform well as an individual, while being responsible for the contributions of other people too?
- How do I set effective goals for my team?
- Will the transition from “team member” to “team leader” cost me my friendships?
- Have I got what it takes to motivate others and earn their respect?
- What if the team doesn’t like me – or don’t like each other?
Try to step into your new role with your eyes open and focus on what’s most important: building trust and bringing out the best in your team.
Here are our eight top tips for becoming an exceptional manager.
1. Define Your Role
First, make sure you understand your new role’s responsibilities, goals and objectives.
Start by studying your job description and use it to develop a plan that will turn those objectives into actionable results. If it is vague, you might need to write your own.
Speak to your boss about your primary responsibilities and objectives, and make notes of what she says. If possible, talk to the person who held your position before you. What were her primary responsibilities? What did she consider to be her most important objectives? Go back to the job posting or old job descriptions and check the top points for your job responsibility.
Write all this down and show the job description you have created to your boss or mentor, to see if they agree with it.
2. Work With a Mentor
When you’re starting out in a new role, it can be very helpful to work with a mentor who can give you feedback on your performance, and coach you on the specific skills you need to be successful. He or she can provide invaluable advice and guidance in your new role, and boost your self-confidence with support and encouragement.
To start with, write down exactly what you’d like to gain from a mentoring relationship. For example, you might want to develop expert knowledge, work closely with someone who can motivate and inspire you, or bounce ideas off someone.
3. Build Good Relationships
Being a great manager isn’t all about being a brilliant strategist or an inspirational speaker. According to the experts’ thoughts, the most important part of a manager’s role is his ability to make an authentic, personal connection with the people on his team.
As a manager, you can’t expect to be everyone’s friend. Your first responsibility is to be a leader, and to do that you need to take a balanced approach to relationships. Yes, you want to be on great terms with your team, but you need to be a guide for them as well.
Be open with your new team about your past business experience and why you took this position, to help gain their trust. Don’t be afraid to share mistakes you’ve made along the way (just as long as they aren’t too serious!). Connect with team members by respecting their individual differences. Use their diversity to encourage spirited discussion and avoid groupthink.
4. Identify and Communicate Goals
If you’ve suddenly found yourself in charge of a team, after years of being led by someone else, you’re probably full of new ideas for improving its practices and procedures. But try to curb your enthusiasm – at least for a little while.
“New broom syndrome” – sweeping away all the “old ways” as soon as you arrive – is guaranteed to put people’s backs up. Take some time to settle into your role before you make any major changes to the way the team works. Observe its performance from a leadership perspective and talk to people about how things work. Next, set performance goals for each person on your team. Consider making some of these stretch goals – goals that “stretch” everyone’s abilities.
5. Be a Good Role Model
As a manager, you need to be aware that your team looks to you to set an example of how to behave at work. If you want to shape team members’ behavior, improve performance, and build good habits, you need to lead by example.
Show them, by your words and actions, that you mean what you say. For example, if it’s important that everyone shows up for Monday morning team meetings, make sure that you never miss one yourself. If you want people to start trusting each other, demonstrate trust by sharing information about yourself.
6. Provide Timely Feedback
Your people can’t improve if they don’t know what they need to work on. And, they won’t stay motivated unless you praise their hard work and successes along the way. This is why constructive criticism and timely praise is so important. Without them, your team is flying blind.
Try to give feedback as close to the event as possible. It’s important to find the right balance between helpful criticism and a positive approach to improvement.
Be consistent in your feedback. Weekly or monthly feedback sessions will be more productive than annual ones, so try to discuss performance frequently. Also, use good judgment and sensitivity when giving feedback. Always address performance issues privately, but give praise publicly to demonstrate your appreciation for a job well done, and to inspire others.
The best managers know that they can’t do it all, which is why you need to know how to delegate effectively. Delegation, when used appropriately, helps you to manage your own tasks and responsibilities better, while building your team members’ skills and boosting their confidence.
To delegate successfully, make sure you match the right task with the right person. Try to delegate tasks that will help someone develop new skills or further their career.
When you assign a task, tell the team member who takes it on what result you want, but don’t tell them how to do the work. Instead, check in regularly to see if they need help, but otherwise let them accomplish the task on their own.
8. Stay Flexible
Management is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Different situations require you to wear different hats, and the most effective managers know intuitively when they need to switch hats and change roles.
For example, sometimes you’ll need to be an inspirational leader for your team. At other times they’ll need you to be a mediator, a figurehead or a negotiator. Therefore, learn more about the various roles you’ll fill as a manager, and when it’s best to step into each one.
Additionally, keep in mind that you can’t do everything on your own. Identify tasks that you can delegate to members of your team, and learn how to switch between your different roles as a manager, according to what the situation needs.
Last, list three skills you need to develop in order to succeed in your new role, and write a plan for building each one over the next six months.