If you’ve been promoted to management for the first time, you’re probably stoked about your new gig, ready to take charge, and, of course, contemplating how to spend your first new paycheck.
But, if you’re like most, you’re also a little terrified. Making the jump from individual contributor to first-time manager can be one of the most difficult transitions in your career. Get off on the right foot with these tips for a smooth step up.
1. Change your Focus
You’ve likely been promoted because you’re awesome at your job. But the crazy thing about your new position? It’s not about you anymore. “Before you were a manager, your number one job was to accomplish tasks,” says Penelope Trunk, author of a blog on the intersection of work and life. “Now, your number one job is to help other people accomplish the tasks in an outstanding way.”
This shift is often difficult for first-time managers, but it’s crucial because your performance will now be tied to the performance of your team. This means if your team fails, you fail. And if they succeed? You can take credit, but you must share it with the rest of the group, too—or they won’t be motivated to do a great job for you in the future. Taking on a true team-oriented focus will be a huge key to your success.
2. Get Smart
Find all of the management tools, resources, and classes that your company offers. Some organisations have formal supervisor training, and nearly all have manuals and HR policies. Read them, digest them, and keep them immediately on hand. You also need to learn about each of the people you will be managing. Review their personnel files, including performance reviews and goals.
Then, look beyond your company for books, articles, and organisations specifically geared toward your industry or role. Find blogs or websites to consult regularly. Continuing to develop yourself as a manager should be an ongoing part of your job.
3. Listen and Learn
Many new managers want to make bold changes quickly to show that they are in charge, but resist this temptation. Instead, take plenty of time to fully understand your organisation and team. Set up individual meetings with each of your new staff members to understanding their roles. “You need to sit with the person and find out what matters to them. And then you need to sit with yourself and figure out how you can help the person,” says Trunk. “Most people don’t see management as listening and thinking, but that’s what it is.”
Ask your team members what they like about their jobs, the biggest challenges they face, and ideas they have for improving the organisation. Obviously, you can’t please everyone. But saying “I would love to get your input as I make plans for the future” goes a long way in building positive relationships and open communication. And understanding what people’s goals, hang-ups, and challenges are can help them perform at a higher level, which will only serve to help you.
Also let them know that you’re open to listening. Whether it’s having an open-door policy or scheduling “office hours” each day, make sure your employees know when and how they can reach out to you.
4. Address Relationship Shifts
“When asked the biggest mistake that new managers make, 90 per cent of the women whom we interviewed replied that they tried to be liked,” say authors Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio in their book, The Girl’s Guide to Being a Boss (Without Being a Bitch).
This is especially likely to be a challenge if you’ve been promoted from within, and you’re now supervising someone who used to be your peer. In these situations, you must address the shift—immediately. You can’t play favourites with your old desk mate without provoking feelings of distrust and resentment from the rest of your team. And while your former colleague may be happy for you, she may also feel awkward or resentful.
Address the change upfront, in order to prevent conflict later on in more stressful situations. Try starting the conversation with “You know that I value our friendship, but as a manager, I need to make sure that everyone on the team views me as being fair and consistent, so our work relationship is going to change.”
5. Be on model behaviour
Complaining about the boss by the water cooler? Showing up 15 minutes late to meetings? Sorry, those days are gone.
As a manager, you’ll be looked to as a role model not only by your employees, but also by others in the organisation. You can’t expect people to give their best at work if they don’t see you doing it, so be sure you’re always on your A game. This means meeting deadlines, sticking to your word, keeping your personal opinions under wraps, and doing your best to represent your department and organisation.
6. Manage Up
Being the boss doesn’t mean you can ignore your own supervisor. In fact, it’s even more important to keep her in the loop, since you’ll be reporting the progress of an entire group of people. It’s also important to make sure that the goals you outline for your team are intimately tied to your boss’ priorities
Ask to set up regular meetings to discuss your goals, your progress, and any issues, and how they relate to the organisation as a whole. You can only impress your boss with your team’s progress if you’re all moving in the right direction.
7. Find a Mentor
You’re going to face situations that aren’t outlined in any playbook. How do you deal with a team member who is underperforming? Or an overachiever who you’d love to promote but can’t because of budget cuts?
The good news is that someone else has dealt with all of this before. One of the most important things you can do is find a mentor, someone with whom you can confidentially discuss tricky or uncomfortable situations. If this is your boss, great. If not, find someone else in your organisation or industry who can serve in this capacity.
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