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Help, I’m a First-Time Manager! Your Guide to Success

Posted: 23 October 2018

You’ve put in the hard work, proven your worth, and have finally got that promotion to your first management role – hurrah! Being the boss means you’ve suddenly got a higher level of responsibility, bringing with it a whole new set of worries – how do you get the most out of your staff, keep them motivated, and earn their respect? Read on for our ten top tips to help you succeed!

You may have a brand-new team to manage, or might suddenly find that you’re in charge of people who used to be your peers, which can cause unwanted tension. Your new position may be particularly challenging if you’re relatively inexperienced or new within the business, or if you’re younger than some of your direct reports – some people feel age equals experience and authority, and are less than willing to obey orders from someone they deem to be a newbie, or somehow inferior because they are younger. 

You didn’t get promoted by mistake – you put in the effort and the powers that be have seen the potential in you for management, but the people you’re now in charge of won’t automatically feel the same: you’ll have to prove your worth as their leader. The following tips will help you hit the ground running, build positive relationships with your direct reports, and nurture a productive and motivated team.

10 tips to succeed as a new manager

1. Get to know your team

Each team member will have their own way of working; to get the most out of each individual, you need to understand what motivates them, their preferred management style, and what environment helps them perform to the best of their abilities. Have initial meetings with each person to discuss these aspects, and get to know them a bit better – that way you’ll be able to work in a way that supports them to reach their potential. 

2. Communication

During your career, you’re likely to be exposed to a range of different management styles – the good, the bad and the ugly – so you’ll have first-hand experience of what it’s like having a boss who’s poor at communicating. Creating a healthy working relationship with your direct reports encourages transparency, helping foster an environment where employees feel empowered to discuss any problems or challenges within their roles.

Good communication means you need to check in regularly with each individual, as well as having team meetings to keep everyone on track with what needs to be achieved. Make sure people know when and how is best to approach you, should they have any concerns or need help with something.

3. Be clear with your expectations

Don’t leave any grey areas; when you’re carving out your new position, it’s important to set the precedent for what you expect from your team members. Be clear on key processes and how you will work with each person and the whole team in order to meet deadlines.

4. Set realistic goals

Part of your job as a manager is to motivate your team and help each individual to progress, and the best way to do this is by setting goals. Schedule in regular one-to-ones with each person – to discuss their personal ambitions and set targets which help them to achieve these. These meetings give people the chance to flag any concerns, and also make them feel that you are actively supporting their personal and professional development.

5. Prioritise

Make sure everyone is aware of what the priorities are for each day and the week ahead. You’ll get the most out of your team if people are given the right information to be able to organise their own workloads and meet set deadlines. Once you’ve agreed what the priorities are with your team, try and stick to it – moving the goal posts is a quick way to demotivate your team and reduce productivity. Of course, due to the fast-paced dynamic nature of most businesses, there will be unforeseen tasks that crop up and become number one priority all of a sudden, and most people will understand this and adapt, but this shouldn’t be the normal state of play every day.

6. Knowing the business

Get to know as much as possible about the business, beyond your own team – understanding how all the different departments work together, and the wider business strategy, can reveal possibilities for collaboration which will benefit your team and the business as a whole. Introduce yourself to other managers within the company to keep the channels of communication open. Align yourself with the company values, culture and goals so that your team are learning and working in a way that supports the business’s progress. 

7. Practise what you preach

Lead your team by setting a good example; being patient, good tempered, level-headed and professional even during challenging times will guide your team to do the same. If you’re expecting a high level of performance from your team, show that you’re hard-working, dedicated and enthusiastic about every project too – your attitude and passion will be what inspires them to work better. Don’t chastise your team for being lazy or unfocused then hide away behind your computer playing Candy Crush all day – if you expect your team to be giving 110 per cent, you need to be giving 150 per cent!

8. Effective delegation

If you’ve been promoted to a managerial position, it’s likely because in your previous role you were highly organised, competent and juggled a million different projects at once whilst delivering great results. But you’ll soon realise that being the boss means you can’t do it all yourself – and shouldn’t. Regardless of your previous role, it’s now your job to support and motivate your team so that they perform, meet deadlines on time and on budget, and contribute to the success of the business. To make this happen, it’s essential that you delegate tasks to your team, encouraging them to take ownership over each element. You need to be able to trust people’s ability to do their jobs and rely on them to deliver what’s expected of them.

9. Stepping-up and moving on

One of the hardest parts of being promoted to a manger is that you’ve gone from being people’s equal, their friend, their confidant – perhaps being there for co-workers when they need to vent about their boss being a pain in the neck – to suddenly being in charge of them and calling the shots. 

People will either still try and act like your mate, not taking you seriously or respecting your authority, or they may withdraw from you because they are suspicious that everything they say or do will be being noted and reported back to those higher up. Though this can create tension, putting some distance between your old work relationships, and cementing new ones with your direct reports, is crucial to your success. 

As we’ve already covered, setting clear expectations is one important aspect to effective management, but you will also have to adapt your attitude and behaviour to suit your new position and earn respect from your team. This could mean staying more impartial when it comes to office banter, laying boundaries for acceptable behaviour, and stepping-up your dedication to the company to get results.

10. Don’t act like you’re better than anyone else

Sometimes in a bid to assert themselves, new managers can go overboard trying to distinguish themselves as authoritative and in control. This might mean abstaining from certain duties that they used to do in their previous role, because they feel that it’s beneath them. But the best managers are the ones who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and pitch in to help out – don’t expect your staff to do anything that you aren’t willing to do yourself

Becoming a manager for the first time is a steep learning curve – suddenly you’re not just worrying about your own workload and performance, but you’re responsible for your whole team’s output. This guidance will help you set up good management practices from the start, motivate your team to be the best they can be, and prove why you’re deserving of your new position!

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