You’ve just been promoted to the position of manager. Or perhaps you just resumed a managerial role in a new company for the first time. Congratulations! I bet you worked really hard for it. You deserve it. Here’s me giving you your flowers.
Assuming a new role as a manager comes with its thrill. But for most people, it also elicits a latent fear of new challenges. Remember the saying - new levels bring new devils.
You’re probably worried about how to navigate your new role successfully, and that’s why you’re reading this article right now. You want to make a good impression and convince your employers that you aren’t a wrong choice.
Not to worry, I totally understand how you feel. This article highlights what you need to know about succeeding as a first-time manager. You will learn about the dos and don’ts of first-time management.
I will also share books and training programs that you can explore to position yourself for success in your new role. Without further ado, let’s dive right into it.
You’re now a manager, which means you manage others besides having your own work. To be honest, managing people is not child’s play. You have to master the art if you want to succeed at it.
Since it’s your first time managing people in your company, there are things you should do to get off on the right foot. At the same time, you should avoid making certain mistakes as you transition into your new role. We will examine both sides below.
Get up to speed:
When you assume a new role, in this case, a managerial role, the first thing to do is get up to speed with the current happenings - especially if you’re new to the company. You should learn about the projects that the team is working on, and particularly, the tasks each individual has been assigned.
Understand the organization’s mode of operations and find a way to fit into it. You can even consider tweaking it to suit your goals for the company if you have the authority to do so.
Commit to learning:
The next thing to do is to dive into your learning phase. Like a sponge, soak in as much information about the company, its goals, the people, its clients, etc. Learn about the company’s structure if you have never paid attention to it before.
Also, dig deep to learn about the people, particularly those you will be managing. You can review their resumes, personal files, and performance reviews to do this. This exercise will help you understand each person's respective fortes and areas where they need improvement. It is necessary to have knowledge of your team’s strengths and weaknesses to effectively manage them.
Connect with other managers:
If your organization has several departments, there may be other managers supervising other teams within the company. As a first-time manager, you should try to connect with these managers. It’ll make more sense if they have been managers before you, as you’d be able to learn one or two from them about managing teams.
Don’t just stop at your first meeting. You should interact with them regularly. Building solid relationships within your organization are essential for effective team collaboration.
Have one-on-ones with your direct reports:
Once you’ve settled into your new role as a manager, you should start organizing one-on-one meetings with your team members - those you’re managing.
The essence of this meeting is to get to know your team on a personal level. It’s about building a personal relationship to help sustain a healthy work environment. You don’t want to be the manager who is most resented in the company. So, ensure that you have a working relationship with your team.
Other than that, one-on-ones are a great way to discover each individual’s peculiarities, strengths, weaknesses, and rhythm. Interactions on their job roles, professional goals, and personal interests should be the highlights of your meeting.
Being a manager doesn’t mean you’re the apex authority in your organization. In most cases, you have a supervisor who manages you. You should recognize that in your dealings. Ensure that you keep your supervisor in the loop by reporting your team's progress to them.
Schedule meetings with your supervisor at the beginning of your role and during the course of your employment. You should always clarify the company’s goals and priorities every time to lead your team in the right direction.
Find a mentor:
Mentor relationships are great. They help you avoid common mistakes. Being a first-time manager, you may be ignorant about a couple of things regarding managing people. However, with a mentor in place, you can learn a great deal from someone else's experience.
How do you deal with a problematic employee or an underachiever? How do you address conflicts with former peers who have now become your direct report? These situations are not novel. Someone would have probably faced them. Discussing the issues with such a person can help you figure out a way to navigate them. This is where mentors come in handy.
Making too many changes early:
You’re now the boss of a team. I know you’re probably thrilled, and you want to let people know that you’ve arrived. However, be careful. Don’t be in haste to start making significant changes to processes and the mode of work. It’s not a coup.
Making too many changes at the start of your role can be counter-productive. And it may be difficult for your team to adjust. So, take things slow. Observe and note areas of improvement before you begin to implement changes.
As you make changes, carry your team along. Run your ideas through them and get feedback. Don’t change things just because you’re the boss. Effective team management requires respecting your team’s opinions.
Taking on too many tasks:
Before you assumed your managerial role, you were constantly battling with to-do lists, trying to meet up with deliverables and whatnots. But now things have changed. Your responsibilities have shifted to overseeing others to ensure that work is done competently.
You may decide to handle some tasks yourself because you’re more experienced with them, or perhaps you want them to be perfect. When this becomes a norm, there’s a tendency for you to bite more than you can chew. This habit may become counter-productive. You may feel overwhelmed because you have too much to handle.
Instead of taking too many tasks for yourself, learn to delegate effectively. Be open to trusting the capacity of your team. Your job is to coach and supervise them so they can also know how things are done. Don’t deny them that opportunity by completing most of the tasks yourself.
Failing to address relationship shifts:
If you were promoted to your managerial role from within your company, this particularly applies to you. Many first-time managers grapple with addressing relationship shifts in their teams.
You must learn to deal with your former peers as direct reports now that you're a manager. Provide honest and critical reviews of their work. Don’t show a particular bias toward them because of a close relationship that you may have with them. It may pass the wrong message to other team members.
Set clear professional boundaries. Don’t let your friendships come in the way of your work. Let them know that there will be a shift in your work relationship with them.
Communication is key to the efficiency of any team. As a first-time manager, communicating with your direct reports, peers, and supervisors is pivotal. Don’t think that you don’t have to explain the basis for your decisions or actions because you're now the boss. Or that you don’t need to speak on anything you’re not asked.
You must embrace effective communication and transparency. This fosters trust and belief in your capacity as a manager. Avoid making the mistake of communicating less.
Not asking for help when you need it:
I can totally understand it from an ego perspective when managers are reluctant to seek help. I mean, they’re the boss. They feel it is their duty to offer support to their team and not solicit help from anyone.
But that is simply faux. No man is an island of knowledge and experience. Sometimes, it is okay to ask for help when you need to. It’s not a sign of weakness, as many may think. You’re simply showing that you’re human and not perfect.
Feel free to ask for help from your fellow managers or supervisors. You could save yourself a lot of stress by doing so.
Besides having a mentor, another way to prepare yourself for success as a first-time manager is by consuming relevant books. I have curated a list of ten books that can help you thrive in your new role.
Welcome to Management: How to Grow From Top Performer to Excellent Leader by Ryan Hawk
The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo
Bringing Up the Boss: Practical Lessons for New Managers by Rachel Pacheco
HBR’s 10 Must Reads for New Managers by Harvard Business Review
From Supervisor to Super Leader: How to Break Free from Stress and Build a Thriving Team That Gets Results by Shanda K. Miller
Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For: A Guide for New Leaders by William A. Gentry Ph.D.
The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael Watkins
The First-Time Manager by Jim McCormick, Loren B. Belker, Gary S. Topchik
Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team by Scott Jeffrey Miller and Todd Davis
From Expert to Executive: Mastering the SOPs of Leading by Edward E. Tyson and Michael Ashley
It’s a great thing that you can also utilize training programs to build capacity. Training programs equip you with the relevant skills needed for your new role.
Here are some training programs for you to explore:
Managerial Effectiveness I - A First Time Managers Development Program
Udemy - Leadership: Foundational Training for First Time Managers
Advantexe - The Fundamentals of Business Leadership Workshop
Being a first-time manager can be pretty challenging if you don’t learn the dos and don’ts of management early enough. It may come as a shock to you how managing people could be a hassle.
The points I have outlined in this article are solid. You can use them as a guide on your newfound journey. Don’t just stop at reading this article. If you’re serious about preparing for success as a first-time manager, I suggest you commit to reading as many books as you can. Sign up for training programs too. They’d equip you with relevant skills to thrive in your new role.
Ranee has worked in the SaaS industry for nearly ten years. She loves working with, learning from, and helping develop effective leaders and is willing to share her thoughts through words. Outside of work, you can find her dancing, hiking in the mountains, or reading in a cafe.