• Leadership
May 15, 2016

First Time Manager? Check Out These Top Tips

Congratulations. You’ve got the job, and you’ve made your mother proud. Your future’s looking bright, kid. But now the hard work truly begins.

As a first time manager, you’ve got to prove to yourself and others that you’re capable of your new responsibilities. Your path is dotted with challenges, but using this guide, you’ll be able to identify potential landmines and avoid them.

Let’s discuss what you need to know to be the best first time manager possible.

Here’s a free checklist of what to do after becoming a first time manager.

Be Prepared for the Emotional Fall Out

You’re the new guy (or girl), even if you’ve been promoted from within and already know everyone there. No matter how you got there, the point is you’re in a new position, and there is bound to be a lot of emotion surrounding your new job.

And I’m talking about emotion from other people– not just you.

Among those whom you’ll lead, you’ll encounter the entire gambit of emotions, from:

  • Contempt: “It should’ve been me. I should’ve gotten that promotion.”
  • Fear: “I hope this guy doesn’t come in here and change the way we do things. I like the way we do things.”
  • Optimism: “I’m going to do whatever I can to impress the new manager!”
  • Apathy: “I’m just here for the paycheck.”

Be ready to face all of these emotions. Sure, you’re excited, but it’s fair to say that most members of your team are not.

The best way to deal with these emotions is to not make it about you. That’s right– don’t take it personally.

We all see things filtered through the lense of our own desires. So, the emotions that others feel is about what they need or want, and are not an assessment of your value as a leader– they don’t even know what you’re capable of yet. Heck, you don’t either! Just keep this in mind.


Learn from the Team

Don’t come in like a blaze of glory, hell bent on “fixing” the team. As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Shadow your team instead. Learn about each one’s individual job responsibilities and take notes. You may find ways to increase team efficiency and communication just by observing what’s happening now.

Encourage Feedback

It’s crucial that you open the doors of your office and encourage team members to come to you with feedback. But, sometimes you can’t just passively expect them to peek their head in your doorway.

It’s a good idea to leave your office, too. Reach out to your team members and ask them specific questions to gauge their concerns or trouble areas.

Stick By Your Decisions

One rookie mistake, especially when you’re unsure of yourself and you have a tendency to people please, is to make a decision, but then waffle because of the crowd.

No one else on your team has the vantage point that you have. Why? You’re in touch with all of the stakeholders, not just the team. Stakeholders may include your higher ups and the client.

Think back to when you were just a member of a team, but not leading it. Your biggest concern then was how a decision would impact you personally– in terms of workload, job security, and so on.

Now that you’re a leader, you have to consider how your decision will affect the entire team, and the project at large.

But remember, your team members don’t usually see things with the big picture in mind. Each individual forms opinions based on what’s good for them individually.

So, when they come to you to challenge a decision that you’ve made (and they will), keep this in mind.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be sensitive to their concerns, because you absolutely should, but don’t wear yourself out trying to please everyone, because it won’t happen.

Instead, make decisions that benefit the team as a whole, have a solid reason for doing so, and then don’t give in after you’ve made up your mind.

Be decisive, and you’ll build trust with your team. They may not always like, understand, or agree with your decisions, but they’ll appreciate the fact that once you make a decision, you stand by it.


Delegate with the Future in Mind

As a new manager, you’ll have this little voice inside of your head that sounds a lot like a demanding coach. This voice will tell you to do more, more, more! If you’re not careful, you’ll end up doing more than you should.

As a leader, it’s not your responsibility to do everyone else’s job. While you should be capable of helping out in a pinch or mentoring when needed, you shouldn’t take on their job duties as your own.

And it’s so easy to do this, especially as a new manager.

As a new manager, you face the perfect storm: You have an insatiable need to prove your worthiness in your management position. At the same time, you want to show that you’re the helpful, fun, cool, and hip friend-boss. The result? You take on all the work for yourself, and don’t delegate any responsibilities to others.

While you may think that taking on more work is helping your team, it’s actually crippling them.

Think about it this way. Each member of your team should have an individualized career roadmap– and you should know each route. Not everyone’s destination is the same. Some may want to take a path similar to yours, and others may want to cross-train so they can move on to another department.

If you take on all the work yourself, and don’t allow others to expand their knowledge and skillsets, you’ll preventing them from contributing to your team in the short term and becoming the person they want to be in the long term.

And it will backfire on you.

Your team will become apathetic, unmotivated, and, frankly, lazy. Over time, you’ll eventually burn out and dread going to work, because you’ve taken on way too much responsibility and you don’t know how to delegate.

Been there, done that, wrote a blog on it, here you go (for future reference) : The Science Of Delegation: Why Micromanagers Fail.

But, I don’t want that to be your future. So, start now, by delegating responsibilities. Keep in mind what you need as a team and what the individual needs to meet his or her next career goal.

Final Thoughts

Use the above tips to become a successful first time manager. I know you have it in you! Here are a few other posts to help you succeed in your newfound role:

Do This Not That: How to Motivate Your Team
6 Tips to Help You Avoid Leadership Burnout
Goal Setting Like a Boss: 8 Strategies to Get What You Want

Remember to download my checklist of what to do after becoming a first-time manager!


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Teresa Wallace
President, Agility Leadership Coaching
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