Becoming a manager for the first time is an exciting step in your career. It’s a major opportunity to exercise your leadership skills, not to mention adding an important new level of responsibility to your resume.
Exciting as it may be, stepping into a management role can also come with feelings of uncertainty and doubt. To help you overcome those feelings and become the best manager you can be, follow these tips from our career experts.
Duties of a manager
Your primary job function as a manager is to direct your team’s activities. It’s your responsibility to plan projects, set expectations for how employees should spend their time, and provide guidance to help them succeed in their assignments.
Great managers take these leadership responsibilities one step further by not just directing, but inspiring the members of their team, which is more likely to result in higher levels of buy-in and, in turn, high performance.
Managers are responsible for successfully getting new hires up and running and giving existing staffers the tools they need to do their jobs. Managers provide ongoing coaching to ensure their employees are meeting goals and offer development opportunities to help team members gain new skills.
Becoming a manager for the first time usually means being involved in the hiring process for the first time. Depending on the size and structure of your company, you may have the final say in who will fill open positions on your team.
In addition to hiring new employees, you’re also responsible for retaining existing ones to the best of your ability.
Achieving company objectives
As a manager, your role is to take a step back from the day-to-day activities of your department and focus more on the bigger picture. You’ll be privy to additional information from leadership and hold greater accountability for making sure your team meets benchmarks that contribute to achieving the company’s goals.
Managers have a hand in budgeting, sometimes overseeing spending for their entire department. This will require you to make important decisions on where funds should be allocated to make the biggest impact.
As a manager, the buck stops with you. You’re the go-to person when handling valuable clients with care and ensuring their expectations are met.
As you can see, your new job will come with a host of new responsibilities. Follow these tips to make the transition into a management role smooth.
Advice for becoming a manager for the first time
1. Seek out inspiration
Some people are born leaders. Others–most, in fact–become great leaders by modeling those who have done the job before them.
Which business leaders do you admire? When you look back at your career, who have your favorite bosses been? Think specifically about what these individuals do or did to make them admirable managers, then emulate those behaviors.
Reading books on leadership and biographies of history’s most influential figures is also helpful. Here are our top suggestions:
- The First-Time Manager
- Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy
- The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential
- The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You
2. Prepare for a new normal
When you’re an employee, it’s easy to look back at your week and see the work you accomplished–a presentation for a client, perhaps, or a completed case file.
When you’re a manager, however, your output looks different. Sometimes, you might not have much in the way of physical evidence to show how you spent your time. You’ll need to get used to a different idea of what “work” looks like.
Sometimes, you’ll spend an entire day giving feedback or putting out fires. Other times, your day will be eaten up with meetings–with your team, with company leadership, with clients, and with vendors.
Though you won’t walk away from these activities with a finished “product” in the traditional sense, it’s important to recognize that they contribute to your team’s output, which is ultimately a reflection of your work.
3. Communicate clearly
Clear, frequent communication is a hallmark of a strong manager. It’s essential to be assertive in conveying what you expect from your team and check in frequently to ensure they’re on the right track.
Holding regularly scheduled check-ins with your staff members is a good practice for any manager, but especially so for new managers who are still getting acclimated to their role. Start with frequent one-on-ones, like once a week, and then move to less frequent meetings as you get more comfortable in your relationships with your reports.
One of the hardest lessons to learn as a new manager is that you can’t do it all. Good managers are experts at letting their team members take the lead on the daily functions required to keep the department running while they focus on bigger-picture tasks. You have to be able to offload work, providing structure and direction and then letting someone else take the wheel.
To help with this, it’s crucial to create systems and processes for your team members to rely on. This ensures routine tasks are done the same way each time, with minimal errors. Leveraging automation whenever possible can also help maximize productivity while allowing your team to focus on more engaging work
5. Know your team
Delegating tasks doesn’t mean being hands-off. Instead, you want to be hands-on with your team in a different way, observing them to understand their strengths and coaching them to help improve their weaknesses. Knowing each of your employees this way will help you be more effective in delegating.
You’ll also want to understand your staffers’ needs and preferences when it comes to being managed. What motivates them? What type of communication do they prefer? What kind of feedback do they respond to?
A style of management that works great for one team member might fall flat for another. Being able to adjust your approach will help you engage your employees and draw out their best work.
6. Avoid micromanaging
In your first few weeks as a manager, you’ll probably be gripping the reins tightly, wanting to ensure everything goes smoothly. Over time, however, you have to step back and trust your team members to do the jobs they’ve been hired to do.
Employees who feel empowered in their positions are more engaged with their jobs than the vast majority of their peers, while those who feel disempowered are disengaged and, in turn, more likely to leave the company.
Empowering your employees doesn’t mean there will be no mistakes; there will be. It means that when mistakes happen, you’re readily available to help fix them while providing clear and direct feedback that allows employees to learn, grow and avoid making the same mistake again in the future.
7. Prioritize respect over liking
One trap new managers frequently fall into is being a “buddy” to their team members. Everyone wants to be liked, so it’s natural to feel wary of having tough conversations and making unpopular decisions (see Michael Scott of ‘The Office’ for a hilarious but tragic case study).
Your effectiveness as a manager, however, depends on having the respect of your team. This can’t happen if you’re worried about being everyone’s friend. As a manager, you’ll need to steer clear of personal relationships that extend beyond the workplace and instead focus on establishing strong professional relationships built on mutual respect.
8. Consider culture
Your actions as a manager have a ripple effect that extends well beyond individual interactions. Your management style contributes to the overall culture of your team, which impacts everything from your retention rate to your ability to meet or exceed business goals.
As you make decisions in your new role, ask yourself, what kind of team am I building? What values do I want to instill in my staff? Culture should be a top consideration as you consider how you’ll provide feedback, recognize employees for their work, decide who to hire, and more.
Becoming a manager will no doubt bring new challenges, but it will also present new opportunities. Leading others can be one of the most rewarding parts of a career, so it’s a development you should feel enthusiastic about and proud of.