Tips for New Managers: Part 1

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Being promoted to a manager for the first time is one of the most challenging transitions a manager will ever have to navigate.

You’ve come to the right place! Here’s the advice I would give to any new manager, over a series of two meetings.

1. Start getting ready before you get promoted.

Granted, while in many cases it may be too late to prepare, it shouldn’t have been. There are lots of things an aspiring manager can do to get ready to be a manager, including on the job experiences, reading, taking courses, and learning from others.

If you get offered a promotion and you’re not prepared, you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself.

2. Recognize that it’s a new job.

Even though you were most likely promoted within a function where you were the best engineer, you are no longer an engineer – you’re a manager. The good news is, you have a track record of success. You know how to learn and succeed, so don’t ever lose sight of that and don’t lose your mojo.

3. Learn “Situational Leadership”.

SL is a must-have leadership framework for any manager. Buy the book, take a course, or ask someone to teach it to you. It’s basically a model for figuring out how to manage each of your employees, depending on how much direction they need.

4. Get to really know your employees.

Spend time with each and every employee and get to know their jobs, career and development goals, hopes and dreams, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, the names of their children and pets, where they live, and anything else that’s important to them.

Getting to know your employees builds a solid foundation of trust.

5. Learn and practice active listening.

If I had to pick just ONE skill, active listening would be the one I’d say is the most important skill to master as a leader.

6. Let go of the details.

Focus on the what, not the how. You’re not being paid to do your old job, or do your employee’s jobs.

7. You’re the boss, not a “friend."

One of the most frequent mistakes new managers make is that they try to be friends with their employees.  This is especially hard when you get promoted over your peers, and you have been friends as a peer. When you’re a manager, the relationship changes. You’re now in a position of power and authority, and being friends with one or more employees and not others will create perceptions of bias and favoritism. Yes, you can be friendly, but you’re better off keeping the relationship professional.

8. You may be surprised to discover your former co-workers have some “issues."

New managers are often shocked to discover some of the performance and personal issues their boss was discreetly dealing with. Now, it’s your job to pick up where your boss left off.

9. Learn to deal with performance issues.

Your previous boss may have been sweeping issues under the rug, or perhaps in the middle of working with an employee. Either way, you’ll need to learn a consistent and effective way to deal with employee performance issues. Didn’t anyone tell you? It comes with the territory.

10. Treat EVERY one of your employees with respect.

Never, ever, ever waiver from this.

11. Use the four magic words: “What do you think?”

From management guru Tom Peters.

Asking your employees for their ideas is the ultimate display of respect and empowers them to solve their own problems.

12. Pay attention to your new team.

While you may be the team leader of your team, you’re now a member of a brand new team – your manager’s management team. Managing sideways is just as important as managing up and down. From Team guru Patrick Lencioni.

13. Be available and visible.

Don’t let “I never see my boss” be how your employees describe you.

14. Set up and maintain a schedule of regular one-on ones and team meetings.

Then, treat these meetings as a top priority.

15. Embrace your role as a LEADER. 

This one’s not as obvious as it sounds.

I managed employees for over 20 years before the light went on for me and I realized what an extraordinary and rewarding responsibility leadership could be. Don’t take it lightly.