You’ve worked hard towards this point in your career: you’re stepping into a management position for the very first time. It’s a golden opportunity and you couldn’t be happier – or more nervous.
That’s understandable. Starting any new role comes with some level of anxiety, but when you have added responsibilities (and they’re still foreign to you) it’s hardly surprising that you’re feeling the pressure.
Even though you might know your field like the back of your hand, thanks to all the practical experience you’ve gained, managerial positions come with their own unique set of challenges.
Starting off on the right foot
When it comes to setting yourself up for success as a first-time manager, there are a number of key steps to follow. Some noteworthy pieces of advice for first-time managers include:
1. Know your business
With any new role comes an adjustment period. It takes time to learn the ropes, but as a manager with team members looking to you for guidance, you want to ensure that the transition from ‘learner’ to ‘leader’ is as smooth and efficient as possible.
Whether you’re stepping into a new role in your existing company or starting out as a manager at a different organization altogether, you want to be sure that you know the necessary ins and outs about all aspects of the business: its operational processes, strategic objectives, client relationships, competitors and, very importantly, its company culture.
Don’t be afraid to ask senior leaders questions about areas that are unclear to help you get up to speed. You may even want to consider asking someone with great experience – and who has the capacity to offer you guidance and support – whether they’d mentor you.
2. Set results-oriented and achievable goals
Having a clear roadmap not only calms your nerves but it gives you and your team something to work towards, enhancing engagement and allowing you to track progress and accomplishments, which can lead to greater job satisfaction.
You can begin by outlining a 30-60-90-day plan. This is a structured overview of the goals you’d like to achieve within the first, second, and third months of employment, respectively. It’s a great way of detailing an action plan for your and your team’s benefit, helping ease the transition and giving you direction in a period that can be overwhelming.
When it comes to delegating work and ensuring that everyone on the team is reaching the goals that have been determined, you would benefit by relying on forecasting software (rather than Excel).
This software gives you visibility of how busy team members are, and eases the process of scheduling new work or determining team capacity for additional projects. After all, no one enjoys being overwhelmed by unrealistic workloads.
3. Empower your team
The golden piece of advice to the first-time manager: avoid micro-management. Modern employees are after a level of autonomy and they want to be trusted to get the job done – whether they’re on site or working remotely (embracing the convenience that today’s workforce wants).
We also know that today’s employees are after an inclusive culture, where individuality is accepted. Create a safe space in your team, allowing them the room to innovate and improve things around them. Don’t become distracted by trying to shine your own light, but allow contribution and problem-solving input from your team members.
Another way to show your team members that you’re interested in empowering them is by keeping an eye out for training opportunities or suggesting internal gigs where you see room for them to grow their skills. Remember, modern employees are also after career advancement and want the chance to master their crafts.
4. Make communication a high and ongoing priority
Ask any expert or seasoned manager – communication is key. When it comes to conveying job briefs, expectations, changes and updates, it’s essential to convey information clearly, concisely and in a timely manner, keeping all parties on the same page.
But effective communication involves so much more than giving instruction or guidance. It requires careful listening too. Giving your team members the platform where they can hold open conversations with you fosters genuine relationships, sets a tone of transparency and helps build trust.
5. Give real-time feedback
Communication also spills over into the area of performance feedback. Don’t wait for annual reviews to discuss matters with your team members – whether feedback is needed to course correct or to congratulate someone.
Real-time feedback, which takes place on an ongoing basis, is a far more effective way of fixing errors or giving recognition where it’s due. This is motivating and encourages team members to keep excelling. Ultimately, when people feel valued, they tend to go the extra mile.
Further food for thought
You might like: The Global Manager by Melissa Lamson. It gives managers – the first-time manager and the experienced manager – insight into recognizing, reacting to, and solving complex management situations where different styles, personalities and cultures come into the picture.
Lamson expands on some of the abovementioned principles, offering further advice for first-time managers to help them move into their leadership roles.
Embrace smart solutions
Thanks to innovative software solutions, there’s no need to step into your new role as a first-time manager with the overwhelming thought that you’ll have to do it all on your own.
Our suite of talent management modules are designed to help managers and organizations manage team members’ performance, give real-time feedback, forecast work, and to empower employees.
Learn more here.