Your first position in management can come at nearly any point in your career, from fresh newcomers to industry veterans. If you’re in the transition phase into becoming a team leader, you may not know what to do in order to be a successful manager. All the technical and industry knowledge in the world doesn’t necessarily make for an effective leader, so it’s important to approach your new position knowing that it can be a new and challenging adventure.
To smooth out the bumpy road to successful leadership, here are 9 guidelines to help first-time managers.
New Manager Tips
1. Ask your supervisor what is important to them. Have this leader describe what success looks like for your position, your team and themselves. Ask your supervisor what he or she is worried about.
2. Start to build trust with your team members. This will be a long process, and starts with self-awareness and awareness of your team members. How do you and they communicate, what motivates all of you, and what are your objectives? Assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Assessment can help you quickly learn about your different styles of communication, and how you might deal with stress and conflict.
3. Set clear objectives and goals for your team. The most important word in that sentence is “clear,” and I can’t stress its importance enough. Know that what is clear to you may not be as clear to others. Everyone on your team comes to the table with differing levels of expertise and understanding.
4. Ask other managers who have had similar transitions what they wish they had known prior to assuming a leadership position. Ask them what lessons they learned during the first few months.
5. Learn to communicate with your supervisor. Ask them how they’ve communicated with previous managers in your position, and what level of information you need to send back and forth across different channels. Sometimes when we work as an expert in a field we can provide a high level of detail in status reports and in technical documentation. What level is necessary for your working relationship?
6. Network. Assuming a leadership position means that you will undoubtedly be enhancing your current professional network. You’ll have other functional leaders, business leaders and customers in your network when previously your network may have been limited to a small community. Make use of these new relationships.
7. Learn team dynamics and culture. Talk with your team members individually and have them describe the dynamics and culture to you as they see them. Ask what motivates them individually and as a group, and what might be barriers to improvement that you can help them with. This goes hand in hand with number two – building trust.
8. Focus on presentation. As a first-time manager the amount of “presenting” you will have to do, whether it be in team meetings, to other industry professionals, or to customers or clients can be intimidating. As someone in a management position, you will frequently be the face of your team, so understand how to best present both yourself and your team’s work, as it will be critical to your success.
9. Reach out to any team members, frequent collaborators, or outsourced contractors who may be geographically distant from you, and do so as soon as possible. Distant working relationships are some of the easiest to strain and for logjams or holes in workflow to develop. Discuss operating guidelines and how you will communicate and manage working expectations.
These guidelines will get you started in your transition to a leadership role. I would encourage you to not get overwhelmed, easy as it may be, with the new experience. Use the tools you’ve developed over your career and always be open to new learning opportunities and resources for developing your skills. If you’re ready to start now, take a look at our Management Coaching Assessment to see effective your management style is.