Category Archives: Advice

Ten Things I Wish I Knew When I Became a Manager

Like many people, I was kind of thrown into a management position. My boss needed someone to fill the position and I was that someone. I took on the role with no preparation, no training, and absolutely no idea of what I was doing.  It was pretty much a disaster, at least for a while.

boy with apple


I could have profited from the wisdom of someone who had been there and done that. Here is the advice I wish I had been given at the time:

  1. Clarify roles and set expectations early on. Explain your role within the team, what your employees can expect from you and what you expect from them. Set the stage for working together collaboratively.
  2. Work on building your communication skills every day: Express yourself directly yet respectfully. Listen really well. Ask great questions.
  3. Tackle the difficult issues, otherwise they will fester. Know that conflict doesn’t go away by itself. Learn how to navigate those difficult conversations: Express yourself, listen to their side of the story, and problem-solve together.
  4. Be consistent in your managing style. If you’re a sweetheart one day and a bear the next, people will not know how to respond to you.
  5. Don’t focus on people’s weaknesses, focus on their strengths instead. Find out what people are already good at and then let them do more of it.
  6. Get out of the way. Provide your team with the knowledge and tools to do their jobs and then let them do it.
  7. Treat everyone as individuals rather than clones of yourself. How you approach work is not how they may approach it. What motivates you may not motivate them. Get to know each person’s work style and preferences and use those differences to maximize individual and team performance.
  8. Work at being human. Admit that you don’t have all the answers. Admit when you make a mistake.
  9. Check in with yourself every once in a while. Ask: Is the work getting done? Is the team working well together? Is each team member motivated? Am I getting what I need to do my job well? In other words: Am I meeting the needs of the task, the team, and the individual? Am I meeting my own needs?
  10. Just because the rest of the organization borders on the dysfunctional, it doesn’t mean your work unit has to be that way. Do everything you can to create an environment in which the people on your team are inspired to do their best.

Until next time.

Growth Spurt! Three Ways to Become a Great Manager

grassSome people, upon their arrival at this place called MANAGEMENT, believe they can rest on their laurels. Truth is, there is much more to learn, much more growing that has to take place. The job requires new knowledge, new skills, and new behaviors. Managers need to go after learning opportunities whenever and wherever they can find them. Here are three ways to grow into a great manager.

Seed (get feedback)

Want to accelerate your professional growth? Sow the seeds of performance. Seek feedback from everyone—your boss, your peers, and your employees. Here are just a handful of areas that can make or break your bid for success.

  • Do you show up? (Do you deliver on your promises?)
  • Are you open to new ways of doing things?
  • Are you consistent (do you run hot one day and cold the next)?
  • Do you control too much or not enough?
  • Do you communicate (share knowledge, offer feedback, listen)?

Ask yourself:  What would those around me say about my performance in each of these areas? Then ask yourself: Am I willing to hear (and possibly act on) what they have to say?

Receiving feedback isn’t easy, even when we ask for it. Giving feedback is just as tough, because most of us are not skilled at it. You can help people learn how to give you feedback by being open to receiving it and being willing to make changes based on that feedback.

Here are some guidelines to help you seek feedback from people at all levels of the organization.

From your boss:

Knowing where you stand with your boss is crucial, yet he or she may not be capable of delivering critical feedback. You assert your needs by stating what kind of input you want and why it is important to you: “I’d like your feedback on the XYZ project you assigned to me last month; specifically on how/when I’ve communicated to you and on how I’ve managed the deadlines.”

From your employees:

Your staff may never have been asked to give feedback to their boss, or were rebuffed when they did.  If so, you’ll need to show that you’re open to receiving it. Explain what you’re looking for and why: “I’d like your feedback on how I run our weekly meetings, how I manage the agenda, and how I listen to and act on your input. I want our meetings to be an effective use of our time.”

From your peers:

These are your customers, vendors, co-workers, and project-team or task force members. All can offer insight into your performance. Here are some examples of what kind of information you might seek:

  • Ask customers what they like or dislike about your product or service and what they would like to see changed.
  • Ask vendors what they need from you to do their jobs better.
  • Ask co-workers what you could do to support them in your role as teammate.
  • Ask project or task force members what you could be doing to serve the team more effectively.

If you’re going to ask for feedback from anyone, be prepared to receive it, even if what they have to say hurts. The moment you become defensive or make excuses, they will shut down and you will lose an important channel for learning and growth.

Feed (Get smarter)

No time to train? No money? No worries!

If the thought of attending a 3-day workshop on conflict management doesn’t exactly thrill you, or if you can’t squeeze it into your crazy-busy schedule, or if your company won’t spring for the expense, take heart. There are lots of ways to learn new stuff. Here are some creative approaches to learning:

  • Form a business book discussion group with your peers. Choose a book title to read and then meet monthly to discuss.  No time to read? Most popular business titles are available as audio books. You can listen to them during the commute.
  • Grab onto someone’s coattails. Find someone in your organization who is wise in the ways of management and ask him or her to mentor you. Most people will be flattered that you asked.
  • Surf the net. Find online resource to support your efforts at managing people. (Might I suggest that you start with, the site you’re on right now?)
  • Get smart about other things. Spend just 20minutes per week listening to smart people talk on any number of topics on
Weed (Get rid of unwanted behaviors)

Do you know people who just can’t seem to get out of their own way, who keep making the same mistakes over and over again? It’s probably because they lack self-awareness, the ability to assess their own thought patterns, motives, and behaviors, as well as the ramifications of those behaviors.

I became a better manager after some pretty spectacular failures. I learned how to evaluate my behavior and then figure out a different course of action to affect different outcomes.

You are going to stumble, so after you’ve soothed your skinned knees and salved your bruised ego, ask these important questions:

  • What just happened? (Be as objective you can in your analysis.)
  • What part did I play in this? (Avoid the impulse to blame the other party and look inside instead. You will usually find something there.)
  • If I could do it over, what would I do differently?

If you take your answers to heart, then to action, you will probably not make the same mistake again.

My next post will deal with the final step in managing your self needs: dealing with stress.

Until next time . . .