Tag Archives: new managers

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.

Assume the Position: Defining Roles and Setting Expectations

The last few posts dealt with meeting task needs—achieving individual, group, and organizational objectives. I covered a bunch of topics in this area: setting performance standards, matching the person with the job, delegating effectively, analyzing performance issues, and giving and receiving feedback.

In the weeks ahead, I’m going to talk about a different set of needs: the needs of your team. Meeting these needs is about establishing team norms and managing group dynamics. Before you can do that, however, you need to assume your role as manager of the group. You need to define your role and set expectations for how you will work together as a team.

One of the most challenging aspects of making the transition from individual contributor to manager is establishing your authority while at the same time setting the tone for a collaborative working relationship. It’s a delicate balancing act, one that calls for establishing clear boundaries and also allowing an open and honest discussion about current realities and future possibilities. Setting the stage in this way is a vital first step, whether you are promoted from within your team or are new to the company.

Think back to when you first became a manager. How was it handled? Perhaps a company-wide announcement went out. Perhaps your boss introduced you to your new group. Then what happened? Did you meet with your team to clarify your new role, discuss current issues, and share your outlook for the future? No? Well, you’re not alone.

Of all the mistakes new managers can make, the biggest may be in assuming the position without first setting the stage for how the team will work together.

This was my biggest mistake and it caused no end of grief, for me and for my team. I was promoted from within the group. My boss made the announcement to my team and that was the end of that. It never occurred to me that I should meet with my team to talk about how things would change. (And boy, do things ever change!) I just assumed that they knew that I wasn’t “one of them” anymore.

What a mistake! My new role never took hold. My employees didn’t see me as their manager, a reality that came back to haunt me, especially when I had to make tough calls on policy or about performance issues. (Admittedly, much of my problems stemmed from my inability to assume a leadership role. My methods were often tentative and  inconsistent. I wanted to remain friends with my former peers and so I tiptoed—a lot. (I’ll address the challenge of managing former peers in a future blog post.)

If I could have my do-over, my first act would have been to hold a group meeting to talk about how things would change. Some of my talking points would be:

When Promoted From Within the Team

  • It’s important to talk about how things have changed so we can all make the adjustment.
  • There are some advantages to my being manager of this group: I’m familiar with the work and I know the people.
  • As manager, I’m expected to do things differently. I’ll have to make tough decisions. I may have to talk to you about your performance, and that may not be easy for either of us, because we’ve worked together as peers in the past.
  • I hope that my being manager of this group will be good for us and for the company. I look forward to our working together to create a team that we can be proud of.
  • If you have questions or concerns, we can discuss them now, or you can follow up with me later on.
  • Now, let’s discuss what’s on your mind regarding current issues and future opportunities. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts and ideas . . .

But what if you’re new to the company? You still need to set the stage as soon as you come on board. Here are some things you might cover in your meeting:

When New to the Team

  • It’s important to talk about how things have changed so we can all make the adjustment.
  • There are advantages and disadvantages to having been brought in as manager. As an outsider, I can take a fresh look at some of the issues. The downside is that I don’t know how things are done around here, but I’m willing to learn, and I hope I can rely on you to teach me the ropes.
  • As time goes on, we’ll figure out how we can best work together. You’ll get to know my style and I’ll get to know yours. Building relationships takes time, but I want you to know that I am committed to making this work.
  • I hope that my being manager of this group will be good for us and for the company. I look forward to our working together to create a team that we can be proud of.
  • If you have questions or concerns, we can discuss them now, or you can follow up with me later on.
  • Now, let’s discuss what’s on your mind regarding current issues and future opportunities. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts and ideas . . .

Even if you’ve been managing for a while and you haven’t held a stage-setting meeting, hold one now. You might begin with an apology for not doing it sooner, then fashion your message in your own style, covering the talking points above.

Until next time . . .