10 Secrets for New Managers
For some new managers, the idea of giving performance reviews and being responsible for others can be intimidating. For others, there are questions concerning how they manage people older than them, or fears of being accepted by their new team. Though I’ve been managing teams for more than a decade, I too, had these fears. But over time, I have learned a lot from peers, from mentors, and from my own employees. I made some terrible mistakes, and I had some pretty good successes. From my experience, I have found that good managers can repeatedly achieve fantastic results. So here are some pointers for those of you beginning your management careers. The following nuggets of insight are some of the best personal learnings I’ve had in my management career, and I thank my bosses, my peers and my employees for teaching them to me.
1. Dress the Part – This was some of the most unusual advice I got early in my career, but also some of the best. Unless you’re working for a hippie startup that encourages you to wear Birkenstocks, dress as a professional. There’s no need to go over the top, but this means no jeans, no track shoes, and no casual Friday. As soon as I started following this advice, I found people treated me differently. I got more ‘hellos’ in the hallway and found myself sitting in more meetings with upper management. Dressing professionally doesn’t make you a better manager, but it will make others take you more seriously.
2. Stay Professional – As a manager, you are in a position of authority, regardless of how you may see it. Even if you’re now the boss of the team you were a part of just a few days prior, professionalism will help you earn respect. Further, keeping things professional will help you earn a favorable reputation. You can’t earn a bad reputation for being even keeled and remaining objective. Fiery managers who cross the line of professionalism and treat others poorly, by contrast, will never live their behavior down.
3. Get to Know Every Employee – No matter how busy you get, understanding each employee is extremely important. Not just their capabilities and skills, but their personalities, their interests and the sources of motivation. Take them out for lunch. Set up a social hour after work. Get to know each and every one, even the harder-to-reach employees. Find ways to relate to them as individuals. As a manager, you are responsible for the team’s ability to perform. Understanding their strengths and weaknesses is a critical to your ability to navigate through day to day challenges.
4. Chin Up – Management is not always easy. Economic changes can cause jitters among your staff. Rumors spread. When there is uncertainty, your people will follow your lead. Managers are like mirrors. You mood and your attitude are going to be reflected in the behavior of your employees. If you are routinely negative, overly emotional, or hyper-critical of others, your employees are likely to demonstrate similar behavior because you said it was ok. No matter what challenges come your way, keep your chin up. Keep a positive attitude and cast an optimistic light for future. Your positive attitude will keep your team working effectively.
5. The Policy of Honesty – A highly trusted employee of mine once thanked me for being honest with the team. His exact words “It’s refreshing to work for someone who is will to tell us what’s really going on.” Prior to this conversation, I had not put much thought into the power of being open and honest. Having an employee thank me for it, though, taught me that honesty encourages your employees to trust you, and makes them willing to follow your lead. Further, being open and honest with employees about issues and difficulties the team is facing invites them to offer new ideas and solutions.
6. Roll Up Your Sleeves – Managing a group of people is easier when they respect you. Gaining this respect is far more difficult when employees cannot see your expertise. Don’t be afraid to throw your ideas into the mix. You may not be (and likely won’t be) the expert on the team. This doesn’t mean you should avoid diving into solving a problem with them. From time to time, participate in some of the grunt work. When employees see you jumping in with two feet, they’ll see you as a participant and not just a boss.
7. Emphasize the Power of Teamwork – Many people who are new to management are excited about the prospect of being able to create a strategy and be in charge of the destiny. This is true; you are in charge, and you need to create a strategy. But many new managers are slow to realize that they themselves cannot do it all. The sooner you can make this transition and realize that your team is the source of your success, the better off you will be. Encourage them to work together and to share the pain along with success. A group of individuals rowing in unison is far faster than even the best of individual paddlers.
8. Be There For Your Employees – Both personally and professionally, making yourself available to your employees is a sign of your leadership. On a professional level, this means keeping the door open even when you don’t want to be disturbed, and saying hello to them every day. On a personal level, this means you listen carefully, and offer support when they need someone to talk to. You spend a lot of time in the office and so do they. It’s important that they trust you and feel they can talk to you. When employees know you have their interests in mind, at work and at home, they will support you in return.
9. Develop a Strategy For Success – Successful managers do not simply walk into the office in the morning and roll with the punches. Good managers, rather, develop a strategy by which they run their organization. These managers establish long term plans to deliver their metrics. Good managers will meticulously plan three steps ahead, and deliberately develop their people to make them better. Communicate this strategy with your team. You may meet some resistance and first, but if you do it right and are able to deliver results as expected, your employees will follow your lead more willingly so they can be part of the success.
10. Lead the Way You Want to Be Led – Even the most effective managers have role models and people from whom they seek inspiration. Managing people will throw numerous challenges your way, making it difficult to think objectively from time to time. Things like budget constraints, restructuring and other pressures can wear on you. We have all had great managers and not-so-great bosses. I eventually had the realization that I could be a more effective manager by simply combining the qualities of the best managers I had. For example, just as I want a manager who offers support when I need it and fights on my behalf when I need it, I realized that I should do the same for my people. In tandem, I began suppressing the weaknesses and failings of the not-so-good ones. I don’t want to work for a dictator, nor do I want to work for someone who doesn’t respect a separation between work and personal life. This is trait I make sure to avoid when it comes to my management approach. Simply put, be the boss you would want to work for.
What management tips have you learned in your career? Leave a comment and share with other readers!