Your First 180 Days as a New Manager
18 Things To Do As a First Time Supervisor
Great job! You’ve moved up, and now you have entered the world of management! Your first 6 months as a new boss can be eye-opening, to say the least. There’s a lot to learn, a lot to do, and you need to set the tone for your new organization early on. And what about all those people problems? By contrast, being a new manager also provides you with opportunities to develop new skills and gain exposure to topics that you’ve never dealt with before. Here at MRH, we get a lot of questions about this sort of thing, and how to hit the ground running when you first get that promotion. So, as inspired by the MRH community, here are 18 things you should do as a first time manager.
1. First, Take a Moment To Pause
You just got the job, you’re excited, more pay, more responsibility and career growth. Nice work! A step into management is a step towards advancing to your career. Before you start, though, take a moment to ask yourself two simple questions, the answers to which can help shape the start of your career as a manager. (Looking back, these are questions I wish I had thought long and hard about when I first started as a manager. They would have given me a better starting point.)
1. What scares you the most? – Being responsible for other people, getting results and having more accountability can be a scary thing. It’s normal. Take some time to think through what worries you the most and talk to a mentor about it for their experiences. Over time, you’ll get the hang of it and you’ll inevitably have to confront those fears.
2. What do you want to get out of it, personally and professionally? – Take some time to think about what it is you want to get out of the opportunity. Of course, it can be hard to answer this without having experienced it. But how do you see this role helping you meet your career ambitions? How do you want it to help you personally? Treat it as a learning opportunity and go into it with that attitude.
2. Understand Your Values
While every employee is different, you will want to set the tone with your new team very early on. And by tone, I mean expectations. As the old saying goes, hindsight is 20/20 – looking in the past is always clearer than looking forward into the unknown. To help you set the tone, take a look in the mirror. Looking back myself, I’ve learned that your expectations of others are a reflection of the expectations you have of yourself. If your boss asks you a question and you naturally take it upon yourself to research it and provide a thorough answer, set that expectation of your new employees. If you do not like missing commitments and work late on a Friday to ensure you meet them, set that expectation of your staff. The point is simple – you will naturally expect of your employees a standard that you expect of yourself. Understand those expectations and be up front with your employees as you settle in to your new job. If you do not, you’ll find yourself trying to correct employee behavior later.
3. Have an Introductory Team Meeting with Your New Staff
Whether you know your new team members, or you’re meeting them for the first time, get the team together on the first day or two if possible, and have a team meeting to introduce yourself. Talk about what excites you about the position and the team. Share a little bit about your own background, and begin to set the tone as discussed above. Be sure to ask a lot of questions about them, your new team. Keep it light and informal; a two-way conversation. A great starter questions is “how can this team get even better?” Even though it’s an informal conversation, it is important to make a good impression – be professional, human, fair. They are all watching very closely.
For more detailed options for a new manager ice breaker session, CLICK HERE.
4. Get to Know Your Team and Its Members
Immediately begin scheduling one-on-one meetings with your new staff, during which you can start getting to know each one on a more personal basis. Let them know they should expect this during your introduction meeting. By getting to know your employees on a more personal level, it helps you as a manager craft their development, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and fine tune your organization to optimize its performance.
You can find more on developing employees HERE.
Want to fine tune your line up? Try THIS.
5. Consider a Team Building Event
Take a moment to think about what it was like for you to have a new boss. You were probably a bit guarded around that new boss for a little while. Guess what? That’s how your employees will be around you for some time. In the near future, plan some sort of team building event. It could be as easy as a team lunch or happy hour to get people out of the office into a more relaxed setting. I’ve personally found this to be a huge step forward when getting to know new teams I’ve managed. Getting your new employees into a more easy-going environment can significantly accelerate the relationship from being the “new boss” to “manager” in their eyes.
Book Recommendation for New Managers:
The One Minute Manager by Kenneth H. Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
The One Minute Manager is a fast and easy read that tells the story of a young man seeking to learn how to be a good manager. The story provides a number of great tips and learning points for first-time managers who are trying to make sense of it all. If you’re new to managing other people and are interested in learning a few fundamentals, this is a great start.
6. Ask The Obvious Questions
You’ll have many questions as you settle into your new job. But don’t hesitate to ask even those really obvious questions that seem silly. If there’s one advantage you have as the new boss, it’s that you’re in a position to make changes quickly – and people expect it. Further, I’ve found that asking very basic things like “So, why do we do it this way?” and “What’s the reason for that?” often uncovers long-standing inefficiencies in teams. Recognize that as a new manager, you bring a different perspective to the table. Use it as a means to change old mindsets.
7. Seek Out a Mentor
Transitioning to a role of a manager is a process that evolves one experience at a time. Even if you have great natural abilities, you’ll stumble along the way. If you can, find a mentor, someone to whom you can reach out from time to time to discuss questions you have or challenges you’re facing. On many occasions, you’ll find yourself wondering “How do I do that?” A mentor, at work or in your personal life, will become a great asset to you even if they only serve a sounding board for you sort out your own thoughts.
8. Review the Past Performance
While you do not want to past to taint the future, getting a good understanding of the past can help you dissect problems and understand where your team is as an organization. Consider meeting with your predecessor if possible, or meet with peers, colleagues and even your veteran employees. Were the last three years of goals met? If not, why not? Are there lingering issues that need to be addressed? Is your team on track to meeting the current year’s goals or plans for the business? What would have done differently, knowing what they know now? Exploring these types of questions can help you establish a basis for going forward, and your strategy for the future.
9. Learn the Organization
As a new manager make a specific effort to understand the organization. Every business or organization is like living organism. Each part of it is intended to carry out a specific function. The sooner you get to know which parts of your organization (including your own team) do what, the sooner you can learn to navigate it to make things happen. If they’re not given to you, ask for an organizational chart. Contact some of your peers and spend an hour with them to learn what it is their team does. It is very difficult to get results when you don’t know how the organization operates.
10. Get to Know the Decision Makers
Spend time getting to know the decision makers in your organization. Who has the responsibility or authority to approve hiring a new employee? Who has to sign off a proposal before it goes to the customer? By getting to know the key decision makers, you no only learn who to call for input or support, but opening this line of communication will also help you get decisions made faster as a deadline approaches.
11. Know Your Limits
Not to rain on your parade, but as a corollary to the previous point, get a firm understanding of what you can do, and what others need to do. Talk with your manager about where your authority starts and ends. A simple example of this might be a financial limit for a project expenditure that you can approve, above which someone else needs to approve. Can you authorize an employee to travel, or does someone else have to do that? Are you able to approve time off, or does the HR Manager do that?
12. Identify Your Key Stakeholders
Stakeholders are the people who depend on you and your team. They can be the end customer, your boss, the team down the hallway, or the CEO. Find out who they are, what they expect and how you can best help them. To make sure the work that leaves your department is best suited for the next person in the line, spend some time with them.
For more on this, get to know your internal customers.
“You will naturally expect of your employees a standard that you expect of yourself.”
13. Get to Know the End Customers and Your Market
If you’re new to a company and entering a different market than what you’ve experienced previously, make it a point to get to know your customers. Your end customers – the people paying your business money for your products or services – are the ones whom you ultimately need to keep in mind when it comes to managing your team. Now, you may argue “I’m the IT manager for a large company, I don’t deal with end customers.” This may be true. But I would challenge that by saying your end customer may have requirements that impact your IT infrastructure. For example, end customers may require deliverables in certain forms of software, or require you retain electronic data for some period of time. Or, they may expect to purchase your products online, which would drive you to have an up-to-date security system to protect their identity. Bottom line, customers wear the pants. And you should understand what they expect as a means of knowing how you can do your job better.
14. Setup a 90 Day Outlook With Your Own Boss
Regardless of whether your boss asks for it or not, take the initiative to set up a review with your own supervisor to discuss your first impressions. What is your take on your new team? What do you see as the issues you’re department faces? What opportunities are there on the horizon, in your opinion? What actions do you expect to take, based on your first three months? Even if your boss has little feedback on the matter, going through the exercise yourself can help you digest what you’ve learned to date and transform it into your own action plan.
15. Understand the Financials
At some level, every manager has some tie to financials. Even if it’s simple managing expenses or costs, there is a link. Take it upon yourself to meet with the people who can educate you about how your business manages its finances, how you and your team impact that, what you needed to do as part of that, and how you need to communicate issues. You do not need to become an expert, but understand how your business makes money, how it tracks costs and how the entire financial engine of your company works will help you in far more ways than you might expect.
16. Dissect the Processes and Policies
Whether you’re new to the organization, or you got promoted within the organization, as a manager you’re responsible for making sure processes are followed. Complete any basic or mandatory training. Even if you’ve been with the company for a while, there will be processes as a manager you need to follow that you did not experience as an individual employee (Example: if you need to approve an expense report, what do you do?). Talk to your peers and your own supervisor to learn the ropes of how things happen.
17. Shift Your Mindset from Doer to Leader
If there is one bit of advice I could leave with every first-time manager, I would say this: What made you successful before you became the boss is not what will make you successful as the boss. Your employees are responsible for getting the work done and making sure it’s done right. You’re there to set the priorities, manage change and resolve problems. When you become a manager, your role shifts from being the person who did the work, to the person who leads those doing the work. Find ways to break down barriers so your team can work as efficiently as possible.
18. Create an Action Plan, Even if Only for Yourself
In every management position I’ve taken, there is a pattern. You go into it with a mental plan of what you’re going to do. But within days, you’ve been sucked up into the Jetstream of meetings and day-to-day business and it all goes to the wayside. Based on the above list, identify those things that best suit your needs and your situation. Even if just handwritten on a notepad, write down the things you plan to do (or need to do) in your first 6 months to help you come up to speed as best as possible. If you get pulled into the Jetstream, a list written where you see it regularly can help remind you of the things you wanted to accomplish before time slips away.
Looking for More as a New Manager? Check Out the New Manager Resource Page, and…