Being a First-time Manager
Congratulations! You’re a new manager. Now, what do you do? A successful transition starts with recognizing you can not—and should not—do everything by yourself. Too, it’s critical that you change your mindset from one of “me” to “we.”
Managing According to the Platinum Rule
As people transition to management positions, they’re very often reminded of the golden rule in leadership seminars and books. People say, “It’s easy. Just treat others how you want to be treated.” Try the “the platinum rule.” Treat others how they want to be treated. It’s much more effective and a little bit more work, especially at first.
The first step to implementing the platinum rule is by figuring out what motivates people. You may not always get it right, but by picking up on the cues people send out, you’ll start to notice what gets them excited, what they’re good at, where they’re passions are. Not to mention, by talking to them about what they like, and what matters to them. And then you implement the platinum rule. You treat them in a way that will speak to them.
From Me to We
The move from being a single contributor, in my experience, a salesperson, that was part of a team was really responsible for my performance on my own. Seen as that, full control of everything that we could deliver. Then moving into the world of management or leadership, and realizing that actually it’s not about me any longer, it is about we and us and the team.
Managing by Walking Behind Them
“To lead people, walk behind them” - Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher
What he meant by that is the kind of role that people are looking for from their manager is one where the manager is not micromanaging them, he’s not actually managing them that much. He’s certainly around to coach them, to nurture them, to develop them, but he’s not micromanaging them. So in a sense, using Lao Tzu’s expression, is managing by walking behind, or another phrase we sometimes we use is managing offstage.
So, it’s that kind of role that people are looking for in their manager. People don’t want to be overly managed. They want to have a manager who allows them to express themselves, who gives them the opportunity to be empowered, act autonomously, is certainly around to guide and advise them and give them feedback, but ultimately allows them then to get on with the task at hand.
Ditch 'Sticky Fingers' to Stretch Your Talent
Have you ever had a boss who only gives you pieces of work to do and wants to centrally control everything? This is a manager who is a master doer. They have what we call sticky fingers, and what they really want to do is all the work themselves. They’re reluctant to let go. But why? Perhaps they don’t trust the skills of their team members, falsely believing that years of experience may be needed before they’ll be ready, because that’s how they grew up in the company. Or maybe they don’t really understand what they would do if they didn’t have these tasks to do. After all, they can do it faster than they could teach it to others, right?
Managers who do too much often lose their high potential talent on their team. If you care about developing your people, be willing to take some risks and let go of more, faster. Stretch your talent. You probably won’t be disappointed.
The art of listening
One of the most important skills that you can work on to be an effective manager is simply listening; probably the most important managerial skill going. Ask your people questions. Listen for answers. Be prepared to tolerate silence. Be prepared to get answers that you don’t really want to get, such as “I’m having trouble with, you know, how to get this product out the door, even though it should have been out the door last week.” It’s that ability to listen that allows you to stay in touch and not abandon the people that are counting on you to stay in touch.
If you can really work on your ability to listen, sometimes just by forcing yourself, you will be surprised how much your people will appreciate that. And ultimately, you’ll get to see them be successful, and their success—even though you didn’t do it—their success does reflect on your effectiveness as a manager, and it’s something that your own bosses will appreciate.
The Role of a New Manager
Congratulations on becoming a new manager. You were promoted because you do a great job at your job. Now you have some changes to make to be successful as a manager, rather than just as an individual contributor. There are three important things you need to do. First of all, you have to make a mental shift to taking pride in the achievements of your team rather than your own personal accomplishments.
When you were an individual contributor, you were rewarded for completing tasks and projects. As a manager, you’ll be rewarded for the accomplishments of your team much more than of yourself. So step back and ask yourself a few questions: “What should this team accomplish this quarter or this year? Who on my team should do what to achieve these accomplishments?” Then your focus can be on enabling your team to work on those projects.
Then you need to get great at delegating. Think of delegating your work as giving someone else the opportunity to shine; which is again your number one job as a manager. Look at your current workload and ask yourself, “Is there someone on my team who can do this instead of me?” You can also literally ask this of your team. You can ask them, “Is there something you see me doing that you think I should be delegating to someone else? That someone else on the team should be doing?” You’ll get very interesting answers.
Once you start delegating, you might need to help your team build their new skills. For example, you might have someone who’s eager to take on the work, but she needs some help structuring her time. You might be able to help her yourself, or you might suggest she take a class, or find a mentor. One of your employees might be worried about a project you give him, and he might need some extra support and encouragement from you.
They’re learning, too. Find out what the members of your team need to help them do their jobs better, and then help them get it. Finally, don’t forget to manage the expectations of your own manager. As you settle into your role as a manager, discuss with your manager her expectations for you. Find out how much help you can ask her for when you have questions. Ask your manager about the best way to communicate with her, and about her expectations for you in the first 90 days, and then even beyond.
Set up regular meetings to discuss your goals and your progress, and to resolve any issues that may come up. Use this time; also, don’t forget to showcase the accomplishments of your team. Remember that becoming a master manager is a work in progress. Try these tools to help you get off at a fast start.