This is a shout out to all you first time managers out there! You are bound to be attacked by butterflies in your tummy, and the symptoms of having cold feet whenever you set out to do something you’ve never done before. While these voyages might appear terrifying, they are a sure sign of the fact that you are growing – in your experiences, and hence as an individual. Applying this general strand of thought to the topic at hand today, this post is dedicated to all you folks out there in the world of work, ready to take on the brand new role of being a manager – for the first time ever.
Before you begin reading this though, we’d like to emphasize that this in no way is a “tutorial”. A change in perspective before you begin to read this will help you understand your new role better. Know that you have risen up in the corporate ladder to be a manager solely because you have it in you to lead, manage and have teams deliver. That said, there are things one knows about, and there are always things one can do better. This post is simply an effort to bolster the latter. Happy reading!
1. Wrap your head around your role and responsibilities
The only way you’ll be able to lead and manage a team well is if you know your own role and responsibilities well enough. Work on yourself before you begin to work on / with your team. Do you own research to have a very thorough sense of the goals you are going to be working on. Ask yourself how you imagine yourself achieving them. Then ask yourself if that process can be applied to the rest of your team as well. While your approach will, of course, depend on the specific situation you might be dealing with at the given moment, having a general sense of direction is a great way to begin this new role.
2. Be Decisive
Making decisions, when you are aware that they no longer affect only yourself, can be tough in the stead of your new role. That however, shouldn’t stop you from making them altogether. Well, you definitely cannot “stop”, making decisions, but as a result of being indecisive you may end up delaying those decisions which will hamper the progress of your entire team. This will not only put the objectives and goals at stake, it will also be a reflection on you as a leader, and manager. The fact is, one can’t ever be sure enough about the consequences of any decision – which is what lies at the root of indecisiveness. All you can do is, weigh the pros and cons to the best of your knowledge and ability, and go ahead and implement the decision you make.
One of the vices most managers contract is fear of delegation, stemming from the fear that things may not be done as “perfectly” as you imagine yourself doing them. Apart from being immensely time-consuming, this fear is going to unsettle the team dynamics. Understand that you are no longer an employee, working more or less in isolation responsible for delegating that tasks assigned to you. Your role has now expanded to that of a manager, which entails you assigning goals and tasks to the team as a whole, and helping them achieve these goals.
If you do feel like you can relate to being a manager who find it hard to delegate, odds are you also find it hard to not micromanage, once you do succeed in delegating. That too, can be detrimental to the progress (and spirit) of your team. Give your team the credit they deserve, and once you have delegated the task, give them the independence (and assistance) they need to be able to accomplish it.
4. Invest time “in” your team
Time management would probably figure as the prime skill for managers. And while you’re teaching yourself how to manage time, ensure that you figure out time slots for one to one interaction with your team members on a fortnightly/ monthly basis. Even if it is a fifteen / twenty-minute long interaction, it is enough for you to take stalk about progress and challenges with regard to individual team members. This helps not only you in solving problems more efficiently, it also makes your employees feel valued, and importantly, anchored. Being a manager and being a mentor should ideally go hand in hand.
Apart from individual meetings, hosting team lunches, dinners once every two or three months just to build team cohesiveness is not a bad idea either.
5. Work on your interpersonal and communication skills
How you communicate, and put your thoughts across as a manager is pivotal to how much work you are able to motivate your team to do. “Interpersonal skills and communication skills lie at the center of human-based managerial considerations. Good managers understand not only what they are trying to say but also the broader context and implications of saying it. Empathy, self-reflection, situational awareness, and charisma all play integral roles in communicating effectively and positively.”
[Source: Boundless. “Interpersonal Skills of Successful Managers.” ]
While you will most certainly have to make unpopular choices as well, you don’t necessarily have to end up being disliked by team for having implemented these tough choices. What is tougher than making those choices is communicating them ‘effectively’, and ‘positively’, as the excerpt above puts it.
6. Find yourself a mentor
Irrespective of what stage you are in your career, you will always need a mentor. More so when you find yourself stepping into the shoes of a role that needs you to do a lot of mentoring. Odds are, you already do have a mentor, if you don’t, now is the perfect time to find yourself one. When we say “find yourself one”, we do not mean it in the casual language that it implies.
A mentor needn’t necessarily be very hard to find. Think of all the people whose advice and support has helped you grow in your career. It could be one of them, or a few of them you look towards as your mentors. It need not be a very formal process, but resuming communication with them (if you’ve fallen out of touch), and keeping at it, so that you may reach out to them when you need help with tricky situations. You know that in all probability they’ve been there before you, and would know intuitively the dynamics of most situations you might find yourself in.
7. Lead by example
Be a leader, not a boss. Being a boss and being a leader could mean two wholly different things. The plan is, to show your team that you are very much a part of the team and at the helm of affairs. The best way to manage your people and motivate them to be their best is by being more of a leader and less of a boss. No to imposing yourself, stating through overt and covert ways, “who the boss is”, yes to communication, negotiation, trust and motivation. If you’ve ever been bossed by your boss, you know exactly what not to do. But, even the best of us need to be reminded at times.
The best way to get the best out of your team is to lead by example. Inspire your team by being everything you expect from them!
Don’t be too hard on yourself and try not to self-impose any pressure. Like everything else, this too is a learning process and you will learn as you grow in your new role. Don’t forget to remind yourself you’ve been chosen for this role because you CAN do it!
Have tips for the first time managers who might be reading this? Let us know!