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Excelling as a First-Time Manager
The colleagues who loved you as their peer now report to you as their boss. Will they still respect you?
It was only a matter of time. Year after year, you beat your numbers and earned the highest marks on evaluations. Your manager sang your praises; your clients considered you one of their own. You sacrificed health and happiness to prove you deserved it. Eventually your time rolled around and they put you in charge. And now that you've made it, only one question remains: What do I do now? Stepping into management can be an overwhelming transition. Forget all your past accomplishments: You're starting from scratch and the learning curve is steep. You'll deal with individuals from different cultures, generations, personalities, and ambitions, some of whom are more entrenched, experienced, and talented than you. And all those dirty jobs you took for granted²hiring, training, coaching, appraisals, discipline, and layoffs²are your responsibility. Worst of all, you're no longer one of them; you're the eyes-and-ears of "The Man," if not the man himself. Now you're all alone. And that means you have a target on your back. Sure, your reports have a stake in your success. But they also have their agendas. Despite your best intentions and efforts, you're bound to disappoint them at times. No, you'll have to accept that not everyone will like you. They'll whisper behind your back, blaming you for things you can't control. They're always watching you, evaluating you against their own strengths, sniping over every weak moment or error. Regardless, these same people will make or break you.
Leadership has a funny way of exposing weaknesses. If you lacked self-awareness before, you'll quickly recognize your limitations and misconceptions. Suddenly you're pushed and pulled from all directions. Every interaction is magnified. And all those frailties you've consciously hidden² your temper, tendency to procrastinate, or inability to follow through²will eventually come front and center as the pressure boils over. As with any job, many of us enter leadership with high hopes. We expect to raise the bar for everyone else (or at minimum, not undo the great work of our predecessor). We imagine ourselves building teams and markets, making a difference and someday crossing the stage to the applause of our peers. But then the people, politics, and roadblocks often wear us down. And with every tepid review you give, the guilt will gnaw at you: Is their performance actually a reflection on me?
you must come in with your eyes open and a plan. we press and claw to the destination. 2. but keep them relatively short. Otherwise. But there's so much you don't know. Most important. And guess who's in charge now? It's you. Learn about their history and aspirations. To know what's critical and what's clutter. Without their support. Keep a log of everything you question. Set ground rules and expectations early. Instead. You represent a fresh start. be humble and grow into the job. and to execute it skillfully. Remember. listening. spend your first months observing. In reality. Take small steps so your employees have some continuity. they want to be seen in the best light. Identify what's mission critical. Establish time lines and benchmarks to measure progress. everyone knows that. and learning. lean on those with institutional knowledge and memory. give everyone a clean slate. Sure. 1. few others will follow. help. no matter what you've heard. . 3. my friend. But you also need a vision and a strategy. and world will profit from their labor. why. all your reports will be on their best behavior initially. In short. Help them understand they're working toward something larger. Outline your short-term and long-term vision for the department. Set Objectives You have their attention: Capitalize on it. unambiguous. Watch them in action to see who'll tell the truth. get buy-in from your stars and respected veterans. Here's how to succeed as a new manager. Learn the Business You'll feel tempted to overhaul and start fresh. at least not initially. lives. So give them plenty of one-on-one time early.Too often. You'll have time to leave your fingerprints as you mature. Rather than risk moving too fast too soon. and how their careers. How Not to Blow It That semi-competent manager you and your colleagues used to complain about is gone. that's when the real work begins. you have integrity. Meet with Your People Individually Don't judge the holdovers. and how everyone's roles contribute to the end result. or inevitably disappoint. all too satisfied when we get there. Set goals. To keep your promotion from morphing into a death sentence. and achievable. you'll find yourself turning into the new bumbling fool.
your job is to get your team members on the same page and level. Set targets. Without a plan and a dedication to executing it. That's right: Take them back to basics. it requires planning. Start with recognizing each person's strengths. . replete with starting and ending points (and the steps in between). no different from your department plan. gradually losing sight of their potential and value. focus your team on that area and remove any obstacles or excuses for delivering it.4. attention. and areas for improvement. Check in regularly on their performance. and commitment. Make a Memorable Gesture Want to make an impact in your first weeks? Strip everything down and simplify. 5. After meeting with stakeholders. 6. From there. Face it. Take a dramatic action to send the message that times have changed. Hold yourself accountable by evaluating progress weekly and making adjustments as circumstances evolve. goals. and foster an environment where they can excel. productivity. At minimum. such as a bad apple or redundant paperwork. Seek out opportunities where they can learn and contribute (and move out of their comfort zones). Or build goodwill by skewering a sacred cow or making a symbolic giveback. Whether you're looking to drive service. they will inevitably drift. Develop Each Person (Including Yourself) It's the universal question: How can I take my employees to the next level? Like anything. Have a Department Plan An idea is doomed to failure without a plan behind it. establish individual plans. draft three. or profitability. Determine what's holding them back.and six-month plans.
and there will be mistakes along the way. Stay in touch regularly and take his or her advice. you're also an ambassador. Identify areas where you could improve your performance or potentially team up with someone to help. . Be patient and take heart with any victories you achieve. Communicate regularly. 10. Cultivate a Mentor You've seen it before: One bad manager can stifle creativity. If they're not coming to you. Your newcomer status puts you at an innate disadvantage. however critical. not narrow it. Sit down with their leaders and rank and file. It only takes one opportunity. newsletters. to heart. get them face time with leadership. Invest time in building relations with the other departments. Eventually he may be the one who introduces you to the right people and champions your cause 9. 7. Find a mentor who can pick you back up and put your challenges in perspective.your reports won't all stay in their jobs forever. And realize you can't be everything to everyone. siphon energy. motivate them by helping them get there. so you keep your capabilities on their radar. Use your influence to get employees into other departments' meetings or field operations. reach out to someone who's already gone through that. 8. and a mutual awareness of your unexpected synergies. such as training sessions. Pick those fights and drive those issues you can win. You want to expand their world. So don't place yourself in a losing position until you've built up your capital. Seasoned managers will condescend to you. Increase Your Team's Exposure Take it a step further: Turn your reports into your department's ambassadors. and success stories. And you'll have times when you'll ask if you're causing more harm than good. Know where they want to go. It takes time to make things happen. to enhance their value to the organization. Build Bridges with Other Departments Along with being a manager. Take an inventory of how your department is viewed. Chances are. Look for opportunities to give them the spotlight. a mentor will be flattered by your trust. Most important. employees will try to roll you. Recognize Your Limitations You haven't done the job long enough to own a real track record. and poison relationships. Sponsor company events or causes and give out awards and gifts. go to them. When this happens. project leadership. to forge a long-term partnership.
At minimum. 14. At best. practice the golden rule. Assign projects to foster collaboration and closer relationships within your team. Chances are. systems. Be an Example You're wired into the powers that be. stay on the offensive to keep your momentum going. they have families and responsibilities. Own up to your mistakes. Your people will adopt your attitudes and anxieties. responsibilities. So start by learning what your people do: the constituencies. and accomplished professionals. some think they could (or should) be you. Don't micromanage unless they're not meeting expectations. So recognize the image you project at all times. In other words. talented. 12. People watch what you do more than they listen to what you say. but they'll only win respect for so long. Set boundaries. Follow your own rules. 13. Don't hide in your office. you're another dead-weight boss. not somewhere else. too. Be the example: Convey confidence and stay composed. 15. Reward them for excellence with unexpected treats like a free lunch or a few hours off. relevant. Respect their time: Always be prepared. Similarly. Show you can step in and do their job if need be. conscious or not. jump into the trenches and get your hands dirty. accentuating the positives. notch some early victories to prove you can get things done. knowing no job or rule is beneath you. That means asking questions and examining all sides instead of rendering snap judgments. Energize You're a leader. Bottom line: Establish your credibility. so your people do the same. they should aspire to be like you. the one employees know will just confuse everything. Always walk the walk. your people should respect you. Recognize publicly and praise regularly. And stay approachable and positive at all times. Your résumé and rhetoric may sparkle. So pump it up. Don't be afraid to accept input (or even criticism). but be flexible. Without it. Prove Yourself People often like holding a title more than the work required to keep it. you set the tone and pace and they feed off you. Reinforce every day why they want to work here. Bring in speakers or share articles so they're exposed to best practices. Adjust accordingly.11. and schedules that drive their day. Keep an open mind. Care About Them Personally . Bottom line: Don't let them stagnate. Treat Them Like Adults You're managing highly driven. and succinct in your dealings.
keep them current on company developments and share what you're doing to help them. No one expects you to have all the answers. Step back and let them lead. accept them for who they are. Just be careful not to abuse delegation: It can never be a means to regularly duck work or leave early. Even more. you'll eventually hold gut-wrenching meetings on conduct and performance with your people. You won't mold everyone into a superstar. Keep Out Emotion There's a price to pay for leadership: You always have to be the bigger person. . little things like a private gesture or kind word also set managers apart. In this atmosphere.No one aspires to be a lousy manager. recognition. Taking your insecurities out on your employees is the quickest path to mutiny. and you'll only hurt your team by pretending to know more than you do. swallow your pride. Are they looking for money. Your comments and relationship will be used against you. You're now responsible for others. It's often the accumulation of little things²careless comments or hypocritical acts²that erodes camaraderie and trust. and they need to know you're watching out for their interests. Appearances matter. Delegate Stepping into management is often a battlefield promotion. publicize your views or personal life. Provide Ongoing Communication Your employees' perception of you can be your biggest asset or drawback. and capitalize on them. Like it or not. 17. you can't juggle everything. so set aside time for each person to provide guidance and support. So how can you reinforce a good impression? It starts with reaching out. Maintain a two-way dialogue and seek feedback on what's important to them. Fortunately. or meaning? Who are their family members and pets? What are their interests? Most important. You may even hold onto your previous duties as you assume new ones. And that means you cannot take things personally. Recognize your shortcomings and your reports' strengths. So how can you strengthen your relationships? Start by learning what makes them tick. Collectively. influence. your guard must always stay up. 16. Instead. checking in and providing counsel from time to time. As a manager. but steady performers bring equal value over the long haul. 18. or get too cozy with your reports. never use the threat of discipline to stifle questions or dissent.
they'll invariably tell you what you want to hear rather than what you need to hear. focusing on looking good over helping people succeed. In these times. But everyone. your personal reputation rubs off on your department. Instead. your people should never guess how you'll react. some lose sight of the big picture. Reality is. Otherwise. they should view you as a patient arbiter who'll provide a fair hearing and honest feedback. 20. ask yourself: Are they right? Over time.19. And silence is a far greater threat to any business than candor. Reflect on Your Employees Management can be a thankless job. employees and peers alike.msn. Fair or not. Some will turn your name into a punch line. Others will predictably undermine you with human resources.com . can see through the selfimportance. As business grows more complex and uncertain. Be Consistent Think a title automatically bestows respect? Guess again. it ebbs and flows for many managers unless they possess a distinctive quality: consistency. Make sure your conduct and attitudes don't hamper your employees when it comes time for securing resources or earning promotions Reference: www.
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