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