Stepping into a management role for the first time is a big transition. It represents the culmination of years of hard work and mastery of your role in an organization. But most first time managers feel like they are starting from ground zero.
With the exception of a small number of people with natural leadership skills, most people have never lead part of an organization as first time managers and don’t know what to expect. It’s easy to fall back on the skills and attitudes that got you here in the first place, but there are several potential pitfalls of doing so. Let’s look at three things you should know in those initial weeks with the new role to become a successful manager.
1. One on One Time is Crucial
You are the boss now. That means your team looks to you for guidance, both positive and critical. If there is a problem, they need to know about it, and the best time to make corrections and help improve performance is in one-on-one check-ins held on a regular basis.
One-on-ones are not just for when things go wrong, though. They are an opportunity to connect on a regular basis (as frequently as once a week) to discuss job priorities, key metrics, and questions that they might have. Block the time out on your calendar and ensure it is always set aside for this discussion.
Even if it’s just a time for members of your team to vent frustrations about the job, it’s a valuable source of feedback that you won’t otherwise get. And when there is an issue to be addressed, it won’t be a stressful experience for either side because it’s a meeting you have every week already.
2. Balance Hands-On and Hands-Off
There are three types of managers – those who stay in the trenches, tackling projects hands-on more often than not, and those who immediately shift into the new office and don’t do the work. Ideally, you want to be the third type – somewhere in between.
Your new role means you were very good at what you did, and an example for those around you. You have skills and experience that is valuable to the company and should be used strategically to support the efforts of your team. At the same time, your role is now leader, not doer. Not only is your team there to support the goals of the organization and get the work done, but they need your trust that they can do it in your stead. Being willing to step back and let others do the day-to-day is an important first step in management.
But don’t step so far back that you forget what it’s like to be in their shoes. Watch the trenches from day to day and step in when it makes sense. On a tight deadline, when someone is on vacation, or when short staffed, jump in feet first to show that you are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve the organization’s goals.
3. Relationships Have Changed
This last one is tough for a lot of first time managers, especially in young companies with a tightly knit staff. You probably have people on your team that used to be peers or even friends. The relationship changes the instant you take that promotion, however, and you need to clearly communicate with them what that means.
Set guidelines early and discuss the new relationship with your team as soon as possible so that there is no ambiguity. In addition to your regular meetings, take time out to discuss new situations as they arise. If something feels awkward or uncomfortable, address it as soon as possible so everyone knows where to stand.
Transforming from Individual Contributor to Manager
Even as a first time manager, you are a leader and a trusted source of insight, advice, and guidance for a team of fellow professionals. By immediately recognizing that, adjusting your relationships accordingly, and making yourself available when needed, you can build trust from your team and grow as a leader. Recognize what has changed, but appreciate what got you here and you’ll be much more successful as time passes.