Jennie Marshall | 8 September 2016
So you’ve just been successful in securing your first managers job. Congratulations! When you first received the news, you were probably beside yourself with joy. A bigger salary? A fancy new title? A corner office with a glorious view? Or one of the other perceived perks of management – they’re finally yours! And they’re all well-deserved, of course. Your hard work and dedication have paid off.
Or at least, that’s how you might have felt at first. But then, once you were done celebrating with family and friends and accepting congratulations from colleagues – once that early euphoria faded, you may have started to feel a bit differently. Perhaps your initial excitement has now given way to some anxiety or trepidation about your new job and responsibilities, as a simple, yet terrifying, thought slowly worms its way into your head:
“I don’t know the first thing about being a manager.”
How could you? Your work experience and background are in other topics – not management. Odds are that you were one of the star performers on your team and that you were promoted as a reward for your performance, on the principle that the best employees make the best managers. And you probably didn’t even have much time to learn or train for your new role: a few days ago you were a regular staff member like everyone else and a week later, you’re their supervisor!
Just because you might not have had much ramping-up time to ease into your managerial position, however, doesn’t mean that you should expect a long grace period before you’re expected to deliver results. Make no mistake: from the moment you become a manager, everyone – from your superiors to your staff – is watching you.
But don’t panic. To help people who have recently been promoted to management, here are some tips on how to start off your managerial career on the right foot and help you develop your leadership and management skills.
Learn the craft
In Becoming a Manager: How New Managers Master the Challenges of Leadership, Linda Hill, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, notes that “the best managers are those who have an appetite for learning and are willing to work on themselves”. You are going to have to learn a lot about management on the fly, but you will also want to read up on the subject as much as you can. There’s a wealth of literature on management practice and philosophies, as well as on more specific topics like giving performance reviews or dealing with problem employees. Digest as much of these materials as you can, if only to get a sense of the different perspectives and approaches available.
Take advantage of any formal training or other professional development courses that your organisation might offer. If these aren’t available through your company, see if they would be willing to sponsor you to source training externally. Yes, most of what you learn about management will ultimately be hands-on and on-site – but you can jumpstart your learning by doing your homework and undertaking a little reading and research.
And don’t just study abstract theory, but also your specific people and policies. Pore through your employees’ personnel files, performance reviews and evaluations, and CVs (if these are available to you), to find out where some of their strengths and weaknesses lie and where you can help them improve. Familiarise yourself with your company’s various policies and manuals, so that you’re not caught flat-footed when a matter of procedure or process arises.
Find a mentor
As the saying goes, it can be lonely at the top. New managers sometimes feel as though they have no one to turn to for advice, since they can no longer go to their old coworkers (who are now their reports) or, sometimes, to their own superiors (to whom they have to report) with their problems.
That’s why it’s important to find someone from whom you can learn some of the ropes, whether formally or informally and whom you can confide in about any issues you encounter. We’ve all had really great bosses who made working for them an absolute treat, and who were successful at demanding and getting the best from their staff. Now might be the time to reconnect with them, so that you can pick their brains about what they did that worked so well (and what didn’t work as well).
While you shouldn’t be afraid to look outside your ranks for a mentor, a peer – i.e. another manager in your company – who leads another team within your organisation would be ideal, since they should already know a bit about you, your team, and your organisation. What matters most, however, is that they have had some experience managing teams, dealing with interpersonal conflicts and the like, so that they can provide a different, more experienced take on things. This might be your first time having to deal with an underachieving employee, but your mentor has probably had to confront that same problem countless times in the past.
Set the right example and tone
In promoting you to management, your leaders are also sending the message to the rest of your team – that you are the kind of team member that they should aspire to be. It’s important, therefore, that you conduct yourself appropriately at all times, and set a good example for others to emulate. Remember: everyone is watching you!
This is definitely something you’ll want to keep in mind if you’re managing your former team, in which case you may be tempted to preserve the status quo as much as possible. That can be a grave mistake. Ditch any bad habits that you might have been guilty of before. Occasionally showing up late in the mornings, taking extra-long lunch breaks, complaining about the boss – it’s time to nip all of these in the bud, before others start taking after you. More than anyone else, you are responsible for representing the face of your organization and establishing the tone and culture of your office.
For many, management can represent an exciting opportunity, full of promise and rewards. However, it can also be full of challenges and pressures unlike any they’ve faced before. These tips can help you hit the ground running as a new manager, so that you’ll be able to enjoy a long and successful career in management.
If you are looking to update your leadership skills, QA offer a wide range of Leadership and Development training courses to help you develop professionally. Our new Leadership Academy offers an intensive learning experience at a high-quality residential venue, allowing you to fully immerse yourself and take full advantage of the learning experience.