I got asked today what advice I’d give a newly promoted manager, just stepping into their first proper management role, with a team of 5 people reporting into them. It took me back to my first management role, looking after 6 people, 2 of who wanted the job I got, 1 who was significantly underperforming and two newbies. And I had been given no formal training for the management role. A hospital pass and I struggled.
It’s almost a cliché: people promoted into management roles because of their technical abilities (in my case, sales) but then struggling because they lack the essential people management skills.
Many new managers find they don’t enjoy the people side of the role and retreat to what they do best – the technical stuff. The risk is, they do a poor job of managing which can end with them moving or their people moving.
In that scenario, everyone loses.
So the question posed gives me the opportunity to talk to my younger self and offer some advice. Whether I would take it straightaway is doubtful but I would have after 3-4 weeks. That would be just in time. I wish I had done half of the things below and I would have given myself and my team a better chance of success.
Here are my 12 top tips:
- Be yourself but understand you need to change certain behaviours. You simply cannot continue as you did before you became a manager. Your success is now driven by the success of your team not just your own efforts.
- Talk to everyone 1:1 and ask lots of questions: about what motivates them, what they feel their strengths are, about their hopes and dreams. Do this, even if you think you know everyone and have been part of the team.
- Share a lot and share early. Share your style. Share expectations. Share a way of working you’d like. Share the fact that you’ll make mistakes. Share a vision for the team (not a grand company vision but a local intent that you have). All this may take time to formulate. It doesn’t all need to happen in the first week but it needs to be done early.
- Get some quick wins. Fix a couple of things that have been bugging the team. Use the honeymoon period and goodwill currency from your boss to get things done.
- Get really clear on how you work into your boss, their expectations and what you need from them. Set up a weekly catch up with them. Your boss is your most important relationship.
- Run your meetings really well. Think about how they worked in the past and take everything that worked well and change things that didn’t. Meetings are a public manifestation of your leadership and management style.
- Ask for feedback from the team and your peers. Listen, learn and improve.
- Take some tough decisions. Act on issues, especially if there is an obvious problem with one of the team. Everyone knows who the problem child is and they’ll be watching to see how you deal with it. Seek help and advice on how to do this but deal with it on your own when the time comes. Be purposeful not brutal. Be clear on what you need and expect and follow through.
- Role model values through your behaviour. It’s the single best way to influence others…be the power of example.
- Follow through and deliver on your promises. It’s the single best way to build trust.
- Build trust. Never betray a confidence.
- Show support. Never talk badly about other people behind their back.
Of course this list isn’t exhaustive but it’s a great start.
Managing people is such an important occupation, we shouldn’t allow people to sink or swim by figuring it out on their own. It’s a lifelong journey of learning with plenty of mistakes but it’s perhaps one of the most rewarding activities you will ever do.
How would you like to have a legacy where people you managed and nurtured feel you were one of the positive influences on their life? That’s a great legacy.
As a footnote, I survived. I found I had a boss who did become a mentor and coach and I learnt a lot in those first few years. And 30 years on, I’m still learning. It never ends and that’s what makes it enjoyable.
For the more experienced managers out there, I wonder what your advice would be to your younger self, just starting out?
Author: Richard Wentworth Ping
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