Congratulations! You’ve recently been promoted to a new position as a manager.
You now have a team, perhaps the opportunity to hire, and the chance to guide and grow your new direct reports. Are you ready for this?
You may be feeling excited, afraid, nervous, or empowered. You may also be experiencing the very common imposture syndrome: the fear of getting caught as a “fraud” due to not being competent or fully prepared to deserve your new position. But here you are, and the best thing you can do is to lean in to this experience as an opportunity for your own development.
To start, here are a few recommendations that I learned from my mentors when I began as a new manager. From finding your leadership style to learning how to navigate a working relationship, these tips are meant to help you get off on the right foot.
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Find Your Leadership Style
One of the biggest challenges when going from individual contributor to people manager is having to change the way you value your own impact. Every day prior to this promotion you were evaluated on the impact you personally had on the business. From here on out, you’re evaluated on the impact driven by your collective team.
This comes with some good news and some “bad” news:
- The good news - You and your team combined can most likely have a larger impact on the business than you previously were able to alone.
- The “bad” news - The impact your team has is not entirely in your direct control -- it’s in the control of the individual team members and their efforts. Your new role is to inspire, guide, coach, and most importantly, lead.
To help yourself enter this mindset, you have the opportunity to define how you will be as a leader. What your personal style will be? To start, visualize what your interactions with your teammates will be like, how you’ll carry yourself, and how you’ll communicate. For example, you can ask yourself:
- What will you, the new manager, want to look like to your team?
- What kind of manager style do you naturally have or want?
- What attributes have you seen your previous managers demonstrate, and which will you try to emulate?
By answering these questions for yourself, you’ll be able to develop your leadership persona or the best portrait of yourself as a leader. Write it down, reread it from time to time, and do your best to encompass this new state.
Get to Know Your New Team
The next step is to decide how you’ll work with each of your employees, and I believe the best relationships are driven by clarity and curiosity. Let’s first dig into the latter.
If you’ve inherited a team you used to work with laterally, or were promoted within your current team, you most likely already know your new direct reports pretty well. However, do you know them enough? What don’t you know? What else can you learn?
I suggest one of the first things you do is to have a second interview with each of your direct reports. Grab coffee, go for a walk, and use that time to really get to know that person. If it helps, here are a few things you can ask:
- What do they like about their job today? What don’t they like?
- What do they do for fun?
- What other work experience do they have?
- What are some of their goals, personal and professional?
- Have they ever had a manager they really disliked, and if so why? What happened?
The best favor you can do for yourself now, and onward, is to never assume anything about another person. Instead ask. For example, imagine you were giving an employee a brand new project. Perhaps your instinct is to walk them through how to do it step-by-step. Why wouldn't you? You've never given her this type of project before.
But how do you know if that’s really the amount of support they need? Before deciding how you can best help, ask them if they’ve done something like this before and gauge their true comfort level. That way you’ll know to be hands-on or hands-off with your direction.
Set Up Your Working Relationship
Now let’s talk about clarity. Think back to a prior boss that never seemed happy with your work. Why do you think that was? Perhaps it’s because you never really knew what she was looking for, or you didn’t have a full understanding of her expectations. (Or worse, maybe she hadn’t decided what her expectations of you actually were.)
One of the best things you can do as a new manager is set context and goals as clearly as possible. And that might begin with taking the time to make a bunch of decisions on your own first. For example:
- How will you know when your employee is successful?
- How will you communicate what that success looks like to him/her so you’re on the same page?
- What expectations will you set in regards to your style and how you can work together best?
- How will you use one-on-one time?
- How will you explain your expectation for one-on-one meetings so you’re on the same page?
Communicating your expectations clearly will remove ambiguity and set up your employee for success.
Create More Leaders
Most likely when you get promoted, you’ll need to figure out how to move all the work you used to do off your plate. And you may do that by delegating those projects to your new team. That’s great! The question is if you can do this in a way that supports you and them.
Delegating projects is a great opportunity to help someone grow into your old shoes. See if you can help someone reach the role you were previously in. If you do, it will free up your time to make higher-level decisions and support the team as a whole. It also means the person receiving the project can stretch and learn work they may not have done before.
Sounds like a win-win? It absolutely can be, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. In order to solve for a person’s long-term growth, you need to delegate a project in a way that helps him become a decision maker versus a task do-er.
How do you know which is happening? It depends on the way you teach. Are you helping someone memorize a series of actions (most likely to execute a project in the same way you used to do it), or are you taking the time to explain your judgment around the project? The latter requires you to share context for why you take different actions this way.
Note: There’s nothing wrong with teaching someone how to do something step-by-step. Just make sure you’re explaining your decision-making behind it, so a teammate walks away with the same judgment you have. That very judgment hopefully can be applied to similar projects. Now they’re a decision maker.
Plan for the Long Term
Being a new manager is hard -- and that’s to be expected. The best thing you can do for yourself is communicate clearly and frequently, make yourself open to feedback from your team and your boss, and use your resources.
Perhaps you can get a group of other new managers together and grab lunch. It's great to talk with folks who are in a similar scenario to reflect on your experiences -- if only to know you're not alone.
You can also look into trainings in your area. Would your boss support you going to a one-day training here and there?
You could also suggest setting up skip-level reviews, meaning your direct reports meet with your boss every so often to share their feedback on you. This can be extremely helpful. Perhaps there's a small thing you could change or improve that would make all the difference. Wouldn't you like to know that?
Most importantly -- and my favorite -- find a mentor. It could be someone inside or outside of your company, as long as it's someone you really trust. Nothing beats one-to-one guidance.
Remember: Being a good manager doesn’t require knowing all the answers. Stay open minded and confident in yourself. You’ll be great.
What tips do you have for new managers? Share them below.