Stepping into the role of manager for the first time can be a little daunting. It’s natural to feel a bit anxious but, remember, you were promoted because others have faith in you. You earned this job! Here are a few tips to help you make a successful transition into this next phase of your career.
Meet with your direct reports individually as soon as possible
It’s important to sit down privately with each individual as soon as you can. This is a discovery meeting for both of you, but also a chance to start forming a connection. What are their skills and interests and how well do they align with the company’s vision and goals? What is their communication style? What are their aspirations? Are there any issues you should be aware of? Use this initial conversation to convey your general expectations and how you will support them in their role and development.
Foster effective communication
Effective communication starts with sharing your vision, plan and timelines. For individuals to be fully engaged they must understand the company’s objectives and how they contribute to them. Lead by example with respectful and clear communication. Invite debate to explore different perspectives. Once a decision is reached, which does not always mean consensus, ensure that every team member is clear on their deliverables. Leave no room for ambiguity in your instructions and respectfully hold people accountable for their contributions.
Nurture your emotional intelligence (EQ)
Emotional intelligence is often referred to as a soft skill and its impact is underestimated. Experience has proven that EQ is more important than hard skills. Good managers with high EQ are self-aware, able to empathize, and can control their emotions and composure even under pressure. Increasingly, organizations are realizing the value and competitive advantage of hiring and advancing emotionally intelligent leaders. To develop this skill, keep a close eye on your emotions. Become mindful of how you express them, both verbally and non-verbally. Practice delaying your reaction for a few seconds. Commit to being a respectful leader at all times as this will help you remain accountable to others.
Prepare yourself for tough decisions about hiring and letting go
Leadership takes courage and sometimes difficult changes must be made. Start with ensuring you have the right person in the right seat. Once the team has identified its knowledge gap, they will likely understand why people are let go or redeployed, or why new recruits join the team. Often, people select to opt-out of a role when they see it change in a direction that does not work for them. Empathizing with your team members and supporting them during that transition is crucial. You can be a courageous and kind leader.
Manage Your Time
As a new manager, your mind may be spinning with the volume of work and competing priorities. Good time management skills are linked to clear priorities and effective delegation. Start discerning where you are truly needed and can add the most value and make that your focus. Create strategies for keeping on track. For example, set aside blocks of time each day to check email and have a meeting-free day each week for heads-down work on key deliverables.
Ask for Feedback
Learn to ask for feedback. Encouraging your team to give you feedback will set a tone for direct, candid, and respectful conversations. Be prepared to really listen to their thoughts. The same goes for your superiors. No matter how self-aware we are, we cannot experience ourselves as others do, so feedback is essential to fully understand how we are perceived. Accept the feedback graciously and design a specific development plan so that you continuously hone your leadership abilities.
Ask for Help When Needed
There’s no shame in asking for help, whether it’s approaching your boss, a colleague, or HR. We all need help occasionally, and it’s far better to seek help than allow an issue to deteriorate or an opportunity to be missed.
Importantly, when you embark on your new role, don’t let moments of self-doubt inhibit your performance. Take the steps needed to start out right with your team and set a positive tone. Learn all you can about how to manage well, and consider seeking the input of a professional coach to help you really shine. Remember, like you, every great leader of the business world, was a first-time manager once!