Learning the ropes: starting strong as a new manager

No single manual can cover everything you need to know as a new manager, but there are a few basics that every manager needs to focus on to start strong.

Hand grasping a rope for Learning the ropes: starting strong as a new manager

When you earn a promotion to ‘manager,’ you don’t gain the savvy know-how that comes with ten or twenty years of management experience overnight. Your role, however, does change and even without those years of experience, you still have a job to do.

Some things do change overnight

What can make being a new manager difficult is the pressure of the expectations that come with the title. Your boss is watching you, your peers are watching you and your team is watching you to see what you’ll do.

And you’ll make mistakes. Every new manager leaps headfirst into people minefields and common management mistakes. Take heart that those mistakes and minefields are what give you experience. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get off to a great start.

Starter guide for the new manager

Over the years, experienced managers and expert observers have identified key skills, principles, practices and traits that successful managers share. We have a few basics you should focus on to start strong in your new role.

Develop exceptional people skills

People skills are an asset to any role at any company. But when you become a manager for the first time, you have to learn how to work effectively with your boss, your colleagues and the members of your team from your new position.

People aren’t ‘one size fits all’ and as a manager you need to be mindful of how your behaviour affects others.

Your team will be affected by your people skills whether it’s how you deliver praise and criticism, how you manage each project or how you conduct yourself.

Figure out relationships at the start

It’s also necessary to set the tone from the beginning for how you will handle relationships within your team.

Some new managers are all business and others try to maintain the same level of friendship with co-workers. There’s no magical percentage that will tell you how to balance relationships, but you can find plenty of advice on the subject.

Keep in mind that your role has changed so your relationship with members of your team will, and probably should, change too.

Re-learn time management

As a new manager, you’ll experience new distractions like more meetings and more people coming to you for help. You no longer have just your own tasks and goals, but also those of your team to take care of.

Make sure you get to grips with all of your responsibilities. Some will be written out in your job description, but many of them won’t be things you can check off of a to-do list.

Look at strategies you can use at the start to help you keep on top of all the duties of your new role. If you learn to manage your own time well, you can worry about the quality of your work, without being overwhelmed by the quantity.

Take responsibility for your own development

You should never stop building on your education or the practical experience you got before you became a manager. Find books, websites and blogs you can rely on for advice and new ideas.

As you progress, be mindful of what you still need to learn, but also be aware of, and have confidence in, the experience and knowledge you have already gained. Keeping tabs on both sides will keep you moving forward.

Get the full benefits of mentoring

When you think of mentoring, you probably think of the traditional relationship between you and someone who has been where you are. While that type of relationship is beneficial to a new manager, it’s okay to think bigger when it comes to mentoring.

You don’t have to limit yourself to the guidance of one single individual. Learn to recognise when someone can offer help and be sure to accept it. It could be someone with years of experience or a peer in the same position you are.

You can also become a mentor and offer your insight to someone who is looking to develop into a management role. You could learn as much from talking to them as they will from you.

Be intentional about management

Management isn’t just a title. You now have a team that depends on you to give direction and provide feedback. Make managing your team a priority by being an active and available manager.

Being a manager is a multi-faceted role that changes as jobs, companies and employees change. It’s a constant process of development and someone thought you were the right person for this job. So, focus on the basics, learn from mistakes and experience will come in time.

(Hat tip to Andrew Malone for the original photo)

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