You’ve just become a manager! Now what?

By: Emily Lamia

Congratulations — you’re about to ascend to a higher professional level where you’ll be managing people for the first time — how exciting! And also a little terrifying, right?

At this point in your career, you’ve probably worked with a boss that’s not so great at management. So you know you want to start off on the right foot and set yourself up to be one of the greats.

But most of the time there’s not a class or textbook you get before you step into the role. So what are the first few things you want to do as a manager?

[Related: 4 Ways to Master your First-Time Manag​er Role #LikeABoss]

We’ve got a list of the top five things any new manager should do that will set you up for success in this new role.

1. Get up to speed on new manager skills

The two areas of responsibility you might not have had much experience in yet but will take up a lot of your time as a manager, are delegating and giving feedback. These two skills are super important and can be challenging to learn and do well, especially at first.

If you haven’t had much practice delegating or giving feedback you can’t be expected to know how to do it perfectly on the first try, so there’s no shame in seeking out resources — books, courses, and online videos that can help you break down how to be effective at these two new areas of responsibility.

You might grab some good managers you know and buy them coffee to hear about how they go about delegating and giving feedback. You might even want to find a way to practice and do some role-plays with friends or other new managers.

While your specific scope of work might change over time, no matter the topic or specifics, you’ll likely be delegating and giving feedback constantly so mastering these two tasks is critical.

2. Set regular meetings with those you manage

Meeting with people you manage may seem like a no-brainer. But maybe you’re wondering if it’s really important to keep having regular meetings six months from now.

The answer is yes.

Tons of research has shown that high-performing managers are strengths-based, engagement-focused and performance-oriented. We know that the single best thing you can do to encourage engagement and performance from your staff is to meet with them regularly.

Gallup has reported that, “When employees strongly agree their manager knows what projects or tasks they are working on, they are almost 7x more likely to be engaged.”

This makes sense doesn’t it? If you want people to be engaged in their work, you have to create some accountability and find opportunities for their continual development.

In fact, research has shown that even sharing only negative feedback is still more likely to yield more engaged staff than ignoring them altogether.

People want real and ongoing conversations and feedback about how they’re doing and what their future looks like. (Think about it… don’t you?!) So focusing these regular conversations on what your staff are working on, what support they need from you, and what they want to work towards in the future is a key part of keeping them engaged.

Also, engagement ties directly to performance. Teams with higher levels of engagement are more profitable, productive, and have less turnover than teams with low engagement.

So set those meetings up and keep them going!

3. Understand your natural strengths and ways of work.

This may sound silly, but it’s critical to think about what your strengths and natural ways of thinking, feeling and behaving mean for you as a manager.

  • Do you naturally jump into action quickly or take time to analyze the best strategy by thinking through all your options?
  • Do you find it fun and energizing to network with and meet new people everyday or does it give you hives to be social all the time?
  • Do you prefer to organize and arrange your schedule down to the minute with to-do lists and calendars, or do you naturally go with the flow on an hourly basis?

What might your answers to these questions say about you as a manager?

We all have different ways of working and tendencies that influence the way we go about building relationships, making decisions and so much more. Chances are the people you’re about to start managing are different than you.

Your natural tendencies imply different things about how you like to work and communicate, and they influence how you perceive and judge other people’s actions and work.

It can be tempting to define not only what you want done but also the exact steps of how you want someone to do the work, but ​great managers know that everyone has different ways of working that still can produce the right results. Just because you structure your day a certain way, doesn’t mean others are best suited to organize their day the same way you do.

If you truly understand how you work, you’ll be better able to identify opportunities to compliment your working style with someone else’s and spot the times that conflict might come up because of differences.

4. Get to know your team member’s working styles

Just as you need to spend time thinking about what your strengths and behaviors mean for you as a manager, you should set aside time to ask your team members about themselves.

Here are a few good questions to start the conversation off:

  • What can I do to get the best of you at work?
  • What would ensure I’m getting the worst of you?
  • What do you need in order to do your best work?
  • What’s your preferred way to communicate with me, and how would you like me to communicate with you?
  • How do you like to be recognized?

Not only does asking these questions signal that you truly care about them and want to be a supportive manager, but it gives you critical information about what you need to do (and not do!) if you want your team to be motivated and successful.

[Related: Motivate Your Team & Business with Three Basic Behaviors]

Take notes on these conversations and refer back to them to stay mindful of their needs and style preferences when you’re delegating or giving feedback

5. Consider a team building day or retreat

If your team members are somewhat new to working together, or if you’ve got a big project coming up, bringing your team together is a great way to kick off your work.

Taking a step back for some team building is a clear way to communicate you’re invested in your staff, their success, and want the team to start off on the right foot.

There are lots of team building activities that can increase communication, clarify working styles, and energize people.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Go to a museum to see an exhibit that relates to your work
  • Plan a long breakfast at a fun restaurant to socialize and follow it up with deeper strategic planning
  • Try an ‘Escape the Room’ to get people working and communicating together in real-time and connect the activity to how your team will problem-solve in the future.
  • Use one of many diagnostic tools that can help lay the foundation for productive conversations about how the team can increase its effectiveness.

I even know a team that went camping for their first team retreat. Despite the bad weather they had, everyone had a great time and they did some fantastic work together that energized them for the next year.

You might be thinking that the best way to solidify your new role as a manager is to be as hands-off as possible. And you might want to slide into the role without having any additional conversations, especially if you’re nervous about how to manage others. But the truth is the best managers focus on having continual conversations with those they manage, and continue to learn about ​how to be a better manager.

Emily Lamia is the CEO of Pivot Journeys, which she founded to create experiences that help individuals navigate their next career move and find meaningful work. Pivot offers individual career coaching and group programs, and we work with organizations to help them build strengths-based cultures that increase engagement, collaboration, and productivity.

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