You’ve finally got that promotion and are about to become a manager.
Inevitably, you start thinking a lot about what makes a good boss and how you will run your team as a new manager.
A key thing to remember is: ‘Your first day matters.’
That doesn’t mean that if it doesn’t go well you’re doomed. It just means that your first day, in particular, and your first few weeks are when your people are looking at you most intently to try to understand what kind of leader you will be.
Will you be open, straightforward and respectful, as they hope? Or will you be political and unsupportive?
Why not plan for, and take advantage of, this window by going out of your way to set their expectations clearly?
Although the temptation may be to ‘settle into’ your role and take your time, this would be wasting this valuable time.
Becoming a manager requires a big perspective shift. Up to this point in your career, your success has been a result of your work. From now on your success is going to be a result of your team’s work.
Making sure that your team is working smoothly and focused on the right goals is the work of a career. Given that line management requires you to master a number of new skills many people look for training around the time that they step up to a management role to try to make the career transition to manager go as smoothly as possible.
The work of your first few weeks in a role is to ensure that you start to get to know your team, that they start to get to know you and that you establish clear, open lines of communication.
If you can do that you are off to a great start as a new manager.
Which begs the question: How do I do all that?!
We’ve put together this expert survival guide for new managers. Read on for five things to do first.
If you can, schedule a meeting with your new team on your first day, or at least within your first week. Plan this carefully but resist the temptation to use this meeting to drill into your vision for the year ahead, or streamline operations; instead, make it all about your team, try and use some storytelling skills.
This first meeting should reflect the working environment you’re aiming for. It should establish your intentions, especially when it comes to team culture and getting people to work together effectively. Share why you’re excited to work with this team — and make it clear that your key focus is to provide help and support.
Take the opportunity to address any changes in relationships here as well. Being transparent will encourage trust right from the start.
For example, if you’ve been promoted to manage a team that you were previously a part of, you can make it clear that you are available to talk through any issues this hierarchy shift might bring up for people.
Make it clear that you’re interested in every person on your team, at every level.
You might not have time to meet everyone one-to-one straight away, but put those coffee meetings in the diary — even if it means scheduling weeks in advance. People will understand that you’re valued but see that they are a priority because you’re scheduling the meetings.
Then use those meetings to get to know the unique qualities of each team member.
According to the Harvard Business Review, there are three things you must know about someone in order to manage them well: their strengths, how to trigger those strengths, and their learning style.
Personal insight and positive relationships with the people you manage will enable you to get the most from your team. You’ll be able to create space for everyone to contribute confidently and do their best work.
Be sure to be in listening mode when you have these meetings. They are all about getting to know your team. They are not about you selling your vision for the team.
Getting really clear on the team culture you want to cultivate and communicating that to your team is very powerful if you then uphold that culture.
The company’s broader values will feed into this, but becoming a manager gives you a powerful opportunity to set the culture of your team.
How do you want the working environment to feel for your team? Write it all out and then be sure that your behaviour is aligned with it.
Be an example of the culture that you want to create.
If you want transparency? Be transparent.
If you want team members to trust each other? Be trustworthy.
If you want to eradicate gossip? Don’t gossip.
Your new role is all about your team but managing them is up to you. You need to remember to build your skills as you settle into your new role.
Many people report their first management role as the most stressful career transition that they made.
Accept up front that it is going to be difficult and that you will make mistakes as you have much to learn.
Also, remember that it is a career transition that has been made by millions before you.
Although it’s not easy, management is something many others in your organization have learned before you. They have been through the same transition.
Try to make sure that you don’t make this transition unsupported by finding a mentor to advise you.
Seek out senior figures who have made this transition before and start building relationships.
It doesn’t really matter whether they work for the same firm as you, or in a completely different walk of life, so long as they have good experience of managing people.
They will support you through tough times and encourage you to stretch yourself more when things are going well.