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How to Transition From Being an Expert to Being a Manager

Tips for First Time Managers

Photo by Ian Dooley via Unsplash
Photo by Ian Dooley via Unsplash

Have you ever been overly micro-managed by your boss? Or had a boss that gave you so much freedom that you desperately craved structure and direction? Chances are if you have had a bad boss you have thought, “I will never do that when I am in their shoes.” You would never repeat their mistakes! But, now that it is your turn to manage, what type of boss will you be?

Being a first time manager is an exciting learning experience, but it can be oh-so overwhelming at first. Here are five tips to help you be a rockstar manager: 

Set Expectations Upfront

Congrats you are promoted! Now what? Shortly after your promotion, meet with your boss to discuss his or her performance expectations of you as a manager and your new role and responsibilities. Then, have the same conversation with your reports individually. Clearly communicate what success looks like for your team. Talk to your reports about their career aspirations and outline their goals to work towards throughout the year. This is also the perfect time to share your hot buttons. For example, do you consider being on time, arriving five minutes early? Tell them.

Seek Training & Mentorship

Being a manager introduces you to new challenges that you might not anticipate. What will you do if one of your direct reports is consistently underperforming? Or if one of your team members says they are being verbally harassed by another employee? Your friends in Human Resources can teach you how to navigate challenging situations like these, give effective feedback, monitor performance, and have difficult conversations. Reach out to your HR department to see if they offer training programs for new managers. 

Mentors are another excellent resource to help guide you as new manager. Do you have a former boss that you admire? Invite him or her to coffee to talk about things they wish they would have known when they first started managing others. 

Tailor Your Management Style

When I was promoted to a management position, I quickly realized that what I thought made a good manager is somewhat different than what my team needs from their manager. I hate being micro-managed, so I wrongly assumed that all of my reports would benefit from a less directive, high level approach. I learned that it is important to tailor your management style based on your team member’s skill level. For example, a team member with little experience needs a direct manager that provides step-by-step processes for learning new skills. They also need clear rules, methods and deadlines. While an experienced team member benefits from a more supportive leadership style that gives them more responsibility and autonomy.

Succeed as a Team

If your team does well, you do well.  Take the time to understand the challenges and needs of your team. As a manager you are only as strong as your weakest team member. What resources do they need to do their job better? How can you help them grow professionally? When your team succeeds, use words like “we, our, us, the team” to give credit to the entire team, rather than owning all the credit. 

Be Confident

Being a manager requires you to make decisions that might be unpopular with your team. Remember that you were not promoted to be their friend, but to make decisions that will be in the best interest of everyone. Company leadership recognizes your experience and potential to lead others. Be confident with your decisions and whether or not your direct reports agree, they will respect you. 

You can read hundreds of books on how to be an effective manager, but you will learn the most through your daily experiences. What do you wish you would have known when you first became a manager?

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