9 things new managers need to know

Jan. 1, 2020
People may not always like or agree with your decisions, but you have to learn not to take that personally.

If you’ve recently been promoted into management, let me start by saying, congratulations. Someone obviously sees something in you and feels that you can handle the responsibilities that come with being a team leader.

As a fairly new member of the management family myself, I wanted to share some of the things that no one tells you. Hopefully, you can learn from my experience and save yourself some stress along the way.

When I found out that I was being promoted, my initial feeling was pride, like I had received a reward for a job well done. I was excited about this new opportunity and decided to dive in head first.

The second feeling I experienced was fear. How am I going to do this? I’ve never been in charge of other people before. What if I fail? I went out and bought some books about leadership and how to be a good boss. Surely, I thought, they’ll tell me everything I need to know to be both efficient and effective with my team. Not exactly. I’m not saying they weren’t helpful, but they certainly didn’t prepare me for those first few months on the job. My buddies were now my employees; my to-do list got a lot longer; and suddenly I was the one to whom everybody complained. Welcome to management.

Let me try to help you shorten your learning curve by giving you nine things I had to learn the hard way. These are not industry-specific, and they apply to new and experienced managers alike.

1.  First, be proud of your promotion, but don’t let it get to your head. You are the same person you were before you got the new title, so there’s no reason to start acting like you’re better than anybody else. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago you were right there with your fellow co-workers talking about how much better things would be if you were in charge. What makes this difficult is that some people (sometimes your closest work friends) will start treating you differently. That’s OK, but don’t let it change who you are.

2.  Keep in mind that not everyone on your team will be as excited about your new position as you are. If you were promoted from within, rest assured that there may be those on your team who believe they should have been promoted instead of you. If you were brought in from the outside, almost all of them may feel this way.

3.  Make a decision early on about what kind of manager you want to be. I made the mistake of thinking I would be the kind of boss that I would want to work for. That only works if all of your employees are just like you. They aren’t.

4.  Be clear about your expectations. It is difficult if not impossible for employees to do a good job for you if they are unclear about what constitutes a “good job.” Be very clear early on about what you need from them, how they should be doing it, and what you consider to be inappropriate behavior.

5.  Be consistent in your actions, attitude, and demeanor. It’s very frustrating to work for someone when you never know what to expect from day to day. Keep in mind, however, that no matter how consistent you are, people are unique. Two different employees may respond very differently to how you treat them; take this into consideration. Some employees will need very little instruction from you. It’s best to get out of their way and let them do a good job. Others –  especially newer employees – may need a little more guidance.

6.  Celebrate diversity and differences. Having a team that all looks alike, acts the same and thinks the same is boring. It stifles creativity and makes the workplace monotonous. Believe me, you don’t want a team of robots; it’s no fun. Enjoy the different personalities around you.

7.  Tap into your team’s collective knowledge. Figure out ways to communicate better and share information. I currently have 14 employees, but collectively we have more than 200 years of experience! No one person can know it all. Collaborate and learn from one another. I keep a sign on my desk that bears a quote from Woodrow Wilson: “We should not only use all the brains we have, but all the brains we can borrow.”

8.  Be fair, and hold people accountable. If there’s one area I wish I could wave a magic wand and be better at, it’s discipline. I have a hard time telling adults that they’ve made a mistake or that they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. I realized early on, however, that by not saying anything, I hurt the rest of the team and clearly did not help the employee get better. The approach I take now is to ask questions to find out what’s going on and then address the issue. However you choose to address it, make sure you do it quickly. If you have a bunch of folks doing what they are supposed to and one who is allowed to do their own thing, it will bring the others down and ruin your credibility. Don’t let that happen, because it’s hard to get it back.

9.  When all else fails, remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Treat others the way you want to be treated. If you don’t like being yelled at, don’t yell. If you like being told when you do a good job, make sure you tell others when they go over and above. And remember, nobody likes being micromanaged. Work on No. 4 above and let them do their job.

As I was putting this list together, I reflected on some of my own (mostly internal) struggles that I went through those first few months. People may not always like or agree with your decisions, and I had to learn not to take that personally.

My first idea for a headline for this post was “Holy moly, I’ve been promoted.” Don’t worry – we’ve all felt that way at some point. I hope you find something on my list that helps you in your journey. Good luck and enjoy the ride.

About the Author: Rob Clifton

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