The first-time manager guide: tips and advice to get you started

Female employee in black suit jacket leading team meeting in glass office next to a whiteboard

We give some superb tips and advice to help you make a smooth start when beginning your new management role.

Female boss carries out presentation in front of colleagues in office

Moving into that all-important first-time management position can bring with it all kinds of excitement, intrigue and opportunity. However, it’s also one that can be daunting and difficult if you’re a little on the underprepared side. Management roles require individuals to marshal their communication, coaching and leadership skills in a way that provides an effective command over your team with an ability to delegate if needs be.

As overwhelming as it may seem from the outset, a management role also provides a valuable opportunity to learn more about yourself and your company. You’ll acquire plenty of information, experience and skills along the way, but for the novice manager, here are some superb tips and advice to help you make a smooth start when beginning your new role.

Understand the shift in focus

First things first, there’s change afoot. You’re no longer someone contributing individually, so now the onus is on helping others to accomplish the tasks you would have done previously. The transition can be difficult for first-time managers since your performance is linked to the performance of your team. If they make a mistake, then you make a mistake merely by the responsibility of being their manager. Conversely, if there are successes to be had, then you must share the credit with the rest of the group.

Colleagues talking and smiling in business clothes

Additionally, relationships with your co-workers could potentially change. There could be boundaries you want to make clear, at which point you have to explain how things are going to change. Though you may not participate in the office banter like you used to, you should still treat everyone fairly to ensure there’s no chance of favouritism creeping in. However, a managerial position doesn’t instantly mean turning into a buttoned-up taskmaster; you still want a solid working relationship with your former peers.

Get smart and swot up

Though you may have previously worked alongside them, managing and understanding your new team is a different ball game altogether. Learning about them by reviewing their personnel files, performance reviews and goals will help to give you a clearer picture of what they’re working towards and how you can foster their abilities to ensure optimal performance.

It’s likely that your company will have a wealth of management resources and tools at its disposal. Make sure you get involved with as many of these as you deem helpful; formal supervisor training can be especially beneficial, while a read through any manuals or HR policies your company uses is always a good start. Take heed of what they say and keep them to hand in the event of conflict or difficulties.

Young asian man working on laptop

Research and homework aren’t just limited to what’s in the office, look towards books, articles and even other organisations for information about your role too. Developing yourself as a manager is an ongoing part of your job from this point on.

The importance of delegation

In your new role, it’s tempting to involve yourself in everything your team is working on, but spreading yourself across everything is challenging at best and next-to-impossible at worst. Any attempts to do so will often lead to micromanaging, so often a practice that’s detrimental to your team’s progress.

Instead, the environment should be one informed by the efforts of others. Allowing others to lead on tasks and duties will help to grow their abilities and perspective in the long term, something that will undoubtedly be appreciated by both the team and your superiors. 

Be a good listener

Instead of making big changes your first order of duty, take a more mannered approach and show that you’re a manager who’s keen to listen to your team. Take the time to understand them: set up one-to-one meetings and understand their roles, ask them what they like about their jobs, what challenges they face, and any ideas they have to improve things.

Two colleagues brainstorming a new startup

It’s a great step to building a more open relationship, and they’ll appreciate the time you’ve taken to hear them out. Once these goals and challenges are laid out, it will give you something to help them drive towards or overcome. If you’re open to listening to them, retain an open-door policy so they can reach out whenever they need to.

Communicate and share

Following on from the above, a transparent and communicative approach will serve both you and the team well. The more informed you keep your team, the more they will come to trust you. For example, in meetings, let everyone know of changes in strategy and goals for the organisation as a whole. Let them know that you’re on their side.

Look for a mentor

If you can find someone who’s had first-hand experience with the company culture and has managerial history, then it’s a good idea to have them in your corner as you begin your new role. There’ll be moments you’ll face where their advice could prove invaluable to you. If you have a team member who’s slacking or other similar complications that can’t be resolved with a Google search or on a course, here’s where having a mentor can really help you excel.

A mentor can give you guidance in handling the pros and cons of certain situations, and be a sounding board for any frustrations or misunderstandings you might have during your time starting as a manager. Additionally, they can offer you continuous support when you have found your feet at management level, and want to progress towards a senior management position.

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