If you’re new to management in your company, or new to management in general, it can feel stressful and overwhelming. Whether you’ve been promoted to manage former peers, or are hired from outside the company, you’ve got the challenge of establishing relationships with people who may or may not welcome you in your new role. You most likely also have goals and targets you need to hit on your own as well as team targets, and on top of that, there is so much conflicting advice on what it means to be a leader! Where should you even start? Fortunately, there are some tangible and practical starting points for those new to the management role. These won’t solve every problem, but if you take steps to accomplish these things, you will find yourself rising instead of sinking, and you may even enjoy the ride!
1) Find out the company goals, and how your department supports them.
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, your company exists to provide a product or service to its customer, and to do so profitably. In addition, there is also a bigger vision for your company about where it will be in the future and the impact it will have on the marketplace and/or community. One of the most important first steps you can take as a new manager is to become intimately familiar with the goals and vision of your organization, and with the role your department plays in achieving the goal or vision.
Now, don’t expect your boss to just have this information readily available; you may have to do some digging. If no one has sat down to map it all out for you, a good place to start is the Accounting or Finance department. From there you can have a conversation with your boss about how your team supports that goal, and hopefully even about future plans. Don’t approach this like an assignment you need answers to immediately, more like a series of conversations to better help you understand your mission.
2) Figure out how to measure productivity within your department
It’s been established over and over that to get good results, you need to measure performance. That doesn’t make it easy though – if it were easy, everyone would already be doing it. After you are comfortable knowing what your company goals are, and how your department supports those goals, you should spend some time brainstorming on the best ways to measure how you’re doing as a team and as individuals at supporting the goals. Sometimes it’s a matter of measuring work done per unit of time, other times it’s reducing downtime or waste…rest assured, if you’re paying people to do something, there is some way of measuring what they’re doing. This doesn’t need to be harsh, demeaning, or dehumanizing – quite the opposite. Assuming you want the people working for you to be as successful as possible, you will need to know when they need help, and when they need their praises sung to your boss, and your gut is just not a reliable indicator (no matter how good it is).
3) Make sure you know how internal processes work
Many new managers are surprised to find out just how difficult it can be to do seemingly simple functions. Whatever it is you want to do, there is probably a form, process, or person who needs to be involved. Frustrating? Yes. Avoidable? Probably not. Your time and energy would be well spent acclimating yourself to what’s expected of you. Chances are, your HR person will love you forever if you make an appointment (versus walking in unexpected and asking if he/she has ‘gotta minute’) to review the processes for hiring, terminating, purchasing, raises, and anything else you might need to know. Besides HR, you should make appointments with the heads of Accounting/Finance, Purchasing, and any other relevant support structures.
4) Talk to your people and get to know them
You don’t need to be creepy or weird about it, but everyone’s life will be more enjoyable if you make the effort to get to know your people and find out their goals, aspirations, and preferences. This will make it easier to determine training needs, task allocation, and best ways to deliver feedback. As with the other steps, you don’t need to accomplish this in a day with a list of personal questions you barrage your staff with. At the same time, you don’t need to try to be everyone’s best friend because you shouldn’t be and you won’t be.
5) Use everything you know from the above to make your people as successful as possible
As a manager, there are two groups of people you should always be trying to make look good: Your boss and your staff. If both those groups look like rock stars, you will inevitably be seen a rock star by association. Failing to elevate both groups will result in your seeming ineffectual, overly political, or both. You will enjoy management exponentially more when you make the shift from it being about you (how do the higher ups think I’m doing) to your employees (how can I make my employees more successful / eligible for promotion). Get it into your head that there’s more than enough success and accolades to go around and you’ll get much farther.
6) Talk to your supervisor
Your boss is busy, and if they’re like most bosses, they’ll initially be a little wary of your requests to talk. They’ll figure you want more money for yourself or your team, or are bringing problems to their already full plate of problems. And the reality is that you will be having these conversations with your boss, but you don’t need every conversation to be about what you want them to do for you. Try to make a habit of checking in weekly or every other week (as before, make an appointment, and don’t let it be more than fifteen minutes) just to let your boss know what your team is working on. This way, they’ll be informed without having to chase you down. You will be making their lives easier, and they’ll love that, and you by association.
So there you have it! Six tips that will greatly increase not only your success as a new manager, but also the chance that you will enjoy your job, and that your job will enjoy you. So again, congratulations, and good luck!