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Business Management New Managers Uncategorized

New Managers: 6 things you can do to be more effective

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!

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Business Management Uncategorized

Avoid these surefire ways to ensure your managers fail miserable and ruin your business (and do this instead)

We’ve all got our war stories about the boss from hell, the narcissist who made our job torturous or even that one supervisor who could probably be legitimately classified as a sociopath. This article is not about them, it’s about YOU – a manager or business owner who is neither evil, stupid, or sociopathic. To the contrary, you’re probably above average in intelligence (actually, you don’t necessarily agree, but a lot of people describe you as ‘brilliant’) and yes, you might be a little intense, but you care deeply about your business and the people who work for you. You know there are some people who are threatened by talented subordinates but you’re not one of them. You want your people to be successful, and you definitely want to grow your company, earn more money, and be able to provide some unique perks for your employees.

And now, your business is at the point where all these great ideas can’t come to fruition until you can get some of the responsibility off your shoulders and distributed to those chosen few…your management team! This is an exciting place for you to be so let’s look at the 6 ways to GUARANTEE your managers will fail miserably…so you can be your brilliant self and avoid these things like the plague. Ready?

  • Avoid ‘insulting’ them by explaining what you expect leaders to do in your company
  • Never explain the P&L basics and how it applies to their business segments – they’re managers, not accountants!
  • Don’t waste their time with touchy feely stuff like missions, visions, and teambuilding nonsense that won’t help them do their job better.
  • Always assume they know how to have difficult conversations and just trust that they are taking care of performance problems
  • Assume that because they’re decent human beings they are fully capable of understanding and adhering to state and federal HR laws
  • Expect that they are smart enough to know when they need help, and that they’ll ask you if they’re unsure of anything. The last thing you want to do is micro-manage a new manager and make them think you don’t trust them.

Some of these points might seem a little contradictory. After all, isn’t the current wisdom du jour that we should just hire smart people and let them do what they do best? All I can say to that is that an unmet expectation always leads to frustration, and an unstated expectation almost always becomes an unmet one. Of course, you didn’t start a manager training company so you don’t necessarily want to spend all your time on this, but rest assured the investment you do put into setting expectations, training, and providing feedback to your managers, will pay exponential dividends in productivity, employee engagement, retention, and morale. So, here’s how to avoid setting your managers up for failure and fast-tracking this next stage of growth and success for your business.

1) Provide clear written and verbal descriptions about what you expect leaders to do in your company.

Not everyone gets to be a leader, so take some time and effort to make the designation special! After all, if these folks are doing it right, they’re going to be giving of themselves constantly for the betterment of the employees and the company. This is not a job for the faint-hearted, so it’s a good idea to not only celebrate the position, but really go the extra mile in describing why and how leaders are chosen and what you expect.

I recommend leading with a brief explanation of what leadership means to you (and it will be different for everyone), why it’s important, and what you want leaders to be known for. If you have a code of conduct that’s important, you need to specify that as well (for example, when I ran HR departments, I made sure people understood that they were held to a higher level of accountability in their position).   This sets the tone and the pace for the role, and also will allow people to opt out if this isn’t what they had in mind. PS…if they do opt out, don’t hold it against them.  A lot of people say they want to be managers because that’s the only path they see to earning more money. It’s important to explain what it’s really like, and often you can use creative compensation to reward individual contributors who will not thrive in a leadership role.

2) Explain the P&L basics and how it applies to their business segments. This will help them make better choices, empower them, and increase their value.

Your managers are in charge of your largest most controllable expense…labor. It only makes sense to educate them as to what this means. If you want your managers to treat your money as if it were their own you have to educate them. I’ve seen very well-meaning managers put $30/hour people in charge of sweeping to get the sweeping done, while $12/hour people were sent home early. Your labor and overtime will be managed much more intelligently and effectively if you explain why and what it all means.

3) If you don’t have a documented company mission and vision, it’s time to get one!

No, I’m not talking about the corporate buzz-wordy mission statements of the nineties that everyone made fun of (for good reason), but the best teams are ones where the people feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Everyone needs a ‘why’, and ‘earning a paycheck’ or ‘meeting revenue goals’ doesn’t really cut it. What is your dream for you company? Where do you want to go? Don’t be afraid of being unrealistic – be afraid of not dreaming big enough.

4) Always assume they DON’T know how to have difficult conversations and are NOT addressing performance problems.

As I’ve stated before, your new managers were probably once your highest performing individual contributors. They probably haven’t ever had to be coached or disciplined for poor performance. Not only that, I’ve found that even seasoned managers often would prefer to just terminate someone rather than have uncomfortable performance talks. You’re better off assuming your managers have no idea how to have these conversations, and then make role playing them a fact of everyone’s life from here on out. The ones who need help will appreciate it, and the ones who are great at it can give everyone some ideas.

5) Assume that common sense and fairness means nothing when it comes to employment law

Even if your managers all operate on the right side of grey and have the best of intentions, this does NOT mean they are ‘safe’ to represent your business. One of the most intelligent, and well-meaning young managers I’ve worked with earnestly informed me that he always asked people how old they were and if they had kids, because that affected how well they could do the job. AAHHHHH!!  The point is, we can have biases and not even know it. Not only that, HR law does often not correlate with common sense of even fairness. Everyone needs to be updated and refreshed on what the courts are telling us these days.

6) Set up regular one-on-ones to talk about expectations and questions, because they won’t ‘just ask’.

It’s not fair to expect something of someone and not tell them what it is. Neither is it fair to assume that someone has the wherewithal to determine when they need help. Most of us are very leery to ask our boss for help because we assume she thinks we already know it – that’s why we were hired. Not only that, none of us know what we don’t know. So don’t throw someone into the snake pit and tell them to let you know if they have questions. They won’t. And I’m not saying your company is a snake pit, but you get the idea, right? State expectations, check in, YOU ask Them questions, and follow up. Repeatedly.

It’s a wonderful thing to have grown to the point where you need managers, so pat yourself on the back…but don’t think that withholding expectations, support, and communication will be doing them any favors!

I hope you found this article useful. If you are interested in learning more about training first managers, please visit us at www.todaysleadershipsolutions.com for more information or click here for a free ‘new supervisor’ assessment.

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com