Finding Your Stride as a New Manager

“Management isn’t doing—it’s seeing that it gets done."
Loren B. Belker, The First-Time Manager

Tons of information is accessible on the internet on mistakes that first-time managers make. Enough literature is available on developing new skills by new managers.

Here are key skills that the first-time managers need:

  • Listening skills
  • Effective delegation
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Influencing skills
  • Effective communication skills

These skills develop by practice. One does not become competent by reading about them alone.

Bump in Ego

First-time supervisors are individual contributors promoted as managers. Management rewards them by promoting them for their excellent performance. Some consideration is also required to confirm if the individual contributor has the potential to be a great manager.

Many individuals may not have the potential for managing people. Promoting them and offering them people-management responsibility is setting them up for failure.

Promotion bumps up the ego and gives a salary hike; however, the real problem starts after the initial period gets over and it's time for a reality check.

Transitioning from an individual contributor role to a people-manager role can be one of the biggest tipping points in one's career. Managing people requires a whole new set of skills, and therefore, what brought you to this point will not be adequate to address every challenge that crosses your path in the new role.

Transition with a mentor

Getting promoted to a manager position is a career-defining moment for an individual. The person’s career trajectory will speed up, depending on how one manages such transition.

It becomes the organization's responsibility to guide and provide mentorship for first-time managers. Transitioning to a new role can become overwhelming. It involves a mindset change. The focus needs to shift from me to them. The bottom-up approach to work must be replaced with a top-down approach.

Many times, you find new managers struggling to let go of their past responsibilities. They don’t focus on building new skills, or spend time with their team members in understanding the strengths and weakness of their members. They have new responsibilities and they need to align with the management goals. Precisely at this stage of the transitioning process, having a mentor becomes useful. Newly-promoted managers need help to evolve their thought process to accommodate their new roles. Mentors prevent them from derailing and losing their confidence and credibility.

The boss can also coach the new manager. On a day-to-day basis, the new manager will encounter several challenging situations while managing the team. There will be conflict within the team, with two members of the team, or more important conflict with the stakeholders. As a new manager, if coaching or mentoring is not provided in time, they may lose the opportunity to build trust with the team and the stakeholders. Conflict management is crucial, and it can improve by practice with the help of the boss. Assuming that the boss knows how to manage conflict well.

Networking and Seeking Help from Peers

What’s worked in the past will not work anymore. You have to change your thinking and your focus, and the thought process needs to broaden. Let go of the “Me” mindset. You are not just responsible for the task that is given to you, but also for the team goals. You will not get recognition alone for the task, but your team will for their achievement. Your team's achievement is your achievement.

Networking within the company and outside of the company, talking to peers who have been in similar situations, and understanding how they have dealt with challenges goes a long way in developing managerial competencies.

It is a continual learning process. The more you network, the more you manage situations the more you would learn.

Good advice from Norman Augustine, former CEO and Chairman of Lockheed Martin, Inc, who once said,

"... hire people smarter than you, tell them what you want, and get the hell out of their way."