Becoming a Manager for the First Time: 2 Tips for Success

Were you recently promoted? How do you smoothly transition into a managerial role?

Being promoted is a big step in anyone’s career. But it can also be nerve-wracking since you might be worried about messing up in your new position.

If you’re becoming a manager for the first time, here are some tips to ease your stress.

How to Transition Into Your New Role as Manager

In The First-Time Manager, Jim McCormick writes that your first goal when becoming a manager for the first time should be to win the trust and confidence of your team. He explains that trust doesn’t come with the title—some employees may be skeptical or indifferent about you, and you’ll likely be compared with the previous manager. In this section, we’ll discuss how to introduce yourself as a competent manager and start earning the respect of your employees.

(Shortform note: In Start With Why, Simon Sinek says people don’t automatically trust you just because you’re their manager because trust is a feeling that can’t be rationalized. It comes from the limbic brain, which is the part of your brain that’s responsible for your emotions. Because of this, you can’t earn people’s trust with logic or titles alone—you must prove your trust by showing them that you share their beliefs and values. Sinek explains that people trust others who have similar beliefs, ideals, and values as they do.)

1. Exercise Your Authority Sparingly

First, to build trust with your team, McCormick suggests you use your authority and power sparingly. Many first-time managers mistakenly assume they need to establish dominance over their team and start issuing orders and acting assertively. But McCormick explains that your employees know you’re in charge. Making a show of authority will only give people a negative impression of you, potentially causing resentment or distrust. On the other hand, using your authority judiciously ensures that people respect it when it matters.

To avoid alienating people with your authority, you should refrain from making any changes to how the team operates early on. McCormick explains that most people dislike change and fear the unknown. Making changes right when you arrive can even seem like an insult to the previous manager.

Eventually, you’ll likely want to make some changes. When you do, communicate the change ahead of time and provide as much detail as possible to help employees prepare for it. Explain the reason behind the change and how it will affect them. To help employees be more receptive, ask them for suggestions on how the changes can be implemented effectively. Sharing information and getting employees involved helps them trust that you have their best interests at heart and makes them more receptive to the changes.

Gain Trust With Humility and Curiosity

Other experts agree that as a new manager, you shouldn’t showcase your authority, and they say another way you can win people’s trust and respect is to practice humility. In Leadership Strategy and Tactics, Jocko Willink suggests you do so by considering yourself a part of the team instead of above it, as the latter creates resentment. You can also practice humility by avoiding condescending language, performing basic tasks with your team, and not acting defensive if you feel challenged. By being humble, people will respect you and naturally follow you.

McCormick also argues you shouldn’t make changes early on in your role, but what should you do instead? Other experts say your first priority should be gathering information about your team and their workflow. Seek information from a variety of sources—different departments and roles—so that you have a wide-ranging view of your team’s needs, obstacles, and potential. Only after you have a deep understanding of your team should you start thinking about making any changes. When you do, start by only making changes to the one area that would have the most positive impact on your organization.

In Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne say as long as you treat people fairly in the change process, they’ll be accepting of the changes, even if they disagree with them. You can make the change process seem fair by helping people feel respected and heard. The authors echo much of McCormick’s advice, but add that you should invite your team members’ input early on and explain how you considered their input when sharing the reasoning behind your decisions.

2. Start Building Relationships With Your Employees

McCormick writes that another way to transition smoothly into your new management role is to build relationships with your employees. This makes people feel valued and helps you understand how to best support them.

McCormick recommends you start by meeting with each employee individually within the first 60 days. Focus on establishing a personal connection and communicate that you care about them individually and are there to support them. Lay out expectations for how you want to communicate with them—for instance, that you want them to share their goals, give feedback, and be open about their challenges.

After your first meeting, continue to have weekly one-on-one meetings with each employee. This not only helps you get to know them better, but it’s also a more efficient way of addressing any concerns they may have. Rather than having to vie for your attention or interrupt your work, employees can reserve the topics they want to discuss for their regular meeting with you.

Becoming a Manager for the First Time: 2 Tips for Success

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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