There's this old saying, "there's a first time for everything." And we totally agree with that statement. It doesn't matter if we talk about the first time you take skating lessons or make pasta carbonara. First times are hard, and to be good at anything, you need guidance and practice. And that includes the first time you become a manager.
But how do you cope with these new responsibilities? How do you cope with being a first-time manager? How do you tackle the many challenges as you transition into a leadership role?
A great start is reading books and articles on management, leadership, and employee engagement. They can help you develop the skills you need to be successful. For instance, Matt Mochary's "The Great CEO Within: The Tactical Guide to Company Building" is a good first step. But that surely isn’t enough. You can't just read a bunch of books and turn into a great manager overnight.
Attending workshops, training sessions, and conferences is also valuable for acquiring knowledge and networking with other managers. Yet, that is just the tip of the iceberg.
In our opinion, the answer lies in the team you lead. Why? Because the most important responsibility that comes with such a role is to be connected with your team. A manager who deeply understands their team’s context will be more successful in leading their team. And that's a fact.
That being said, here are some tips for first-time managers to help them approach their team and build a high-performing and team environment.
Effective communication is the most powerful tool for building strong relationships with employees. First-time managers should make an effort to truly get to know their team members. They need to understand their needs and concerns. Plus, they need to be open and transparent about company goals and expectations.
Regular check-ins, both one-on-one and as a team, can help foster trust and respect. Managers should also listen actively and respond to employee feedback, using the feedback to make improvements and solve problems. Simply put, they need to start a feedback loop in which everybody has the right to a transparent opinion.
A manager who practices what they preach will earn the respect and trust of their employees. First-time managers should model the behaviors they expect from their team members. They need to be punctual, professional, and respectful. Because they can't ask for these traits if they won't live by them. Furthermore, managers should also demonstrate a positive attitude and a willingness to help and support others.
In order for a team to work as a whole, a leader needs to learn how to keep their employees engaged and motivated. And for a first-time manager, that could prove to be a real challenge. However, learning how to delegate tasks properly and encouraging your team members to take ownership of their work is the best place to start. Give problems to solve rather than your – detailed – solutions. Allowing employees to take on new challenges and responsibilities also helps foster a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
Taking the time to acknowledge and celebrate the team's successes is so important for the morale of your team. It doesn't matter if we are talking about a formal award or a simple verbal recognition. The idea is to always take the time and offer feedback for people's hard work. Taking results for granted is not the path to success.
With all this said, being a first-time manager does have many potential bumps in the road. But so does anything you do for the first time. So when you get to this point, take the time and accept this new reality. Take the time and understand who you are going to lead – really are. Focus on the little things, and never forget to ask your employees how they are doing. Remember to always ask for and offer honest feedback.
A piece of advice for first-time managers? Cultivate a mindset for experimentation. Books and training sessions can only teach you so much. Each team faces different challenges and works guided by different dynamics. So don't be afraid to try approaches and test different strategies to see what works and what doesn't in your case. Understand that an experimental approach can help you learn from previous mistakes and successes. Furthermore, it will continuously refine your leadership style.
Last but not least, we ask you just one thing. Please remember that there's no perfect formula for creating a thriving workplace. It takes ongoing experimentation, trial, and error. It takes a willingness to learn and adapt to create a work environment that fosters satisfaction and engagement. Because only by adopting a mindset of experimentation can you take ownership of your role as a first-time manager and create a team culture that works for everyone involved.
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