New Managers: Learning on the Job

Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 08:06

By Leon Gettler

You’ve got that promotion. Suddenly you’re in charge of people and it requires a whole new different set of skills. Here are some tips to help the new managers hit the ground running.

Jessica Harper at US News says the first thing new managers need to do is seek a mentor. It’s generally easier to take on a managerial role with a sound support system in place. You also need to be careful and respect long-standing employees, particularly those who have been there for years and feel they were unfairly passed over for the promotion you received. You have to spearhead group outings and manage employees’ time more carefully. It’s also important to respect diversity and appreciate or even celebrate differences (whether they’re age, gender-related, or racial). Just as importantly, you have to network relentlessly.

Florence Stone from the American Management Association, quoted here, says new managers have to identify their department’s goals, and determine the resources needed to achieve them. She says they have to get to know each individual’s needs, and find out what drives them. They should observe each direct report’s behaviour to determine if there is sufficient knowledge, skill and motivation for the individual to complete the task. They have to know how to delegate tasks and responsibilities to meet the department’s objectives, set clear expectations, understood by both them and their staff, coach the individual for improved performance and his own professional development and, at the same time, prepare for the unexpected.

Jonathan Becher at Forbes has several tips for new managers. First, avoid assigning blame to individuals. Instead, focus on identifying the root cause of the problem. Secondly, when things are going well, leave them alone. Intervene only when a problem occurs. It’s also important to keep in mind that people and their contribution are the organisation’s most valuable assets. Another point: good enough is good enough. Don’t aim for perfection, that’s impossible. He says new managers should focus on doing a good job and learning from the experience as that will improve their performance next time. They should reward outcomes, not activities. They shouldn’t reward people for trying hard if they were working on the wrong things. They have to make sure reward systems are based on impact (how much change occurred) rather than output (how much was produced). And finally, they have to be optimistic and positive. Remember, your mood is contagious.

Management Today in the UK says the first thing you need to do is work out what’s expected of you. Schedule regular reviews with your boss, if you have one, and get as much feedback as possible. Defined expectations also provide clear criteria for self-assessment. Ask each team member what they, as individuals, want from you as their manager. Find out all you can about them as individuals. Make sure you delegate the right people to the right task, face difficult situations (like managing former peers) through open conversations about the situation, think long-term and create your personal vision for your team – and your leadership – for 12 months’ time and then explore how this fits with expectations and other organisational initiatives. New managers are also advised to take a course if one is available and to be rigorous on self-assessment . They have to make regular time to reflect on their progress and identify the next changes that they will make, so that the momentum of incremental progress is maintained.