3 tips for first-time managers

Managing a team is a goal that many early career professionals have.

But being responsible for multiple people’s performance and development can be tricky!

I started managing a team in my mid-twenties, and despite studying management at university and having lots of experience mentoring, I found certain aspects a lot harder than I imagined. It’s easy to think of the fun sides of management – having extra support to do your job, and feeling rewarded when they succeed for example.

Navigating office politics and focusing on personal development while maintaining a high quality of work at a management level is tricky. Times that by 2, 3 or whatever your team’s size is, and add in different personalities, preferences, and working styles, and it’s easy to see why so many new managers find leading a team a challenge for the first time.

Here are my top 3 tips to get the balance right when leading for the first time:

  1. Be wary of people pleasing

My working relationships are important to me, and I have a bit of a weakness for wanting to be liked. Unfortunately, when you’re leading a team in a busy or high-pressured environment, sometimes you have to make or deliver decisions to your team that aren’t popular. This could be anything from redundancy to performance issues to communicating a shift of work focus.

While it’s natural to want people to like you in a professional environment, making business decisions with the sole objective of wanting your team members to like you is risky. As a manager, it’s your job to support your team as individuals while ensuring they are delivering the right results to the business. If you focus too much on pleasing people in the short-term, you risk compromising the success of your team in the long term.

Team members will all have complex and differing opinions and priorities, so leading the team in a way that pleases certain individuals could have the opposite effects with others. Look after your team’s long-term interest by making decisions that are best for all of you as a whole, and avoid the trap of wanting to be everyone’s best friend.

2. Create a culture of honest, two-way conversation

Poor communication is often cited as the biggest frustration in a team environment, and proactively encouraging open dialogue with each and every member of your team can help with this. Reassure your team that you want to understand their aspirations, challenges, and concerns in order to best support their career.

To do this, you need to know when they are experiencing frustration with either your – or the wider business’s – way of working. You may not always be able to fix their problems (see point 1) but being aware of them will help you to communicate honestly and manage their expectations where you can.

Where possible, be clear to your team about business priorities and how that translates into their day-to-day job role. It can be challenging delivering work if your team aren’t 100% clear on what it is you want them to do.

3. Give regular feedback – both positive and developmental

Feedback is often feared in the workplace as being code for criticism, but it doesn’t need to be that way. As a manager, it’s a good idea to become comfortable with giving regular, honest feedback to your team – both positive and negative – to help aid their development.

For best results, give feedback 1:1, face to face, and shortly after the opportunity occurs. Keep the feedback positive and future focused (“it would be great to hear more regular updates on your project going forward…”) rather than negative and past focused (“you didn’t keep me updated enough on this project”). Give specific and measured examples of behaviour, rather than critiquing personality (“I struggled to hear you towards the end of your presentation” rather than “you’re too quiet”, and explain that you’re sharing this insight as you want them to succeed, rather than to be critical.

Similarly, give praise and recognition when it’s due, and be specific rather than general as to what you liked about their approach (“your use of statistics was insightful and helped back up your argument to restructure”, rather than “it was a great report”).

And finally…

Remember that managers, just like their team members, don’t need to be perfect. Be yourself, be authentic, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

If you want to hear more about how I help people create more fulfilling careers, take a look at my career coaching page

You can also drop me a line at hello@hannahsalton.co.uk to arrange an informal chat. 

(Content originally shared on www.careercake.com)

Comments 2

  1. Luiz Koerich
    February 18, 2018

    Great tips. Cheers!!!

    1. hannahsalton
      February 19, 2018

      Thanks very much Luiz!

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