Becoming a manager for the first time is a big step in your career. Every new manager has a head full of great ideas and their heart in the right place. You want to correct the mistakes you felt your managers made, or embody the spirit of your best bosses. You are ready to shake things up and excited to mentor a team.
The vision that you have of your first day being a rallying point that kicks off a string of managerial accomplishments is a seductive one — and it's probably holding you back.
Your first day as a manager isn't about coming in hot and being the greatest. Being intentional and methodical will get you a lot further in your first days and weeks than being overconfident will. Rather than blow in and immediately enacting your agenda, turn your attention outwards. Here are five steps that will help you focus on establishing yourself and building rapport with your team.
First, get an idea of what you're getting into, and figure out the potential of the team members you're starting to manage. The best thing you can do to fulfill this potential right away is, paradoxically, taking a step back and not doing anything.
Your first day should be more about listening than talking. Although it is tempting to come in and roll out a whole new plan for the team you brainstormed, hold off! Monster reports that one of the worst mistakes incoming managers make is to immediately try to lead with manager-driven changes.
Even if you're coming in with the mandate to shake things up, making big changes right away will demonstrate that you don't have an interest in listening to your direct reports. Listening well means reserving judgment — and grand plans — until you have heard what people have to say and built up trust. Then, when you do roll out changes, people will be more willing to adopt them and more likely to feel they are made in employees' best interests, rather than as a manager power play.
Being a manager is about building trust with your employees. Be mindful that if you are coming in to manage a team, for whatever reason a team is having a management switch. That means your team is probably just as nervous to have a new manager as you are to be a first-time manager.
Will you care about them? Will you understand the way they want to be managed? Will you make improvements and stick up for them? Or will you be a micromanager, distant, or only out for yourself? These are real fears that employees have, and one of the best ways to demonstrate that you are going to be a compassionate manager is to reach out.
Take time to talk to the team, and introduce yourself. Just as important, take the time to talk to employees individually. Within your first few days, start setting up 1:1 meetings with reports. This will:
You don't need more than twenty minutes to kick all this off, and the conversations can be informal in nature. They are a starting point.
The worst thing you can do on your first day or in your first week is pretend you understand things or make assumptions because you are afraid to ask questions of those around you. It will hamper your management and slow your managerial development.
To be a good manager, you need to understand what your reports, bosses and company want and need, and that means asking questions. While your initial gut reaction to being a manager might be: I need to have all the answers now, try shifting your mindset:
Use the same mettle and smarts that got you promoted to answer as many questions as you can, but don't be afraid to ask questions when they come up. You are building your knowledge and your new working relationships, and a healthy workplace will support you leaning on others for help.
If you've been promoted, your workplace relationships are bound to change as you move up to management. Work friends are important, and if you are moving up at your current company, those relationships have to shift. In fact, Harvard Business Review writes “we found that the transition from BFF to boss — what we labeled “adjustment to people management/displaying authority” — was the biggest hurdle, cited by almost 60% of respondents.”
You are responsible for setting an appropriate relationship with your work friends. It's crucial to your team's results, because it reduces favoritism, keeps power balances appropriate, and creates a more stable workplace. To establish boundaries:
You are responsible for setting an appropriate relationship with your team. The truth is that management can at times be lonely, because your position takes you away from the camaraderie felt when you're an individual contributor on a team. But remember that you are in the midst of forging new relationships with fellow managers that will help your career.
Managing is a skill that is learned, not an innate talent. You've just been promoted and stepped into a new role, and are beginning the training for that position. Nobody is expecting you to be World's Best Manager on your first day, and every manager has stories from their early career about bumps in the road.
If you are moving up in the same workplace, it can take some time for new roles to settle and your workplace relationships to recalibrate. If you are joining a new workplace, you need time to learn the people and the company. Nothing you can do on your first day or in your first week is going to be perfect — and that's ok!
Day one is just that: a starting point. It's ok to feel a bit awkward or that you are still figuring things out. Nobody immediately “gets” management on their first day and ascends to managerial stardom. Take a deep breath, cut yourself some slack, and commit to learning even more tomorrow.
Day one of a new management position can be nerve-wracking, but you've become a manager because you have potential and skill. What you do in your first days and weeks sets you up for success and gains the trust of your team, so it is critical that you are approaching your first day in your new position deliberately.
There will be plenty of time in your managerial career for you to become a great manager and enact your best plans for bettering your workplace. Positioning yourself well by listening, establishing boundaries, and reserving judgment will help you get there like a seasoned vet.