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Jesse Lyn Stoner


Are You a First-Time Manager?

Six tips to avoid finding yourself alone on a precipice

Published: Thursday, August 31, 2017 - 12:01

Are you ready to be a first-time manager? Perhaps you’ve had some bad managers in the past, and you think this is your chance to do it right. Well, it is your chance to do it right. But you can’t wing it.

Research reveals that nearly 60 percent of first-time managers underperform and often end up leaving the company.

Here are six tips to start off right and avoid finding yourself alone on the edge of a precipice.

1. Approach your new role with humility. You might have an idea of what a manager does. You might have had some bad managers and think you know how to do it better. The truth is, it’s not as easy as it looks. It takes time to get it right. If you act like you always know what you’re doing, people won’t believe or trust you. You will earn much more respect by being open, asking for help when you need it, and making changes when you’re off track. Recognize that you will make mistakes (it’s inevitable), and when you do, own up to them. Be open to feedback and be willing to make adjustments.

2. Change your focus. You might have been promoted to a management position because you were great at doing your job. But you now have an entirely new job. The jump from the role of individual contributor to first-time manager is one of the biggest leaps you can make. Instead of doing the work, you now need to work through others to get the work accomplished. Your focus should be on building your team and supporting them in doing their work. One of the most challenging things you will need to do is to delegate effectively—to be willing to delegate and to know when to delegate.

3. Learn the skills of management. Becoming a good manager is not simply a matter of attitude. There are skills that are essential to managing others. In addition to learning effective delegating, you need to learn communication skills like how to hold difficult conversations. You need to be able to set smart goals and the right goals. And you need to know how to adjust your management style to the specific needs of each direct report. One of the best ways to learn how to adjust your style is through Situational Leadership II. If you can’t take a workshop, I recommend reading Leadership and The One Minute Manager, by Ken Blanchard, Patricia Zigarmi, and Drea Zigarmi (William Morrow, updated edition 2013).

4. Understand the big picture. At times you will need to provide a rationale for the things you are asking your direct reports to do. You need to have a good understanding of where the company is going and how your team supports the company’s goals. Don’t just wait for your boss to fill you in. Be proactive and read information on the company website and ask your boss and other leaders strategic questions.

5. Acknowledge your changing relationships. One of the most confusing aspects of being promoted to a first-time manager is figuring out your relationship with your former peers. You need to find a place in the middle—not aloof and not just pals. You can still be friends, relax, hang out and laugh with them, but you need to be clear about your boundaries. You can’t gossip about others or confide confidential information. It’s important to be fair to all and not let your personal relationships cloud your decisions.

6. Find a mentor. Ideally your new boss will coach you as you grow into your new role. But if not, find someone, ideally who knows the company’s culture, to give you advice and act as a sounding board. Knowing something in theory and in reality are two different things. In the beginning especially, you need someone you can talk with about some of the complicated situations you are actually facing.

First published June 26, 2017, on Jesse Lyn Stoner's Blog. © 2017 Jesse Stoner


About The Author

Jesse Lyn Stoner’s picture

Jesse Lyn Stoner

Jesse Lyn Stoner, founder of consultancy Seapoint Center, has worked with hundreds of leaders using collaborative processes to engage the entire workforce in creating their desired future. Stoner has authored several books including Full Steam Ahead! Unleash the Power of Vision (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2nd rev. ed. 2011), co-authored with Ken Blanchard. Stoner is recognized by the American Management Association as one of the Top Leaders to Watch in 2015 and by INC Magazine as one of the Top 100 Leadership Experts. Stoner has advanced degrees in psychology and family system, and a doctorate in organizational development.