New Manager Tips (a guide for first-time leaders) |

New Manager Tips: a guide for first-time leaders

Posted by Luke Thomas

I remember when I first started leading a team. I learned a lot of things through trial and error, but I’ve learned a few things you may find helpful, especially if you’re a new manager. Let's dive right in!

Set the right tone in the first team meeting

Kick things off by having a meeting with your team. Share with them your expectations around giving and receiving feedback, meetings, and other logistics. It’s okay if you don’t know everything about this process – in fact, I said, “I’m not exactly sure how to do this, so that’s why I need your feedback to make sure everything runs smoothly.”

It takes time to build trust with your team, but make sure to kick things off with your expectations and by being honest with them instead of pretending to know everything.

Focus on improving low-hanging fruit

Next, go after any low-hanging fruit you can find. It’s important to find a few quick wins. Ask the team – “is there anything we should stop doing”, or “what is the worst part of your job?” If you can remove these roadblocks you can build rapport with them quickly. You can use Friday to ask these questions on a regular basis.

Recognize that your success = the success of your team

This is a tough one – it’s easy to jump into every fire and try to fight it yourself, especially if you’ve done this in the past. Now that you’re a manager, your success is measured by the output of your team.

You alone can only work eight hours per day to accomplish a goal. If you manage three people, the output is now tripled with the added overhead of interpersonal communications.

Set Goals, Measure Progress

Like a sports team, it’s critical to keep your team focused on achieving a goal. Make sure to set goals and align the team. During your weekly meeting, discuss what you’d like to accomplish in the upcoming meeting, and make sure you write them down. It’s important to have something to refer to in the next meeting to track progress.

Protect and shield your team (if necessary)

At times there will be pressure from outside departments to accomplish certain tasks that fall outside the scope of what is possible. This may stress your team out. Don’t be afraid to negotiate and defend your team, especially if a request is unreasonable.

Make sure to balance requests. It’s common for you to feel caught in the middle sometimes. Try to find a middle ground. 

Setup a weekly check-in or daily standup

Here’s one of the most important things you can do as a boss. Think about your team as a customer. Your job is to learn and understand about small issues (or what you’re doing well) as quickly as possible.

Instead, use software like Friday to collect feedback on a weekly basis. For highly collaborative teams, you could run a daily scrum instead. It will help you understand exactly where you can improve. It takes the guesswork out of being a manager! Try it out for free.

We recommend doing this asynchronously – so it doesn’t take up a ton of time.

Don't go to every meeting you are invited to

You may experience pressure to attend every meeting you are asked to join. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper and try to get a sense of why they want you to attend. If you don’t provide value to the meeting, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t think I add value to this meeting”. It will free up time to do other important tasks. 

Next up, it's imperative that you understand the difference between people on a maker's schedule (i.e. - the people producing an output) vs. the need to operating on a manager's schedule (the need to coordinate people to produce an output).

We wrote an entire post on these two modes of work.

Have regular 1-1 meetings

Make sure to have regular one-on-ones with each member of your team. We’ve created a guide on this, but these meetings are a great way to build stronger relationships with your team and hear feedback in-person. It’s more unfiltered than a team meeting because there’s less worry about what others might think.

Find a mentor

We strongly advise you to find a mentor. You may find someone inside the company who can help you develop as a leader. You can face tough decisions sometimes, and having a second opinion can make a huge difference in how you approach a problem. 

Pursue continuous learning

Never stop learning. There’s a plethora of books, videos, conferences and more to hone your leadership skills. A book for $10-15 is compressed knowledge and life experiences. Take advantage of learning from someone else’s mistakes!

We recommend High Output Management to start.

Recognize effort

Many managers underestimate the value of saying “thank you.” 79% of people who leave a job do so because they don't feel recognized for their effort. Next time you see someone do a fantastic job, make sure to be specific and praise them for their effort.

See yourself as a coach

Think of yourself as a coach instead of a boss. A coach provides constant feedback, aligns the team around a goal, and motivates everyone to put in their best effort. 

Read the best book on management

Next up, we recommend picking up a copy of High Output Management. It's the best book on management we've ever read and is a must-have if you want to become more effective.

Take a personality test

Finally, feel free to take a personality test to understand yourself a bit more. It’s important to understand what behavior what comes naturally to you, and what behavior comes naturally to members of your team. When you understand that people are different, it helps you be more empathetic and meet in the middle. 

You should also look at creating a user manual for work.

Focus on key principles

To wrap up, if you’re a new manager, don’t worry if you don’t know how to do everything right off the bat. Instead, pursue learning, create clear goals with team input, trust the feedback loop, and recognize contributions.

If you want to keep learning, I recommend checking out our post on improving employee performance.

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