Eight recommendations for a first-time (or veteran) manager
I had some pretty good mentors and managers when I myself started managing others early in my career. But despite some good coaching, I made plenty of mistakes. Looking back, it’s not hard to cringe at some of the things I did and/or thought was a good idea at the time.
I’m sure I still make plenty of management mistakes, but there are also many things I’ve learned that I wish I would have known (or listened to!) years ago. Here are eight things in particular:
1. Be humble
This is particularly important for a young manager who many be working with or managing others at the same age or older. But no matter your position or influence, there’s no reason not to take a healthy dose of humble pie every morning. Put yourself in perspective, don’t take yourself too seriously, and shy away from the spotlight especially when it means that spotlight will fall on those who did the work around you.
2. Focus on what matters
Try not to get caught up in politics, inter-office gossip or anything else that takes your attention away from the goals of your team, department and organization. Triage relentlessly what’s on your plate, and help your team stay focused too. Sometimes this means standing up for what matters in the face of competing priorities or requests from other groups, but your team will appreciate and admire your focus and protection of what they also know matters most.
3. Focus on your people
They are everything. Get the best people possible on your team, including those who are smarter and better than you are. Champion them, publicly, whenever and wherever possible. Give them the spotlight, thank them more often than you think is necessary (which still might not be enough), and recognize their success among their peers and other managers. Inspire them to do their best, and give them the space to do it right.
4. Be fair & consistent
It’s incredibly easy to be inconsistent without realizing it, but I guarantee your team will notice it and talk about it. It will kill your credibility, and poison your team against each other. This can be difficult for new managers, but it’s worth thinking through precedents before they happen, or at least before setting them the first time, to ensure you’ll be comfortable with them long-term.
5. Be as transparent & open as possible
There will be things you can’t share with the team, but be open about everything else. The more transparent you are – about decisions, resources, the future, etc. – the more your team will trust you and want to continue working with you.
6. Admit when you’re wrong
Once you get in the habit of doing it, you realize it’s not that hard and people are far more likely to forgive and move on when you’re open about it. Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of chances to practice this, but get it right and you will increase your credibility and leadership as a result.
7. Be present
Don’t check your email while having a conversation with a member of your team. Put your phone down, turn away from your computer, look them in the eye and listen. Listen more than you talk. Ask questions. That investment will make you far more productive than checking your Blackberry and pretending to still listen.
8. Ask for help & advice more often
You don’t have all the answers. You never will. Asking for advice isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. You’ll learn faster, improve faster, and reinforce relationships with coaches & mentors (no matter how informal) that can feed you for years to come.