Overcoming 12 challenges that first-time managers face

Written by: the Officevibe Content Team | Illustrated by: Valérie Gatien
Published on April 15, 2020 | Reading time: 10m

Congratulations on your new role as manager! While new can be intimidating, new also means you have the chance to grow personally and professionally. If you’re feeling the pangs of the imposter syndrome, that’s normal. However, keep in mind you earned this promotion.

Becoming a manager for the first time is a big change, and with change comes challenges. Learning from these experiences will ultimately help you develop. Be perseverant! This a big part of being a leader and true leadership is what management is all about.

Success often has much more to do with perseverance than it does with a person’s innate qualities. That isn’t to say talent doesn’t matter, just that it only goes so far without sacrifice and effort.

Fast Company

Top tips for your first 30 days as a new manager and how they can help set you up for success!

Image of the New manager checklist

1. Getting to know your team and their pain points

When you start managing a new team, it will take some time to get to know everyone, their unique skill set, personality, struggles, and goals. But there is no time better spent than learning about each of your employees. The more you get to know your people, the better you can lead them.

Set up recurring 1-on-1 meetings with each member of your team to really get to know your employees as people, not just workers. This dedicated quality time will help you build relationships, learn about their personal and professional aspirations, and what they need from a manager to push themselves.

Team meetings are great for building camaraderie, but people may not feel comfortable voicing any concerns or pain points. Your 1-on-1 time is a chance to hear those issues, think about potential solutions, and work with the person to create a plan of action to overcome or remove those hurdles.

Pro Tip: At Officevibe, we built a complete 1-on-1 tool to help managers improve the quailty of their conversations so they can build better relationships with their employees.

2. Shifting your mindset from contributor to leader

In your previous role as an employee, your main focus was on accomplishing your tasks and helping your team reach their objectives. Now, your mandate is to help others reach their goals, without actually doing the work. You can help them understand “what” needs to be done and “why”, but the “how” to do it and the actual execution of the work is up to them.

Now that you’re a leader, you need to focus on providing the right path, the right tools, and the right amount of support, without getting your own hands dirty (as tempting as that may be).

PS: We developed a toolbox full of resources, tools and exercises to help you navigate your new role. From how to hire and onboard new employees to how to promote team performance!

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3. Pressure to perform as a new manager

One of the most nerve-racking things about being a first-time manager is the pressure to perform. You’ve been given an incredible opportunity, and now you want to show that you’re worth it.

Remind yourself that you were picked for this position for a reason and that you deserve to be there. Becoming a leader is a learning process, and you will learn the most from the experience you gain as you go along.

Pro Tip: Set clear expectations with your boss, and more importantly, with yourself. Take time to plan properly and set yourself up for success.

In case you haven’t seen this: If you’re a new manager and want a comprehensive guide to help you transition smoothly to your new role, we’ve got you covered.

4. Building your Emotional Intelligence

One fundamental leadership skill that will help you grow from a good manager to a great leader is Emotional Intelligence. Building your sense of self-awareness, being able to empathize with your team members, and understanding how to regulate emotion (even when the pressure strikes) will put you in the best position to develop and care for your employees.

Since it’s your responsibility to oversee the emotional wellbeing of your team, developing your soft skills will be imperative. In fact, soft skills have become such an essential component of good leadership that the workforce has more recently referred to them as “power skills”. Building up these people skills to properly manage the human undercurrent and emotional needs of your people will help you become the manager that other teams want to be led by.

Pro Tip: Thankfully, soft skills and Emotional Intelligence can be learned. Sign up for our email course to help you build up your EQ with fun and simple homework to apply in your day-to-day.

5. Shifting from the details to a high-level view

Once upon a time, your role as an individual contributor likely had you focused on the nitty-gritty of projects. Maybe you were even a perfectionist. As a manager, you’ll have to go through the often uncomfortable process of letting go of the details. As enticing as it may be to delve in and put your expertise to work, the role of manager is to let other people shine and develop in their role. To put it simply, your job is less about the details of the work and more about the engagement of the people doing it.

Pro Tip: To avoid becoming a micromanager, stay focused on the big picture. Check in to see how things are going and if you can help, but ultimately your job will be to give direction based on business objectives, not execute.

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6. Managing your time

After succeeding in your old role, it can be difficult to schedule your days when your new responsibilities no longer include executing on tasks. And, as a boss, you’re now responsible for managing the time of both you and your team. One thing to remember: your team always comes first.

It’s on you to help prioritize projects, tasks, and initiatives for your team based on the business objectives, but you also need to set aside time to develop in your role. That might include working with a coach, reading up on management, or speaking to other leaders about strategies and approaches for managing a team successfully.

Pro Tip: Try setting aside dedicated time in your agenda for employee “drop in” hours. Whether it’s done remotely or in an office, reserving this block of time is a nice reminder that their needs are important.

Top tips for your first 30 days as a new manager and how they can help set you up for success!

Image of the New manager checklist

7. Setting clear goals and expectations

Providing clarity is one of the most important skills to develop as a leader, but it’s not always easy. Each employee needs a clear understanding of the collective goals (company and team), and how their individual goals contribute to that bigger picture.

To help employees understand what’s expected of them, meet with each team member individually to ensure that both the business and team objectives are clear. Give them the space to ask questions and reflect on how they can contribute to these goals given their strengths and expertise. These discussions will promote accountability within your team.

Pro Tip: Monthly 1-on-1s are a great way to make sure you and your employees are on the same page. Use this time to set goals and action items, then follow up in the next meeting.

8. Giving and asking for regular feedback

While it might be intimidating to ask for or receive feedback as a new manager, it’s wildly important to understand how your team feels about your management and how they feel you can improve. It will help boost your personal development and consequently, you’ll boost your team’s engagement.

To keep employees engaged – and to continue growing as a leader – it’s important to create a strong feedback loop where you give and receive feedback on a regular basis.

Not only will this help to instill a growth mindset across the board, but it will also help you establish trust while keeping the barriers down between you and your employees.

Pro Tip: Use our feedback tool to collect and respond to employee feedback on a regular basis. Giving employees a safe space to share their thoughts anonymously will help you have conversations you otherwise might miss. That’s why 84% of employees who use Officevibe trust their direct manager.

9. Encouraging productivity

As a manager, a key to your success is to make sure your team is productive and performing their best.

This can be a challenge because your team members may have different needs and work in different ways. Some people like working later, some earlier, some people like being given specific instructions, some people like to have more autonomy.

It’s important for you to create an environment that’s good for everyone. Try to find out what works best and adjust accordingly.

Pro Tip: Have short daily meetings where everyone presents their tasks for the day to the team. This will help your employees set their focus for the day and see how everyone else’s tasks fit into the broader goals of the team.

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10. Hiring for your team

Bringing someone new into your team is a big decision. Don’t be shy to ask other managers or people from the HR team in your company for help and advice.

It’s important that you look at possible candidates from an all-encompassing perspective. Personality and values are as important as past experience. Look at your candidates as unique and dynamic individuals, and think about what they’ll bring to the team beyond their skill set.

Pro Tip: A great way to hire someone is by doing a work sample test where you give them a small project to see how well they perform, communicate and interact with the team.

11. Firing an employee

Letting someone go from your team is a tough decision to make. What’s important after you fire someone is to make sure that your team can recover from the loss. Prepare as best as you can to compensate for the gap that will be created in your team and their workflow.

Transparency is important in addressing your employees about a termination. Be as open and honest as you can and allow for open communication between your employees and yourself. Encourage them to come to you with any questions or concerns they may have.

Pro Tip: Set up a time to address the termination with your employees and discuss how you will move forward as a team. Address any questions or concerns they may have and encourage them to come to you privately to do so, too.

12. Asking for help

You might feel pressure to have all the answers in your new managerial role, but it’s okay if you don’t. In fact, it’s normal. Every manager was new at some point, so they understand the struggles you’re experiencing. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance when you need it.

Ask HR about training that you might not know about. Seek out opportunities that can help you and your team succeed.

Pro Tip: Find a mentor. Look for someone with experience as a manager and pick their brain.

Don’t miss this: We developed a toolbox full of resources, tools and exercises to help you navigate your new role. From how to hire and onboard new employees to how to promote team performance!

What are some challenges that you’ve faced as a manager?

Have you been there before? Any tips for new managers that you can share with us?

This article has been updated to reflect current workplace and leadership best practices and trends.