Welcome, new managers!
Before we dig in, here's a glimpse of what to expect.
You’ve just stepped into one of the most significant roles in the workforce because you have the most direct impact on employees -- the heart of every organization. Their success and development will all be influenced by your leadership. No pressure, right?
But…We tend to more often speak about what employees need from their managers in order to shine, and not what managers need to help them get there.
That’s why we set up this complete one-stop-shop for new managers like you. Learn how to prepare for the role like a champ and be the leader you’ve always dreamed of being.
You’ve got an incredible opportunity ahead of you, and lots to do. But for now, just sit back, relax and scroll.
P.S. We’ve included lots of helpful tips for you throughout the piece, so keep your eyes peeled.
A quick snapshot of today’s workforce.
As you prepare to enter the workforce from a new vantage point, we want to give you a little heads up about its current state. Despite the upward trend of companies putting more effort into improving their workplace culture, Gallup reveals that only 33% of the population is currently engaged at work. This means that an astonishing 67% of employees are not engaged in their day-to-day work life.
It’s a problem, but the good news is, there’s a clear way to fix it.
And it starts with you.
We have a theory.
Leadership - for better or for worse - directly affects the level of engagement and commitment an employee feels towards their organization. In fact, 75% of employees who quit their jobs, quit because of their manager.
So, why is there so little attention given to the critical time when managers lay down the foundation for their leadership? We believe that the lack of attention given to preparing employees for their new role as manager is one reason why engagement has been mounting at such a sluggish pace.
On a more positive note, we believe that if more organizations offer employees the tools, support and resources they need to transition, we can change the outcome.
Leadership training needs to start before the role even begins.
How did you
become a manager?
There’s more than one way to become a manager. Whether you’re promoted internally or you’re hired as a first-time manager at a new company, the bottom line is that in one moment you’re an employee, and in the next moment you’re a new manager with an entirely different set of responsibilities and challenges.
Meet Mary, she’s a new manager just like you.
Mary was recently the star employee on the marketing team at her organization. Over the course of the past two years, Mary demonstrated a strong skill set and expertise in her trade that set her apart from her colleagues. At Mary’s second annual review, she was promoted to manager for the company’s marketing division. Honoured by the offer and the pay increase, she accepted and is now ready to get started in her new role.
You can become a great leader if you put the work into it
Ask all the questions you need regarding the nature and demands of your role.
Develop your soft skills & emotional intelligence.
Ensure that this is the best type of promotion for you, compared to something lateral.
Be certain that you want to lead a team.
The Promotion Problem
- Management is a trade in and of itself and it likewise requires preparation, coaching, and time to get right. Just because Mary was an expert in her field, It doesn't mean that she's ready to be a manager.
- Being a leader requires a unique skill set, and it’s not for everyone, especially those who do not have the will to learn to lead.
Yet in a snap, Mary is offered a promotion, given a raise, an office, and a team. She quickly realizes that she isn't sure of what comes next. She has a whole team of people depending on her but no clue what to do! Too ashamed to ask for help or clarification, Mary's stuck in a rut.
“Do you know how hard it is to be the boss, when you are so out of control! It’s hard to verbalize. It’s the feeling that all of a sudden… it’s the feeling you get when you have a child. On day X minus 1, you still don’t have a child. On day X, all of a sudden you’re a mother or a father and you’re supposed to know everything there is to know about taking care of this kid.”
Mary is not alone in this feeling, and neither are you. In our own survey, we found that 53% of managers said they did not feel like they had an accurate view of what it meant to be a manager when they got started in their role.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way.
We’re going to give you everything you need to set yourself up for success straight out of the gate.
It’s prep time
Now that we’ve covered the groundwork, let’s dig in.
Ok, but what does a manager do?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a manager as “a person responsible for controlling or administering an organization or group of staff”.
Let’s be honest, this definition just doesn’t cut it.
Being a manager is a complex, relationship-fueled position, and anything human in nature can’t possibly be reduced to one simple and clean definition. One thing that remains consistent across the board is that a manager’s role is ultimately to support and lead their people to be the best they can be. It’s not about the authority, the control or the power. In fact, if you’re in it for the glory or the title, it won’t work out.
Being a manager is about bringing out the best in people. That’s the bottom line. It’s a selfless, people-first, heart-driven role, and it’s worth every second of the complexity if you’re in it for the right reasons.
Every company comes with different expectations and with each team there will be a different set of challenges. At a high level, here are some of the main responsibilities of a manager.
According to our study, 40% of managers did not receive a clear list of responsibilities when they started.
High-level responsibilities of a manager*:
- Develop, support, coach, motivate and reward employees.
- Plan ahead and evaluate projects and tasks.
- Define (with employees) clear roles and responsibilities.
- Establish goals and performance standards.
- Create a healthy work environment by implementing and maintaining open lines of communication, work systems, policies and procedures.
- Network and act as a liaison between employees and upper management.
Transition smoothly from employee to manager.
The most important thing to understand about your role is that it’s changing. It’s not a continuation of your role as independent worker, and it’s not “doing your current role but better”.
Being a manager is an entirely new job.
“Suddenly I realize how much I didn’t know”, is a common lament during this transition, as Michael Watkins suggests. You’ll have a lot to learn, but it should be embraced for the great opportunity that it is.
For Mary, the transition from star employee to manager means a transition from:
Specialist / Doer
As a independent specialist, Mary was deep in the nitty gritty of the action, focused on the details and producing work.
Generalist / Orchestrator
As a manager, she’s out of the production process, focused instead on the bigger picture while coaching employees to reach personal and professional goals.
How to let go of the details.
Focus on “what” the deliverables are, and by “when” they need to be completed. Leave the details of “how” that gets done up to each person.
One challenge you might face in this transition is putting a hard stop to your old habits as an individual worker. Your initial instinct might be to jump into the work alongside your team and fix or even redo what they’ve done to reach goals. You’ll quickly realize that this isn’t sustainable. Ultimately, what it means to be a manager is to guide a team to reach goals so they can run autonomously.
“The greatest misconception about my new role was my job description. I quickly subjected myself to solving every problem that came my way. Someone is having difficulty learning a new technology? I can teach them. The project scope exceeds the team's capacity? I can balance the formula. I can now safely say that my job is no longer to fix things, it’s to guide and manage them.”
- Louis Bridgman, Software Development Manager at SAP
Get into the manager mindset.
Moving from a “doer” to a “generalist” all requires a considerable shift in your mindset.
As an independent contributor, your focus was your individual performance and success. Being a leader is a role that requires you to put the needs and development of others before your own.
Without bursting your bubble, it’s no longer about you. But that’s the beauty of the job. Watching others grow, learn and succeed because of your leadership will give you a more powerful sense of success than you ever felt as an individual contributor.
Your own success will now be measured by the success of your team and the professional growth of each individual employee.
Take care of yourself
As the airplane analogy goes, you have to put on your own oxygen mask before helping the person next to you. Meditating and practicing mindfulness are ways to alleviate stress and create clarity.
Servant leader mindset.
Focus on the needs of others before your own and accept your own success as the success of the team. It’s a bottom-up approach, instead of the traditional top-down. Think helpful guidance instead of commanding delegation.
Encourage your team to be curious, to learn continuously and reach beyond their limits. This will keep them engaged, creative and producing great results.
Being a manager does not mean being superhuman. In fact, it’s one of the most human-based roles out there. Be authentic with your team and allow yourself to be vulnerable. The more real you are with them the more real they’ll be with you. That’s when the magic happens.
Avoid comparing your employees strengths and weaknesses to your own.
Stay out of it:
Set clear deadlines, but leave the “how” up to your team.
Ask, don’t tell:
Ask questions more than giving answers to help employees learn.
Anticipate challenges, roadblocks and expectations down the line.
Listen to your gut:
Your instincts are probably right.
Be patient with yourself:
You’re new to this! Don’t be so hard on yourself, and try to have fun.
Don’t be shy, ask for help.
Unfortunately, many companies promote employees to a management role thinking that they’ll “figure it out” because they’ve always been great at everything else. It’s like thinking that because you know how to ride a bike, you’ll have no problem riding a motorcycle. There’s some continuity, yes, but at the base it’s an entirely different task!
So put any ego or fear aside and ask for the clarification and resources you need to start off on the right foot. The more you understand and prep for your role, arming yourself with the gear you need to take off smoothly, the more you and your team will succeed.
Your future self will thank you!
New Manager Preparation Checklist:
of the managers we surveyed said that they did not receive any training or coaching before starting out as a manager.
- Ask for a leadership coach: Becoming a successful leader is not always intuitive. It takes work. If you want to coach a team properly, you need a coach, too.
- Find a mentor within the organization: Find another manager you can turn to to discuss the role, what to expect and how to deal with challenges as you run into them. Having a support network is key to your success.
- Request a clear list of roles and responsibilities: Use this template and fill it out with your boss and HR so you have clear direction, and then get ready to go through the same exercise with every member of your team.
- Find out the current state of the team you’ll be managing: Hold individual interviews with your new employees to learn about everyone’s challenges and work styles before diving in. It’s a great way to individualize your leadership style per employee.
Busting the myths of management
Forget everything you think you know about your position. We clear up the most common misconceptions of management, so there are no big surprises.
Mary was under the false assumption that becoming a manager meant having more freedom and autonomy to do what she feels is best for the company. She was focused on the privileges and power that come with the title, believing that she would finally “no longer be burdened by the unreasonable demands of others”.
Becoming a manager actually means having less autonomy than when you were an independent employee because you now have a team and a boss. It’s what we call The Sandwich. Your job is no longer to get your work done autonomously, but to help a whole team reach their goals, while responding to the expectations of upper management. You have to manage both up, and down.
It’s a job that requires Mary to wear many hats. She’s no longer a subordinate, she’s a “subordinate, equal and superior”. She still has a boss, and now she is a boss too. This three-hat-balancing act takes some time to figure out, but the first step in conquering it is knowing to expect it, and understanding that the nature of the job is not as simple as having the final word and giving your approval. Being a manager is a role founded in relationships. Finding the time to balance each one will come with time and experience.
Now that you understand that the essence of your job is managing and balancing relationships, let’s look at how to run these relationships successfully.
Mary was under the misconception that she’d have control over her employees simply because she’s now the boss. But, thinking that employees will listen to her because ‘they have to” is a myth. So too is believing that achieving success in her role means maintaining this control.
Success isn’t your employees doing what they’re told because they have to. Success is your employees being personally committed to a course of action because they believe in you, and have fully bought into your vision and capability as a leader. The bottom line is that success comes from connection, not delegation, and your credibility as a leader has very little to do with formal authority in the end.
10 ways to earn the trust and respect of your team:
- Be transparent with motives and goals.
- Demonstrate your character and intention to do the right thing for your team.
- Put the team’s needs before your own.
- Help employees grow by letting them test, learn and fail without fear.
- Trust employees off the bat, don’t make them feel they have to earn it.
- Let yourself be vulnerable, and admit to mistakes.
- Use inclusive words like “we” to show that you’re part of the team, not above it.
- Collect continuous feedback from your team and take action quickly where change is needed.
- Be yourself - people respond best to authenticity.
- Be open to learning from your team - everyone will have something to teach you!
First impressions are lasting. Ease in to the team humbly by “asking” rather than “telling”. Learn about your employees, let them learn about you, and make it clear that you’re there to be part of the team, not for yourself.
Think of hard skills as your technical skills, and soft skills as your human skills.
Mary is sure that people will trust her direction due to her expertise, because it’s the hard skills and technical ability that will help her find success in her new role.
Your hard skills will now take a backseat to your soft skills. What matters more is your ability to help your team build up their own expertise – not do the job for them. Employees want to learn and grow, not be saved. In fact, jumping in with your own skills will usually be perceived as micromanaging.
Since the essence of your new manager role is relationship-driven, the skills required to excel as a leader are human-based. To be effective, you need to be open to learning about yourself, your vulnerabilities, emotional strengths and weaknesses. It takes discipline and commitment. If you commit to your own self-learning and nurturing your emotional intelligence (EQ), you’ll build the capacity to help others succeed. Try building your empathy by exercising it in day-to-day situations. For example, consider a point of view different from your own and come up with a strong argument to support it. Even if you don’t change your own perspective, this is a valuable exercise in critical thinking.
The 5 domains of EQ
by Daniel Goleman
- Self Awareness: Knowing and understanding your emotions
- Self-Regulation: Managing your emotions and the ability to think before you act
- Internal Motivation: Setting goals and motivating yourself to follow them
- Empathy: Recognizing and understanding emotions in others
- Social Skills: Building and handling relationships, collaborating and managing conflict
Behind the Scenes
Mary believes that she’ll remain center stage under the spotlight, but even more so now that she’s the boss. She looks forward to receiving more recognition than ever!
True success for managers comes from stepping out of the spotlight and moving behind the scenes! It means guiding a team from the bottom up and shifting the recognition that you’re used to receiving to others. A great leader is happy to let others shine and understands that their success is found in the reflection of their people’s accomplishments.
Learn more about Officevibe — the trusted sidekick of 50K managers around the globe to learn how their team really feels so they can take action in real-time
How to recognize your employees
Offer recognition on specific projects or incentives.
Recognize them publicly to expand appreciation and build a positive vibe on the team.
Encourage peer-to-peer recognition to help colleagues build relationships.
Give praise as close to the event as possible to keep it timely and relevant.
How to measure behind-the-scenes success
It might not always be tangible, but it will always be great.
The Curiosity Factor :
A professor measures their own success by how well their students perform, but even more so by the questions they ask in the classroom, and their desire to learn more.
In the workplace, seeing your employees test new initiatives, challenge ideas, and ask out-of-the-box questions is a great sign of success! It means that you’ve removed fear from their day-to-days. Curiosity and creativity thrive best in environments where people feel safe to dream big and fail without shame.
The Collaborative Vibe:
A dance instructor measures success by how well their students perform on stage as a cohesive whole, and not just individuals.
Brainpower is always stronger when it’s collective, this is why a team that supports each other and works together harmoniously to achieve goals will produce better results than a team that works in silos. Helping employees form bonds by creating a culture of trust, respect and vulnerability will ensure successful co-creation. Try holding open monthly retrospectives where employees can share their feelings on what worked well and what can be improved upon.