I’ve talked about leadership, competition and success in the past but I have rarely written about what you should do upon reaching a position of management. Managing people is not as simple as being a good leader. There are unique skills that are important to ensure that you are bringing the best out of your team. Here, I’ll break down some of the pitfalls that many new managers face.
Expectation is Everything
Something a new manager is likely to deal with is setting expectations. While this is talked about on occasion, it is rarely a focus of training. Setting expectations is key to make sure your team knows what they should do. So how, as a new manager, are you supposed to set out these guidelines from the get go?
First, you need to set realistic expectations for specific goals. As a manager, I always set my expectations just beyond what I thought my team could reach. They would work harder trying to make it to those particular goals, and when they failed, I told them we still did great as a team. Ensure you are not hurting moral by setting unrealistic goals and not rewarding great performances even if those goals are not met.
You should also set out a list of expectations for yourself and set them out for the team. I preferred to write this down in my office, hang it from the wall, and make sure that each of my employees knew it well. If I was not living up to my own expectations, why should I expect them to live up to theirs?
Be the Shield Bearer
Another issue new managers face is showing their team that they are protected. As a manager you are expected to take responsibility for the actions of your team. This can be good or bad depending on the actions of your team, but I’ve learned through my own experience that taking credit for the bad and passing along credit for the good is the best way possible to boost morale.
You can tell your team that you will take the brunt of what comes at them but until you show it through action they will not be confident. Ensure that you use actions to speak for you, or back up your claims, as words rarely carry the same amount of weight.
Open Lines of Communication
Above all else, spend time with each of your individual employees. Not outside of work, but in your office. Ask them to talk to you and let them do as much of the talking as possible. Let them tell you about the ups and downs they face. Give them a platform that is safe where they can talk about anything and everything. Explain that your door is always open but make it clear that this is their one chance to air their grievances, as well as their positive thoughts, without any judgment. Let them know that you are going to write this information down and work to ensure that things change for the better. Don’t try to defend the company in this particular discussion, simply listen to what they have to say.
A week or two down the road, call a team meeting and discuss what plans you have come up with based on their feedback. If you need to defend the company or specific practices at this point, simply explain why things are the way they are. Each manager will be different, but it is often wiser to not call out individuals when sharing feedback. Keep things anonymous to ensure that those lines of communication stay open.
Management is not something that comes naturally to all people. There are natural leaders that will have some advantage over others, but it is a skill that you can learn. Expect to make mistakes and let your employees know that you will all, as a team, make mistakes. Also inform them that you are all going to make mistakes because you are going to do something new and interesting. If you never mess up you aren’t trying anything new at all. It takes a team to be successful and you are just one part of the team. Know that you are the driving force on that team, the captain of the ship as it were, but you will get nowhere without a crew willing to work together and take direction. Study leadership and move forward. The harder you work, the more successful you and your team will be.
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