11 Ways to Succeed As a First-Time Manager

Updated Dec 21, 20225 min
11 Ways to Succeed As a First-Time Manager

11 Ways to Succeed As a First-Time Manager

Caroline BantonUpdated Dec 21, 20225 min
11 Ways to Succeed As a First-Time Manager

Congratulations if you have just become a first-time manager! Managing people can be hugely rewarding, but it requires top-notch leadership skills.

You might be lucky enough to have attended management training, in which case you can feel equipped and confident to lead in your new position. If not, fear not, because this article will help. We explain core attributes of good leaders, give practical ways to make a good first impression in a managerial position, and how to continue to earn the respect and trust of your reports.

Here are 11 ways to succeed as a new manager.

1. Declutter Your Mind

Making a good first impression will be half the battle in establishing yourself as a competent leader. But how do you earn the confidence of others with no management experience? To start with, you’ll have to declutter your mind and think strategically.

You have new responsibilities when you switch from being an individual contributor to a team manager. You are overseeing every aspect of a project or operations, employees and performance reviews, and perhaps remote teams. It is a manager’s job to have a vision and to guide their teams to achieve that vision. But doing so requires a new mindset, so decluttering your mind of your old role will help you think afresh.

Decluttering means you will have to relinquish much of what you did before. To manage, you have to delegate more of the hands-on work to team members so that you can focus on other things.

2. Recognize a New Relationship With Your Old Peers

It can be awkward the first time you are placed in a position of power where your ex-peers are concerned. You might feel lonely now that you are no longer one of them. Who should you sit with at lunch, for example, other managers or your old peer group? 

As long as you acknowledge both groups when having to choosing between sitting with one group or another, it really does not matter who you sit with. However, you should be aware that you can no longer be a "friend" to your old peers in the same way. Do what feels natural, and the dynamics of the relationship will fall into place. 

3. Delegate

Make delegating a priority skillset from the get-go to free up your time. You can no longer be mired in the details of projects and operations, you now need a broader perspective. 

When delegating tasks, assign tasks to people who are best suited to that task and who want to take on the task. Don’t make assumptions because if someone does not want a responsibility, they will not perform well. Resist the temptation to micromanage once you have delegated. Trust is mutual, so you should trust your reports to do their job but check in with them regularly.

Because you are no longer in the trenches, you will need people to give you accurate status reports. Establish a method for communications with your trusted reports to keep you in the loop. Be aware that often employees are reluctant to deliver bad news to a manager, so be diligent in asking for a complete picture so that small things that could be caught early do not spiral out of control.

4. Create a Safe Space for Feedback

Your success in a leadership role will depend on how well you build trust and respect among your teams. If they trust you, your teams will do what they can to bring your vision to fruition. They will maintain strong employee engagement, good morale, and a willingness to offer feedback. That feedback will prove invaluable to future decisions. Frontline workers have valuable insights and know exactly how a business strategy is playing out.

Everybody wants to be heard, so set up a system for staff to give feedback. An anonymous survey, a suggestion box, one-on-ones, informal coffee meetings. Make it a priority to reach out to staff and take the pulse of the mood within your teams.

Staff should feel safe when they give feedback. Otherwise, problems and conflicts are likely to be ignored and left to fester. In fact, delivering negative feedback or bad news should be seen as the first step to improvements.

Don’t delay giving constructive feedback to direct reports. A problem can fester if it is not dealt with swiftly. Similarly, organizational rumors can be devastating to morale. Try to be as transparent as possible as a manager to earn the trust of your teams.

5. Set and Explain Clear Goals

A good manager has a vision and sets milestones on the way to achieving that vision, but you need your team's hard work. You will only get the buy-in of your teams if they understand the vision, the reason for it, and believe that it is a good idea.

Here’s where your sales ability comes in. Hopefully, your ideas will benefit everyone involved and result in a win-win, but that needs to be clear to your teams. In some cases, it’s a good strategy to include employees, customers, and stakeholders in the product development process, or when deciding business strategy. They will appreciate that you value their input, and it might reveal risks that you might otherwise overlook.

6. Manage Your Calendar

Book thinking time for you on your calendar. As an individual contributor, you might have had plenty of time to focus on projects. As a manager, your calendar will be booked up with staff meetings, executive management meetings, meetings with clients, meetings with managers from other departments, and more.

These meetings are crucial because they will give you the context within which you must exercise management skills and make business decisions. You will also have to communicate this information to your teams so that they understand the reasoning behind corporate decisions.

Be vigilant in reserving time to process all that you learn from your meetings and interactions and plan how best to communicate that information to your target audience. What you do with the information and data you obtain will directly affect your success as a manager, so take your time to understand and apply it.

For more details on effective time management, read "8 Tips to Improve Your Time Management Skills

7. Be Willing to Learn

Your reports will be flattered and motivated if you acknowledge that they can teach you something. Take advantage of your team by being open to their ideas and their knowledge. You will become more enlightened, and they will become more confident, willing to check in, and keen to engage with your ideas.

8. Be a Coach More Than a Manager

This concept is grounded in a management style called “servant leadership.” It is where the leader serves for the greater good rather than prioritizing their own objectives. This means putting employees' needs ahead of your own. Rather than telling people what to do, act more as an advisor or coach in your management role. 

For example, if an employee is not performing well, ask them for their ideas on how they can do better, and let them come to their own conclusions and ways to improve. They might come up with a better plan than you.

Establish mentorships for staff so that they too can learn from each other.

9. Say Thank you.

Saying thank you is not just a pleasantry, it shows that you appreciate and noticed what someone has done. As a great manager, set an example by always saying thank you. Consider setting up a weekly or monthly event where each person thanks someone else publicly. It may seem trite to start with, but this open communication builds a culture of appreciation and willingness to help others simply by drawing attention to it. Why not shine the light on good deeds?

10. Seek Out a Mentor

It’s lonely at the top. As a new leader, you need support. Seek out someone who can mentor you and provide advice and then abuse that person unapologetically! You will need advice in the different realms of your new job, and you might need more than one sounding board.

For example, an experienced manager understands that some business decisions are based on what's best for the organization, and some are based on internal politics. The latter, unfortunately, plays a huge role in business strategy, so having someone who can explain any internal posturing you might find difficult to make sense of is invaluable.

11. Manage Your Manager

Last but far from least is managing your relationship with your boss. Here are tips for building a great relationship with your supervisor.

  • Establish good communication by understanding your boss's preferences for communicating. Do they prefer to be contacted by text, email, or phone?

  • Make sure the information you deliver to them in your managerial role is accurate and useful. 

  • When you have a one-on-one, only choose two or three things to discuss. Any more can seem like a laundry list of issues that you are failing to deal with.

  • When presenting a problem to your manager, offer three options for action with data to back them up. He is likely to pick one. That way, you are solving the problem for your boss.

These are some tips the first-time manager can follow, but there are many more. Remember that you are on a learning curve. It will take time for you to adapt to a new role and hone your leadership skills, so don’t be too hard on yourself as you navigate the halls of corporate management. Be an active listener, a servant leader, reach out for support, and you’ll be a successful manager with strong working relationships to support you.  

Caroline Banton
Expert on career acceleration and business topics with vast experience writing for globally-recognized publications

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