The first time and mid-level manager has a special place in my heart for various reasons. I’d like to explain one of the top reasons. I see a phenomenon that occurs when someone is moved into management for the first time. He/she has been highly competent and dedicated in performing job tasks of a particular area. He/she is loyal to the company. It makes sense that there is a natural progression upward into a management position. In most cases, the employee knows the department well. He/she could probably work any position in that department. However, working in the department and managing the department are two different things. Furthermore, employers, upper management, CEOs, and owners do not have the time to mentor the new manager.
The new manager begins to ask these questions:
- “How do I meet these new demands from my superiors?”
- “How do I get the most out of who I am in charge of? Especially when they do not work as hard as I do?”
- “How do I supervise all these people who used to be my peers?”
- “Am I supposed to do their jobs and mine?”
Needless to say, the first time manager many times feels left out on an isolated island. I have heard many first time managers say. “I know the ins and outs of this department but nobody prepared me to supervise these people.”
Below are some essentials to help the first time manager. Mind you, this is a survival list…time, mentoring/coaching, and experience fill in the gaps.
Hold your agenda(s) loosely: I would venture to say that every first time manager, before becoming a manager, said something like this: “If I were in charge, I would…” When we are on the ground doing the job, we look up at management and have some opinions about how to manage our tasks. Once one moves up into management, he/she gets the 20, 000-50,000-foot view. Some of those opinions and agendas do not work in the big picture. You may have great ideas, but spend some time in your position first before implementing big changes.
Listen and get to know your new subordinates: Before making wide-sweeping changes and implementing new ideas, get to know who you are supervising. You may know some of them, but not all. Pay attention to what each one does. Make assessments about how your subordinates perform. How do they do their job? Listen to their complaints without becoming defensive or feeling insecure. Find out why each one works in your organization. By getting to know them and what they do, you allow them to feel human and you get to see what is working and not working.
Learn your authority role: What decisions do you have authority to make? Pay close attention to how your superior makes decisions. The more you know how he/she makes decisions helps you to relay to your subordinates what is expected of them. Begin to make decisions and see how your superiors react. See how your subordinates react. And, here is a key concept to note: In order to be in authority, you must be able to submit to authority. If you cannot submit to those above you, then you will not be in your position long.
Get help: Ask questions of those above you. Delegate to those below you. Ask advice from seasoned supervisors in other departments. Go outside your organization and talk with friends in similar positions. Get a mentor. HIRE A COACH (Coaching is the 2nd fastest growing business). There are many great coaches out there who can have a detached view and can help immensely. (Hint, hint…Growth Resources is great at this!)
Set healthy boundaries: Begin with holding subordinates to company policy. Believe in and stand by policy. Give your subordinates ownership in decisions…get agreements with policy – this helps with accountability. Delegate, delegate, delegate…do not try to do it all yourself. You will burn out fast. It is also easy to feel the burden of the new authority you carry. Set good boundaries around your time and do not overwork yourself. Leave shortly after closing time. The tendency is to feel all this pressure to stay late. If you over-work yourself, then you will not be the healthy leader your subordinates need.
Stay focused on the company mission and vision: You are the agent of implementing the company’s mission and vision. Know it, speak it often, show how it is being followed and how it is not. When it is not, ask those who are not following it, “Why?”.
Get educated: Take classes, courses, seminars in supervision. Read books. GET COACHING. You do not have to implement everything you read, hear and/or learn. But, learning different perspectives helps you expand your leadership abilities. Pick and choose what fits you and your organization.
Manage your time:
- Similar to setting healthy boundaries, you must manage your time. Here is a day in the life of a manager: You have a set of daily tasks to begin working. Someone comes in and needs you. You take care of that and then go back to your tasks. On your way back, someone else grabs you. You take care of his needs. Now, back to your tasks. Shortly in, you get a call from your superior to come in and talk. Once you have finished that, it is time for your weekly production meeting. Now, it’s lunchtime. Back from lunch you begin to start on your tasks again and someone else needs you. This repeats all day. When your day is done, you have only finished about one quarter of your tasks. Welcome to management. Set calendars, create boundaries for tasks, close your door every now and then. Figure out ways to give time to all of it instead of it taking all your time.
Manage your emotions: Oh crap! He’s going to talk about that touchy-feely stuff. Not necessarily. How you show up is how you will lead. If you are fighting with family at home, then it can affect your work. Do not stuff that emotion, be aware of it. If you come to work angry from home, recognize that work is not the problem, home is. Recognize how you are triggered and take responsibility for yourself. Okay, someone might be irritating or annoying. YOU are the one who decides how to react.
BE YOU!!: The first time one is in a supervisory role, he/she tends to take on much of the style of those who have supervised him/her in the past. And, most new managers tend to take on a persona or façade of how they perceive a manager is supposed to act. Be you! Yes, be bold, be strong, be knowledgeable, but also be humble, be caring, be thoughtful. Interject your personality into your management. People follow authentic leaders.
These essentials are just the beginning of your journey. However, in most cases, this list is already more than you were given (besides the keys to your new office) to support you in your new role. Put these into practice. Note what works and what doesn’t work. Give yourself grace and patience. Know that in the midst of a world of instant gratification, good management and leadership skills take time and experience to develop. In this fast-paced, impatient society, it takes these essentials to survive.