It’s the old adage, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Taking on your first managerial position is a lot like that. You’re familiar with the view from “below” – as the employee working with your manager. But once you become a manager, the view changes. How can you prepare for this transition and be successful in your new position?
Before even applying for the new role, talk to others in your organization about the position. What are the challenges? How much time is spent on different aspects of the job, like people management or strategic responsibilities? Is there a career path (the job after this job)? Which skills are most important for you to be successful?
Every ending is accompanied by a beginning. There is, however, usually an in-between place, where you feel neither here nor there. Even after you are in the new job it can feel awkward for a while. That’s natural. Planning can help you through that period. Here are some ideas that can ease the way.
Draw up a list of questions and meet with your manager. Share expectations, both what is expected of you and what you need from them. Ask how your position fits into the company and department goals. Plan regular check-in meetings. These will probably be more frequent at first as you’re settling into the position. Discuss short-term and long-term goals.
Look for someone in your organization who has a similar job, especially if it was their first managerial position. This person can give you perspective as well as advice on how to succeed in the role. It’s also helpful to have someone outside your part of the organization with whom you can share concerns.
When you’re promoted into managing people who were recently your coworkers, the transition can be a bit trickier. Some former colleagues may resent your promotion, others won’t. Spend time thinking about each individual and how you will approach your new relationship.
Obviously, a big part of your first managerial position will involve managing people. As a new supervisor, plan on having one-on-one meetings with each of your direct reports. In many ways, these discussions will mirror the same talk you had with your manager. You want to learn about everyone’s personality, how they mesh with their job and their strengths. Ultimately you want to understand what type of leadership they need to make them successful.
Remote and hybrid working arrangements throw a little twist into your direct report relationships. Spontaneous conversations can easily happen in the office but not so much when everyone is working from home. Schedule regular times to touch base, maybe more often for newer employees than more tenured people. Keeping an “open door” policy in a remote working environment may mean emphasizing to your people that you are always available for questions or to chat. Maybe ask your employees to tag or copy you on more important issues. You don’t want to micromanage, but you don’t want to be distant. It’s a delicate balance. Your behavior will differ with each direct report. Of course, apart from scheduled one-on-one meetings, you can talk to your team, whether by video or a quick phone call, any time.
Many new managers think the job is all about managing people. That’s a big part of it, to be sure, but there’s a bigger picture. As a manager you’ll be overseeing the goals of your piece of the business and developing strategy to make you and your people successful. You’ll be meeting with colleagues and other managers. It’s exciting because you’ll see how you’re able to make an impact.
This is your first managerial role. You’re not going to do everything perfectly! So, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Most things are not a “911” situation. Take a step back and realize it’s okay to make mistakes. You can be sure that someone else has made that same mistake and they can help you fix it. Know the resources available in your organization so that when you do need help, you know who and where to go to.