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Taking Your First Steps Into Management

Bob Little 

July 8, 2016

Everyone likes to think that their career is progressing – however slowly. But, when the chance comes for you to move into your first job in “management,” it’s tempting to relax and enjoy the view from at least part-way up the ladder of success.

Yet you can encounter a variety of unfamiliar pressures, including team leading and budgeting. Those who’re in the team you’re now leading may remember you as a colleague – which can pose issues for everyone concerned.

Two Key Management Questions

Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, authors of the book, “First, Break All the Rules,” advise new managers to answer two key questions:

  • Do I know whats expected of me at work?
  • Do I have the resources I need to do my work correctly?

Buckingham and Coffman recommend that you:

  • Bring your department together to discuss the change
  • Acknowledge that this transition will mean everyone adjusting to new roles.
  • Outline what your team members can expect from you and what you expect from them.
  • Share your vision for the department, outlining any specific goals that your boss has asked you to meet.
  • Describe how you want your people to work as a team. 
  • Don’t have favorites.
  • Focus on establishing strong relationships with each key member in your team.
  • Rebuild any strained relationships with your former colleagues.
  • Help your team gain the resources it needs.
  • Focus on achievable goals that show you’re aware of your new team’s needs.
  • Becoming a manager shouldn’t involve you undergoing a change of character. It’s merely a change of role.

It’s important to remain “authentic,” as well as accessible to your team members. Yet there’s one area where, as a newly appointed manager, you may need to change – in your attitude and approach to your self-development.

External Appointment vs Internal Promotion

Hugo Heij, head of IMLS Coaching & Consulting and a member of Fluid Business Coaching, says, “When it comes to filling management vacancies, organizations can either hire a professional from ‘outside’ or promote internally. If they promote internally, the issue becomes, ‘How do we train that person – and develop their knowledge and skills so they can be effective, as a manager and leader?’

External hires come with credentials which should include external qualifications – so you know you’re hiring someone who’s competent. But promoting an internal candidate may mean that that person has no formal management qualifications. They may be the best performer at their current job, but becoming a manager requires other skills. It’s probably taken them five years or more to become a top performer at their former role but organizations seem to expect that person to assume the mantle of ‘the perfect manager’ instantly.”

Hugo advocates an L&D program for new managers that includes formal teaching, augmented by guidance such as coaching and mentoring, as well as a hefty dose of self-development activities.

“Of all the elements of a manager’s job, leadership is a key skill. New managers may be excellent at the manual tasks of their previous role but struggle to motivate and lead a team efficiently and effectively.

“In my experience, these people – perhaps because of their work experience up to this point – tend to be reactive. They wait for their organizations to send them on a management training program. Yet, to be successful, they must be more proactive in developing their knowledge and skills – and, thankfully, there are many self-development materials available these days.”

In addition to the “traditional” self-development material of (business) books, Hugo – an avid reader – also recommends reading relevant blogs (including Mind Tools’) and watching business-related YouTube™ videos. He particularly recommends the business book reviews on YouTube.

He adds that being reactive in self-development terms isn’t entirely the preserve of newly appointed managers. He says, “As a business coach, I’m surprised at how few people actively develop their business knowledge and skills – especially when there’s so much development material available via a number of delivery mechanisms.

“When it comes to leadership development, people who’re leaders – or would-be leaders – need to take ownership of their own development. Always work harder at developing yourself than you work at your job!

“Then, you should make a point of sharing your new knowledge and skills with your colleagues. That should lead to mutual sharing and peer development – which can always be enhanced by more formal coaching and mentoring.”

Hugo’s advice for would-be self-developers is: having completed some self-development activity, such as reading a book or a blog post, ask yourself:

  • What are the key “take-aways” from this?
  • What one thing am I now going to do differently?

Tips for Management Development

Richard Lowe, director of Training & Digital Learning, who made his foray into management some years ago at the UK’s Automobile Association, says, “I’ve stood in those shoes and, later, as head of L&D, designed and overseen programs for new managers.

We shouldn’t forget the employer’s responsibility in all this. From both an L&D and organizational perspective, employers have a responsibility to prepare their ‘first time’ managers for their new roleThis isn’t simply best practice. It also protects the employer from poor management practices that can lead to disputes – which can end in court.

Every manager needs a proper – and relevant – management on-boarding experience. External programs can be beneficial but an organization-specific, tailored approach is far more relevant and pragmatic. This experience must cover the core management skills of leading, managing and coaching a team, as well as the policies and processes managers must follow to meet their organizational accountabilities. It must also cover the strategy and the role of a manager in meeting the organization’s goals and values.

“There should be meetings with other managers who’ll be key to their success.

Id also advise that new managers receive an internal mentor perhaps a middle manager to help them to succeed. This mentor must be detached, objective and non-judgmental, as it’s important that first-time managers are given space to air their concerns, frustrations, issues, and challenges.

Finally, don’t forget that every culture is different and how you succeed in one organization will differ from how you succeed in another. So it’s important that management culture is also discussed – before bad practices and behaviors become embedded.

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One comment on “Taking Your First Steps Into Management”:

  1. Modon Das wrote:

    The document is really helpful for the newly appointed and even old Manager in the post.