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General Advice for First-Time Managers

It's not easy to find your feet as a first-time manager. Adapting new skills and learning how to manage people takes time and patience! Here’s our advice on mistakes to avoid and how to excel in your new role!

Becoming a manager for the first time can seem daunting. For most first-time managers, it’s their first time being responsible for other people and their work efforts and operations. Not only do they have to ensure that their team is performing, but they also have to meet the expectations of their own manager. There is often a knowledge gap that needs to be filled, as being a manager requires a completely different skill set.  

We hope to guide first-time managers through the transition from employee to manager with ease and confidence. After speaking to managers and team leaders here at Celayix, we’ve put together some tips and general advice. 

Common Mistakes that First-Time Managers Make 

No first-time manager gets it right the first time – there is always a learning curve. However, knowing some of the common pitfalls to avoid can help speed up that learning process. 

Failing to Adapt New Skills 

Something that most first-time managers fail to realize, is that the skills they needed as an employee are not necessarily the skills they will use as a manager. As we mentioned above, being a manager requires a whole new skill set. Yes, your knowledge of the role and how your team should be performing is crucial, but there are new skills needed. Of course, these skills will differ depending on the team you’re managing and the industry you operate in. However, all first-time managers should focus on improving their listening skills, their people management and their project management skills. Unfortunately, it’s easy for first-time managers to fail here, as they are generally promoted based on their stellar performance in their previous role.  

Failure to Delegate 

It’s pretty common for first-time managers to micromanage their team. Often, feeling the pressure to perform and impress in their new role leads to managers take on all of the responsibility for the team and fall into micromanagement. Essentially, they end up thinking “I” instead of “we”. Of course, this can lead to a tough environment for team members. Emotions are ignored, other opinions are overshadowed and any team comradery vanishes. First-time managers are sometimes hesitant to delegate to their team or empower their teammates. They like to maintain control over everything which ultimately leads to poor performance from the rest of the team.  

Poor Leadership Development 

While this “mistake” is not always the fault of the first-time manager, it’s very common across organizations. According to Development Dimensions International, people are 40 years old by the time they go through leadership training. However, on average, people become managers or leaders at 36. This leads to a period of time filled with failure, which creates a negative path for themselves and their teams. Leadership training should be provided to all first-time managers prior to them assuming their new responsibilities. If you work for a company that fails to provide this, be sure to fight to complete an external course covered by your company.  

Advice for First-Time Managers 

No first-time manager will be successful from day one. Let’s break down some of the most important advice that any manager should adhere to. 

Communication & Relationships 

As we all know, communication is key for any workplace. Specifically for first-time managers, learning to communicate in a new role is essential. When you become a manager, your relationships with your colleagues change. It’s difficult for both parties to adapt to these changes. First-time managers often struggle to transition from equal to senior of their employees. Equally, employees often struggle to follow managerial advice from someone who was previously their equal. When you’re promoted to a first-time manager from within, you might now be managing someone you previously gossiped with. Establishing new boundaries and learning to communicate in a new way is so important.  

Finding a balance between friend and manager is hard, but absolutely essential to success. You will quickly learn that some information is confidential, and decisions cannot be clouded by personal judgment. In fact, sometimes having a conversation with a team member is necessary in order to establish boundaries. You also have to establish your role as a leader in order to have a team that respects you and works hard to be productive. 

The Importance of Feedback 

As a first-time manager, you’ll find yourself providing regular, valuable feedback to your team. However, on the flip side of that, receiving feedback as a manager is equally important. It can be difficult at first to ask for and receive feedback as a new manager, but in the long run it will improve your leadership skills. Taking the time to assess your own strengths and weaknesses sets a strong example for your team and ultimately leads to a better work environment.  

As an employee, consider how amazing it would be to be able to tell a manager where they excel and where you think improvements could be made. Giving your employees and teammates this voice empowers them and enables them to feel like a contributor to the team. Your skills improve over time, and team spirit is strengthened.  

Building Trust 

As a first-time manager, it’s crucial to build trust with your team. This can happen in many ways, and related to the point above, providing regular feedback can help here. According to a survey from PWC, almost 60% of workers would like feedback on a daily or weekly basis. Some managers have monthly or yearly reviewers where they take the time to provide feedback. However, this may not be enough. Providing feedback in a timely manner can help improve productivity and overall results on projects or tasks. As a manager, you can help prevent roadblocks, provide advice and improve overall outcomes.  

As well as using feedback as a means to build trust, there are other steps you can take as a first-time manager. Transparency certainly helps cultivate trust within a team. If everyone knows what’s happening and why, it helps the team understand what their purpose is. When making decisions, break them down to your team and explain the implications and reasoning etc. While we discussed boundaries earlier and understanding what should and shouldn’t be shared, it is important to share with your team to an extent. Working to find that balance is key as a first-time manager.  

Eventually, you will find your feet as a manager and develop into a strong leader. With the right skills and work ethic, you can lead any team to success, regardless of your experience.

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