Many first-time managers find themselves leading a team because they were really good at their previous role. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the new demands of leadership. There are more meetings, more emails, more requests for guidance and more pressure on you to show that you can perform. To overcome these challenges, and to be a better manager, you need to be more deliberate, more intentional about your goals and the use of your time.
Here are five things for you to consider that can help you be a better manager.
1. Adjust your mindset
Take some time to consider what your new role requires. Ironically, now that you feel you have less time than before, it is even more important to plan some time to reflect. Your role is now to take a longer-term view. You need to think about where your team needs to be in 12 months and consider how best to get there. Reflect on your need for time to be clear about priorities, to plan ahead and to know your team goals so that you can respond effectively to your team.
Your focus is much more on how the team works together and, on the outcomes, rather than micromanaging the work of each team member. This can be a challenge because it is often your expertise in ‘the work’ that got you promoted. However, now you can’t do all the work yourself. Your role is to facilitate the work of your team and so your focus is on how to help make others successful. It will involve more listening than talking.
2. Start to build trust
The long-term success of a team is built on trust. If your team trust you, the team will be much happier, more productive and more willing to contribute ideas for improving things. A key mistake to avoid is the idea that because you are the manager, you have to have all the answers, that you have to be perfect. In reality, this is not really possible, and leads to burnout. It is much better to say ‘I’m not sure, but I will find out’, than to give a quick answer that turns out to be wrong.
Being prepared to admit you don’t know also gives your team members permission to acknowledge their own areas of weakness, rather than feel that any ignorance or error will immediately be punished in some way. Some other similar practices will really help you build the trust your team have in you – such as taking feedback on board, reprimanding team members in private (not publicly). Treating people the way that you would like to be treated, helping out when the workload is unusually high and accepting that your team makes mistakes are all excellent ways to build trust.
3. Understand your team
It is vital for your team to know that you are supporting them in achieving their personal goals too. You need to be concerned about your team as people. What are their goals? Do you know which team members prefer which forms of communication? Have a chat to each of your team members one-to-one on a regular basis. Ask what has worked well for them in the past, and hear what has not worked so well. Are there any major obstacles that your team are encountering that you may be able to resolve?
4. Establish the team goals
If the team fails to achieve its goals, then you fail as a manager too. Understand your manager’s priorities. What do they see as your key deliverables and what are the priorities from their perspective? How often would they like to hear from you, and in what form – a report, a phone call, email or face-to-face.
Take time to consider what you think your expectations of the team should be. What are your expectations of the team – their interactions with each other and their goals? What are your expectations of individuals – their individual goals, how much consultation versus initiative do you want?
Once you have that clear, consult with your own manager. You could also consider sharing your proposed expectations with one of your more experienced peers in the organisation. Finally, think about how you might consult with your team on your expectations. Finally, communicate your expectations clearly to the team.
5. Understand who your clients are
Whether your customer is internal or external, it is important to understand what they see as a priority. It is good to know how often they would like to hear from you, and in what form (report, phone call, email or face-to-face). Check who are the major clients (internal and external) in your manager’s view too.
These five tips are a starting point for adjusting your mindset. By becoming more intentional about your management practice, you can shape the culture of your team, building trust and increasing business performance. Trust and performance are the keys to long term success.
Dr Dominic McLoughlin FIML delivers people management training through his own business and various Universities.