Congratulations! You have been promoted to a management position for the first time. You've undoubtedly worked hard and come a long way to get here.
Now, you must transition from the duties of an individual contributor to the responsibilities of a manager and leader.
When you're an individual contributor, your primary responsibility is executing. In short, you are DOING the work.
As a manager, the nature of the role is the opposite—managing and delegating the work. In short, making sure the job gets done.
You are now a stakeholder.
Switching into a management role is a significant change. The way you approach your entire workday will shift. It's normal and inevitable to make mistakes. What is essential, though, is that you learn from mistakes and grow as a result of them.
So, let's jump into it.
Being a manager means always communicating and giving constructive feedback. First-time managers often fall short in offering valuable feedback regularly as it’s never been a normal part of their day. So they will often wait until formal or scheduled one-on-one meetings to give feedback instead.
For example, if an employee makes a mistake or didn’t complete a task adequately, they may wait until the next formal meeting to mention it. By then, the error may be rectified and forgotten entirely. This approach provides no coaching or learning opportunities for the employee. As a result, the mistake will likely be made again.
New managers should remember that great managers know how to seize an opportunity for a impromptu coaching and feedback session. Not to mention, employees love receiving constructive feedback; studies show that receiving regular and meaningful feedback is crucial to employee engagement.
New managers are no longer the “doers” of the work. Now, their responsibility is the opposite; to manage the work. The problem: New managers sometimes stay stuck in the mindset of an executor. Simply put, they are still carrying out all the work.
This tendency for new managers stems from the inclination to remain in an “executor” mindset—after all, it’s what they’ve known for years. Moreover, it is sometimes rooted in anxiety over controlling the outcome of the work. As a result, new managers have a hard time relinquishing control over a task.
This bias leads new managers to apply a micromanagement style of leadership, as they may not fully trust their team and are afraid to hand over control. This lack of trust is often misplaced, however, and is merely a result of the pressure of being accountable for the results of the team.
New managers are often concerned with proving themselves to their superiors. This inclination is natural, and of course, a good sign they are putting effort into their new role. However, proving yourself shouldn't undermine the relationship a manager has with their team members. Said in another way, new managers shouldn't be so busy trying to get things done that they neglect the needs of their workers.
To counteract this inclination, new managers should make giving regular praise and recognition a priority. These efforts will pay off as employees who are offered genuine appreciation and gratitude are more focused and motivated to complete their responsibilities and tasks. They are also more likely to be happy and satisfied with their work environment overall.
We often hear that new managers make the mistake of being overly nice with their team, treating them like buddies, and no different than they did before.
Although it’s important to remain kind, open, and genuine with your team, new managers must learn to assert their position as manager, which means keeping a certain level of professionalism around their team. This is a fine line to walk for a new manager, though, as you don’t want to come across as disingenuous and rigid—or worse, arrogant and overconfident.
Needless to say, new managers will go through trial and error when it comes to balancing distance and closeness with their employees. It happens to all new managers, but they will eventually find a sweet spot that works for them.
When they are individual contributors, employees rarely have to worry about how the mental well being of their fellow peers impacts their work. When you become a manager, however, you’ve been tasked with ensuring the work gets done.
New managers often place too much focus on managing the workload. As a result, they fail to acknowledge the daily realities of their human capital, i.e. their employees, and how much their individual experience impacts productivity.
New managers should keep in mind they are managing people, each with their own personal lives, goals, aspirations, and motivation. So, they must regularly make time to ask their team how they are doing, if there is something that’s impacting their performance, how can they help make their life easier, etc. In short, new managers must remember to check-in to offer moral and intellectual support. Putting employees first is the best route to get the job done.
One of the responsibilities of a manager is to deliver short-term results, usually on a quarterly basis. Naturally, new managers will often get very fixated on meeting their short term performance goals. After all, they want to make a good impression and prove themselves quickly.
The consequence: New managers fail to connect and work towards the bigger picture. This tendency is problematic, as striving towards a larger goal is an integral part of creating psychological safety at work. It gives a sense of purpose and meaning to the team. Ultimately driving employee dedication and productivity.
In short, when new managers neglect to zoom out to the bigger picture, it can result in employees feeling their responsibilities and tasks are tedious and trivial—creating a sense of purposelessness and workers becoming mentally tired, and eventually, totally burnt out.
Everyone at work tweaks their behaviour to remain appropriate in the professional environment; that's simply called emotional intelligence and being able to "read a room" and adjust your behaviour accordingly.
However, it can become a problem when a new manager cannot relax and just be themselves. This manager "mask" can manifest as a dulled-down version of themselves, lacking in character and personality. Or it can be the complete opposite, as an aggrandized version of their temperament. This tendency can undermine a manager's goals for a few reasons; first, an individual who acts inauthentically is not the most approachable or likable.
Second, wearing a "mask" to work may unintentionally spread the message to other employees that hiding one's "real self" is best practice. As a result, employees may feel they cannot relax and be themselves at work either. When everyone is putting up a front, employee happiness and engagement is sure to suffer as a result.
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