Wednesday, December 7, 2016

10 Tips for New Managers

When you transition into a management role for the first time, it can be a shock. The day to day activities of a supervisor are quite different from those of an individual contributor. A while back I wrote a list of the top mistakes that new managers make, so here is the companion to that list – 10 things you should do when you take on a management position:

1. Get to Know Your Team – Even if you were promoted from within the team, you need to take a look at the individuals who report to you with fresh eyes. Request their personnel files from HR including previous performance reviews, job descriptions, resumes and any other information that can help you get a more accurate picture of their skills and history with the organization.

2. Find Out What You’re Being Measured On – All companies measure their own performance and seek to improve it. No matter what industry you are in, your company has targets and goals that you need to be aware of in order to be successful. One of the primary roles of a manager is to steer their team towards the broad objectives set by upper management. If you don’t know what they are, you can’t be effective. To get this information, schedule a meeting with your direct manager and get to know exactly what metrics matter to your team.

3. Establish Status of Projects and Initiatives – The day you walk into a leadership position, you become responsible for the results of your team. Don’t get blindsided by a project or initiative that has gone off the rails. Get your team together and go through all major initiatives so you are up to speed on the status of each one, and any obstacles or challenges that might prevent your department from meeting their goals.

4. Put Vendors on Notice – Contact anyone who sells anything to your department and let them know that there’s a new sheriff in town. Let them know that you plan to review all contracts, and if they would like to submit revised bids or update you with their best pricing, now is the time.

5. Make Changes Slowly – While it’s tempting to jump in with both feet and start changing everything that looks wrong, it’s worthwhile to uncover the reasons behind existing processes and procedures before you turn everything upside down. First get a baseline impression of how the team performs using existing procedures, and then implement new initiatives one at a time so you can measure the results and see what works and what doesn’t.

6. Meet with Each Team Member – Have a one-on-one meeting with each member of your team and get to know what they are working on, how they feel about their job, what they would like to see changed and what they think works well currently. You may not implement every suggestion, but starting off with your ears open being receptive to feedback will help you foster a collaborative environment among your team members.

7. Set Goals – Each person on your team (yourself included) should have a goal plan which includes short and long range initiatives. Wherever possible these should line up with larger organizational initiatives. Have big goals for your team as a whole, and break them down into smaller chunks to spread the load.

8. Spend Time in the Field – Get a picture of a day in the life of each of the individuals on your team. Get to know what they spend their time doing, what processes work well and what things are frustrating. The management axiom “never ask someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself” only works if you know what your people are doing.

9. Reach Out to Your Customers – In addition to soliciting feedback from your team, get to know your customers. If you are managing an internal support department (IT/HR), sit down with other department managers. Find out how the people who use your products or services feel about your organization, your team’s performance, and their historic interactions with your group.

10. Ask for Feedback – Starting any new job can be nerve wracking – don’t wait 6 months to find out if you’re meeting your managers expectations. Schedule a meeting once a week or every other week for the first few months to make sure that you are getting the feedback you need to stay on track. Let your manager know that you are open to making adjustments and are receptive to constructive criticism.

Adjusting to being a manager can be challenging. Make sure you get the resources you need to be successful. Use your network of friends, mentors and professional associations to find out how others have faced the obstacles you encounter, and keep a positive attitude. Ask whether coaching or consulting is available through your HR department or outside resources to help you stay on track. Check out my list of recommended reading for new managers for more tools and resources!

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