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Advice for first time manager on how to be successful from day 1

You’ve just been made a manager and what you have to look forward to is a new set of headaches and rewards. However you achieved your new position, whether by desire or default, everything will change.

Making the shift to management will tax all of your abilities. You’ll be required to juggle issues ranging from deadlines to personalities, profits and loss. These will present a challenge every day.

There are certainly advantages in being a manager including more pay, greater authority, and respect! Unfortunately, there’s a downside: more hours, greater responsibility, and questions over every decision you make.

As a manager, 95 percent of your job will be motivating people in some fashion, often to do their jobs. The other 5 percent of your time will involve your budget.

As you’re already aware, an office is a loose collection of personalities with competing interests, each working to do what’s best for themselves. If you have landed a management position where people are working selflessly for the greater good of the company, count your blessings.
While it would be tempting to treat every person you supervise the same, or lump them into convenient categories, you can’t and succeed at your job.

A lot of management advice is based on generational differences and needs. For Baby Boomers, this assumes that work is first and foremost. Gen X’ers, on the other hand, favor setting their own hours and are difficult to coach. Finally, every Millennial expects a lot of positive feedback as they position themselves to take your job.

Of course, it’s going to be impossible to establish ground rules that will cover everyone within these separate groups. That’s why it is critical to find out early on: who is on your team, what their abilities are, where their interests lie, what their goals are, and determine that they’re in the right job.

One practice that can pay huge dividends is giving honest input on a regular basis. Whether it’s providing praise to team members when it’s appropriate or criticism when it’s needed, people want to know how they are doing and, as a result, where they stand. You should also invite the same kind of input from your team.

This information exchange will help you build the rapport you’ll need when your team members show up angry, depressed, surly, unmotivated or showing signs of some other emotional conflict.

While attitudinal swings are inevitable, there is something else happening in your office that is far more undermining: employee unrest.

A Gallup study reports 70% of the workforce is “unengaged” from their jobs or actually “hate” what they’re doing. As if this weren’t enough of an obstacle, Adam Vaccaro’s story in Inc. reveals 51% of 100 million workers (roughly) are “actively seeking” or are considering looking for another job.

So now you have to divide your attention to determine if your team is doing their jobs effectively and make any required adjustments, and create an environment to keep them from walking out the door. These are the challenges of management.

What follows are steps you might want to consider starting on Day 1.


Do introduce yourself

Aloof doesn’t work. You need to take the initiative and reach out to your team. This is a necessary first step. Think of it this way: humans are essentially pack animals. And every pack needs an Alpha, someone to lead. That leader is you. You just need to figure out how to be “of” the pack and “lead” the pack at the same time.

Do make your vision clear

Managers are hired to lead. And in order to actually lead you have to be going somewhere. Make it very clear how you intend to finish the project, deliver the product, or complete the process. If people are clear about the goal, they’ll figure out their role and the most efficient way to contribute.

Do discover their priorities

This will require a little detective work, but try this: find out what your individual team members are supposed to do, what they actually do, and what they aspire to do. Consider the stockroom clerk who was assigned to IT because of his programming skills, when, if fact, he wanted to do marketing. Not everyone is doing what they should be doing. They could be making a greater contribution.

Do be accessible

There’s a difference between an Open Door policy and an “open door” policy: one’s real and the other is a frustrating fiction. If you are doing your job as manager properly, your goal is to make your team as efficient and productive as possible. Essentially, you are there to solve team problems. And if you’re not accessible, problems will mount up and get ugly, quickly.

Do make the final decision

Most people aren’t shy about voicing their opinions. And that’s okay, as long as your team doesn’t turn into a debating society. Remember the “pack” reference earlier. You were elevated to be the Alpha for a reason. Just be clear in your reasoning and firm in your resolve. And if your decision doesn’t work, try something else. If you are rational in your decision-making, you can usually get your team to go along.


Do not check out

People pay attention to what you are doing, especially members of your team. If you are in the office actually working, you’ll set a positive example. On the other hand, if you are absent for long periods of time doing who knows what, you’ll lose whatever respect you had from your team and they will start looking for another job.

Do not bully

There are any number of ways to get things done: planning, praise, cash. One way to not get projects delivered and kill morale is to bully your team. This approach takes on many forms: yelling, intimidation and threats. If you find yourself resorting to this kind of behavior, rethink what you’re doing. It’s not good for you, the team or the company.

Do not hand off responsibility

This typically happens when a manager lets a team member make decisions because the manager is too busy or simply not interested. Don’t be this manager. This will sow the seeds of dissent because the person making decisions isn’t authorized and the manager will be seen as weak and easily undermined.

Do not let things slide

There is nothing more frustrating that letting a project go on past deadline, or never establishing a deadline. It negatively impacts customer trust, team morale and the bottom line. So keeping your team accountable isn’t pestering or whining; it’s doing your job. At some point, decades from now, they may even think: thank you.

Do not make surprise decisions

No one likes to be caught off guard, especially at work. If your team is running smoothly, it is likely the result of good communications. So imagine their irritation when you announce a decision that didn’t include them in formulating, and runs contrary to the team’s efforts and beliefs. They’ll wonder: what’s next?

Jumping cartoon

Being a manager is a risky proposition. Being a first-time manager means that the learning curve will be steep and ongoing. Your successes will be more apparent and public, just like your defeats. Management places you in a unique position. While you are still of the group, you are expected to be above it: evaluating the group’s performance, correcting its behaviors, and accepting responsibility for its outcomes. In the end, your new position is about creating an environment for people to get their jobs done.

More expert advice about Management and Leadership

Photo Credits: chagin/; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Michael KerriganFounder and President

Michael Kerrigan is founder and president of LifeTime Services, LLC, and He has been a career coach since 2004 and has worked directly with more than 1,000 people in some phase of job development or employment transition. ...

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