Become a successful first-time manager

Congratulations you have been promoted to a management position! What a great opportunity for you. If this is the first time you have supervised people you may want some tips about this transition. Getting your own work done on time and with high quality is one thing getting other people to do that is another challenge. Supervising people is all about clarity, relationships, communication and focus.

If you have been working at the organization and now have received a promotion to supervisor, you may have some special challenges if the people reporting to you were previously your colleagues and maybe even good friends. In this situation, clarity, focus and communication will be critical. You already have a relationship and it is a good thing. Just know that you now have accountability for providing clear, useful and meaningful feedback to these people.

If you are new to the organization and it is your first time supervising others you know that you need to listen, learn and gather understanding about the environment, culture and individuals. You have an opportunity to meet lots of people in the organization and be visible as you acclimate to your new working environment.


Cartoon with check mark

  • clearly understand deliverables
  • frequently communicate
  • be sincerely engaged
  • provide immediate feedback
  • commit to continuous learning

Cartoon with x mark

  • make assumptions about your employees
  • avoid communicating
  • micromanage your employees
  • be the technical guru
  • play games

Beverly Obenchain‘s recommendation to ExpertBeacon readers: Do

Do clearly understand deliverables

Do clearly understand what you and your employees are accountable for delivering.Often this is assumed and not clearly discussed. Take the time to listen to what your employees want to achieve and how they can achieve it. Listen to your boss and what their goals are and clearly set expectations about what you and your team will accomplish. Sometimes this may take some reconciliation of perspective and realism with all parties involved. You are the conduit to create clarity and subsequently successful delivery of results. When all parties are clear about the goals, strategies and actions expected, it creates a foundation for being productive and results-oriented.

Do frequently communicate

Clearly and frequently communicate with your boss and your employees regarding progress and their perceptions. Encourage open dialogue and listen to your employees' ideas, issues and concerns. Give them freedom to get the work done while still being available for guidance. Priorities may change often in some organizations. This requires good communication to keep the team working on the right things as well as getting good work accomplished. Stay in touch with everyone.

Do be sincerely engaged

Be sincerely engaged and interested in learning the person’s perspective when listening to your employees and your boss. It is important to get to know your employees, boss and colleagues, as people with lives outside of work as well as at work. Building good relationships with everyone will make your work and their work easier and more productive. Having good relationships does not mean you have to be best friends with everyone, or go out socially or share all of your personal feelings and events. A good relationship is constructive, productive and self-corrective for both people and engages in mutual understanding.

Do provide immediate feedback

Provide immediate feedback to employees for work performed. Be a good manager and coach. Your job is to bring out the best in yourself and your employees. Provide specific, useful and meaningful feedback to your employees on a consistent basis. Feedback is useful and meaningful when it is
1. timely – provided immediately or very soon after the performance or behavior has occurred.
2. clear and delivered in a caring manner
3. easy to understand and act upon.

Do commit to continuous learning

Engage a senior manager to be your mentor, seek out management training and/or a coach. There is no single recipe for good management that works for everyone in the same way. Being yourself and learning more about best practices in management will help you develop your knowledge and skills to be a great manager. Managing other people is an art and a science and can be very rewarding. There is no question that all organizations need more great managers. By continuing to learn, apply, revise and try again, you can become a great manager.

Beverly Obenchain‘s professional advice to ExpertBeacon readers: Don't

Do not make assumptions about your employees

One of the biggest mistakes new managers make is assuming everyone understands clearly what is expected and that they will do it. This is a pitfall. Minimizing your communication with your employees is the road to failure. You want to take the time to communicate clearly with each employee, your boss and other stakeholders about accountability and expectations.

Do not avoid communicating

Avoid communicating with your employees regarding performance or behavior. Often new managers are uncomfortable communicating to their employees about the employees' performance or behavior, whether positive or negative. Remember, you get the behavior and performance you tolerate. When you don’t provide useful and meaningful feedback to your employees consistently, you are essentially asking everyone to “play darts in the dark”. Learn how to provide useful and meaningful feedback and get comfortable providing it routinely.

Do not micromanage your employees

Another big pitfall is micromanaging. As a new manager you may feel uncomfortable having someone else do work you know a lot about and want to make sure it is done correctly. Beware, if you micro-manage the work, you are not doing your work which is to be the manager. So, then you have failure on two fronts: 1) the employee doesn’t get the opportunity to do good work and 2) you don’t do good work as a manager. You want to understand each employee, assign them work and allow them to use their abilities and knowledge to deliver the work on time and at the quality required.

Do not be the technical guru

Often a person gets promoted to manager because they have done excellent, high-quality technical work. This is can be a severe handicap when learning to manage people. Research is consistent that good managers have sufficient technical knowledge. That is, they do not try to be the technical experts because that can dis-empower their employees very quickly. It also takes time away from being a great manager.

Do not play games

Don’t play games with people, be ambiguous or try to impress everyone with being something you are not. Always be yourself. Engaging in political games or gossip is a quick way to lose credibility and crater your career and degrade your ability to be a good manager. Managing other people is important work and requires you to understand the basics of management and then apply them in a fair and useful manner. It is not about being tricky or trying to make people believe you are something you are not. Managers do not have all of the answers to all of the questions all of the time.


Your first opportunity to manage people is often challenging. However, it can also be very rewarding, leading to a great career. There are pitfalls in managing people that you want to avoid, but more important is to practice and hone your skills around providing clarity, building relationships, communicating with everyone and bringing focus and meaning to the work.

Similar Posts