How to Navigate the Challenges of Being a First-Time Manager
Many first-time managers often struggle with the transition from individual contributor to team leader.
Being an expert in your field was likely a reason you were hired into a management position. However, a manager focuses on harnessing the skills and potential of employees, rather than excelling in a technical role. This means the approach that got you into management will not necessarily make you a successful manager.
Let it go
Team members want to feel valued. First-time managers will often have trouble letting go of their technical expertise and adapting to a new role. Managers that have their mind set on continuing in the role of expert will clash with staff, which can damage team morale.
When approached with questions, even if you know the answer immediately take the time to see if you staff can come up with the solution. If you are asked a question rather than immediately giving the answer, try to encourage them to answer the question on their own and help give hints to guide their answer. Giving employees room to solve their own issues gives them ownership of the situation, and hopefully pride in their solutions.
Be a coach
Working side by side with your staff to coach them in the right direction is helpful in a number of ways. Staying “in the trenches” shows staff that you still care about the work and willing to do whatever you need to get the job done. However, rather than applying your expertise, share it with your staff and give them the tools that they need to build their own skills.
Be a delegator
Once you have identified your team members individual strengths, you can begin to delegate tasks. You cannot do everything yourself and if you try you can alienate your team and burn yourself out. Set clear expectations and emphasis the importance of their role in the team. Delegation of tasks will also give you opportunities to evaluate and acknowledge the work of your staff.
Build a supportive culture
Building an environment of trust and mutual respect may be one of the hardest things a new manager will face but it is also one of the most important. It is quite possible that the people you are now managing were your co-workers in your previous position. It can be difficult to redefine these relationship as you are now their boss.
Be open and honest and do not let personal relationships effect any business decisions you may need to make. It may seem overwhelming at times and in most management positions there is little training provided. Take time to find a mentor, such as your supervisor or seek out another successful manager. You are going to have questions and need support, having someone you can turn to for help can be invaluable in your success as a manager and in turn the success of your team.
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