You just got promoted into a supervisory position. This means you did good work that impressed your superiors. Well done! Once the promotion euphoria wears off, however, you’re faced with doing a job that is only tangentially related to your old job. Where you used to apply skills that generated an end product, you must now get others to apply their skills to produce an acceptable end product.
Transitioning between these two roles can feel like a doomed voyage. It doesn’t have to be, though. There are things you can do to maximize your chances of success in your new managerial role.
Find a Mentor
You aren’t the first person to manage people, which means that one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself is to find a mentor. Initially, your immediate supervisor is a good option. They’ll know the scope of your job and probably all of your team members. Don’t be afraid to look farther afield, though.
In larger organizations, you can almost always find peers doing comparatively similar jobs and higher-ups who have done the job before. Seek them out and ask questions. It may take a little time, but you will find someone who offers sound guidance.
Get a Handle on the Big Picture
Before your promotion, you probably didn’t need to understand the big picture very well. A manager gave you tasks, and you completed them. It was a matter of trust that the work was relevant. That changes once you step into a managerial position. Your superiors have professional priorities as well as personal agendas that you must take into account. Make a point to have regular sit downs with your own supervisor to report progress and problems, but also to make sure that your team’s work aligns with organizational goals. If you don’t understand how the team’s work fits into the bigger picture, ask for clarification.
Seek Out Education
Experience may well be the best teacher, but education can help you to navigate around some management mistakes. Ask if your organization offers any resources or training for managers. Apply your CPE requirements to help you obtain educational opportunities that cover technical and management best practices. You can also look for local college courses that teach management. Books, articles and webinars all provide excellent opportunities for informal education.
Of course, you should also educate yourself about your team. Look at performance reviews and check out their resumes. These can help you shape how you assign responsibilities to your new team.
If all the work assigned to your team could be done by one person, you wouldn’t need a team. Yet, the Harvard Business Review reports that first time managers often take on work the team should be doing. Many factors can drive this impulse, from deadlines to the belief that the manager can do the work better, but it sets a bad example.
As a manager, your job is to delegate the work and guide team members when they produce sub-par results. Effective delegation is complex. As a general rule, work should be assigned to the person best qualified to carry it out, even if this means shifting some of that person’s work to another team member.
You almost certainly looked for career development opportunities yourself as you worked your way towards your new management position. Your team members are also looking for chances to expand their skills and advance their careers.
Talk with them individually about where they see their careers going and whether they’re interested in pursuing some form of professional development. Looks for ways that you can facilitate those aspirations. If you find skills gaps on your team, speak with your firm training manager about about these learning and development needs. Your training manager can help you find appropriate training programs, or perhaps even help coordinate a new in-house training program.
Verification should play a role in managing a team. Part of your job is making sure that the work gets done, and you can only do that if you communicate. Make a point to check in with every team member periodically to see that things are on track. This keeps you in the loop, but also gives team members an opportunity to enlist your help if they need it. Don’t mistake these check-ins for micromanagement or mistrust. Micromanagement would be standing next to people while they work. Mistrust would be demanding explanations for why people carry out their work the way they do.
One of the most important, and arguably difficult, tasks for a manager is providing feedback.
Subordinates need feedback to know when they’re performing well and when they need to kick things up a notch. To do this effectively, you need to set goals and define what constitutes success. After all, even the best employees can get off track when they work in a vacuum.
Offering frequent feedback provides a number of benefits. It lets you avoid delivering a list of issues to a problematic team member. Team members get multiple opportunities to correct problems or receive praise. Regular feedback lowers the anxiety inherent in receiving constructive criticism. It also reinforces goals and cements the definition of success in everyone’s minds. Since you’re still new, it’s also a good practice to ask your team for feedback about how you can provide better support or guidance.
Embrace the Challenge
Managing a team for the first time will almost certainly challenge you in ways you didn’t expect. It may even feel overwhelming. Just keep in mind that becoming a good manager is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. You aren’t expected to get everything right on your first attempt. Don’t be afraid to seek out training and the advice of more experienced managers. With a little patience and good faith effort, you’ll start to become the kind of manager you’d want.