advice for new managers
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A User’s Guide for the First Time-Manager

managing people for the first timeSo you are in your first job and managing people for the first time. This isn’t like your last internship where you organized brown bags for the other interns and didn’t have any real managerial responsibility. Now you are in a management position and accountable to those that you supervise, to yourself, and to your employer. Here is a quick “user’s guide” and advice for new managers to help get you going on the right track:

Advice for Managing People for the First Time

  1. Get to Know Your Employees: The first and most important tip is to get to know the people reporting to you. A key element of any productive and positive manager-employee relationship is a foundation of trust. As a manager you can build this foundation by spending time with your employees and learning about their career goals and how you can support them in achieving those goals. Learn their likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, learn the details, the things that are important to them and you will be well on your way to building a solid foundation.
  2. You’re the Boss, Not the Buddy: Whenever I talk to mentees and coworkers about the lines between being friends with supervisors or not, I always come down on the side of being “friendly” but not friends. One mistake new managers often make is trying to be friends with their employees. Remember that you are in a position of authority and being friends with employees can create the perception of favoritism and bias. Bottom line: Be friendly at work and friends outside of it.
  3. Active Listening is Your Friend: One of the most important skills a manager can possess are communication and particularly listening skills. Active listening is defined as a technique used in conflict resolution, training, and counseling – all areas you will face as a manager. It requires that the listener concentrate, understand, respond, and remember what is being said, then apply it as necessary to the managerial relationship.
  4. Set Clear Expectations – Make sure your expectations are clear and understood by you and the employees. The lack of clearly understood expectations can be the source of tension, miscommunication, poor performance, and conflict in working relationships. As a manager, you should always strive to build clear expectations.
  5. Follow the Golden Rule – Treat every employee with respect and the way you would want to be treated. You may be in the superior position, but you are superior to no one. Everyone deserves to be treated with the utmost respect and dignity. If you are unable to treat others the way you want to be treated, you may need to seriously consider whether managing others is something you are ready to do.
  6. Open Your Door, Be Available – The more involved and engaged you are, without hovering and giving the impression of micro-managing, the more motivated the team will be to work with and for you.
  7. Stay in the Action – You’ve proven that you can do the work and now you are getting a shot at managing others doing the same work. Even though as a manager you may focus on other aspects of the office, employees respect, at least I do, when a boss is willing to jump into and jumps into the trenches and shows a willingness to do whatever needs to be done to help the team move forward.
  8. Learn How to Delegate – From the beginning as a manager you are going to be involved in every aspect of the work of your office. The challenge will be that you can’t do everything. Learning to delegate will be key to your success and fostering an environment where you can rely on one another will be essential.
  9. Be Consistent – If you always waffle or don’t stick with the decisions you make, your team will lose confidence in your abilities as a leader. To be consistent you need to take your time. Do your research, consider all sides of an issue, find mentors to help you think through work issues, and go slow. Sometimes going slow can be difficult for people at any stage of their career but is especially important as a new manager still finding your way.
  10. You’re the Captain, Plot Your Course – You’re a manager so don’t be afraid to lead. Being in a position of authority can be extremely rewarding. However, don’t take this opportunity for granted, walk in your authority, lead the way, and own it.

You may be managing people for the first time, but you can do this. These tips can help get you started on the right path. Trust yourself and your instincts. Now go forth and manage. Good luck!

Want more? Check out 7 Online Trainings for New Managers, 7 Tips for New Managers, or Lessons Learned from a New Millennial Manager

Lia Miller is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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Catherine Andrews

This is such a great post. So many people are thrown into management positions without any training or advice. I would add:
-Schedule (and ALWAYS keep, never postpone) a weekly one-on-one
-Delegate, but do it with coaching. Delegating is great, but showing your report how you might do something is helpful and necessary too, even if they end up taking a different route. They might still need some advice.
-Remember that managing people can be emotionally draining so keep check on your reserves. Lara Hogan has a great post around this:

Lia Miller

Thank you and I love your additions, all true. The energy drain piece is critical at any stage of management whether new or seasoned. I needed that reminder today.

Dana Sims

Another recommendation for new managers is to remember they have a new job – they aren’t the front line employee anymore so the work they do must also change. Many first-time managers fall into the trap of doing their old job and trying to squeeze in the new tasks of management.