Odds are that if you’re reading this, you’ve recently landed a new role as a manager for the first time. If so, congrats! As a rookie manager, you’ll likely come face-to-face with a number of unfamiliar challenges. Some of these challenges can include developing processes, setting goals for your team, and making sure your team is working to its full potential.
You’re likely feeling anxious about what others expect of you as a first-time manager. Does your boss expect you to “hit the ground running”? Are your team’s goals too lofty? What kind of guidance and support will your superiors provide you as a rookie manager?
Whether you’re a seasoned professional making the transition from technical expert to a managerial role, or a new recruit on a management fast track, the move from managing yourself to managing others can often feel overwhelming.
Thankfully, there is a lot you can do to get off on the right foot. In this article, we’ll discuss a collection of strategies you can employ to thrive as a rookie manager.
How to Succeed as a Rookie Manager
Whether you’ll manage a small team or an entire department, your primary concerns will likely be the same:
- Can I still perform well individually, while also taking responsibility for the contributions of my team?
- How do I set effective goals for my team as a rookie manager?
- Will the transition from “team member” to “team leader” cost me any friendships?
- Do I have what it takes to motivate others and earn their respect?
- What if my team doesn’t like me or they don’t get along with each other?
It’s critical that you step into your new role as a rookie manager with fresh eyes. Furthermore, you need to address any management misconceptions you may harbor before you start. Doing so will allow you to focus on what’s most important: building trust and bring out the best in your team.
Stepping into any managerial role for the first time might feel daunting. However, with a little preparation and planning, you shouldn’t feel overwhelmed. Here are eight tips that will help you transition from a rookie manager into an exceptional manager.
Define Your Role
First, it’s vital that you understand the responsibilities, goals, and objectives that come with your role as a rookie manager.
You can begin to wrap your head around the role by studying the job description. Doing so provides you with the means to develop a plan to transform your objectives into actionable results. If the existing job description is too vague, or nonexistent, you may need to write your own.
Connect with your boss to discuss your primary duties as a rookie manager and take careful notes on what they say. If possible, sit down with the person who held your position before you. What were their primary responsibilities? What did they consider to be their most important objectives? Go back to the job posting/description: what responsibilities were listed? Were any performance goals outlined? If so, are they still relevant?
Finally, talk with members of the team you’ll manage. How do they perceive your role? What kind of guidance and/or support do they feel they require?
Write all of this down and draft a job description of your own doing and share it with your boss or mentor. Do they agree with your findings?
Rookie Managers Should Work with a Mentor
As a rookie manager, it can be helpful to work with a mentor who can provide you with performance feedback and coach you on the skills you need to succeed. A mentor can provide golden advice and guidance in your new role as a rookie manager. This, in turn, will boost your self-confidence via their support and encouragement.
First, you want to write down exactly what you’d like to gain from a mentoring relationship. For example, you may want to develop expert knowledge, work closely with someone who can motivate and inspire you, or simply have someone to act as a sounding board.
You should look within your organization first if you wish to find a mentor. Are there any more senior leaders from whom you’d like to learn as a rookie leader? What about leaders in your wider network? Your LinkedIn network can provide a wealth of options when it comes to locating and connecting with a mentor.
It’s important to remember that mentoring is a two-way relationship. You need to have something to offer your mentor in return for their sage advice. Your contribution can be a fresh perspective on the industry, familiarity with new technologies, or even introductions to other professionals you know from your previous roles.
Rookie Managers Need to Build Meaningful Relationships
A great manager isn’t always a great strategist or an inspirational speaker. In fact, some believe that the most important skill of a manager is their ability to forge authentic personal connections with the individuals on their team.
As a manager, you can’t expect to be everyone’s friend. Your primary responsibility is to be a leader. In order to do that, you need to take a balanced approach to relationships. This can be especially difficult for rookie managers since you may manage some of your former teammates. Naturally, you want to be on great terms with your team, but you need to lead them as well.
It is essential that you’re open with your new team about your past experiences and why you decided to take on your current role. Doing so is a great way to gain their trust. Furthermore, you shouldn’t be afraid to share mistakes you’ve made along the way. When done correctly, self-disclosure like this helps your team better understand who you are, why you’re there, and why they can trust you. This is vital if you want to have a happy and motivated workforce.
Make sure that you connect with members of your team by respecting their individual differences. They may have diverse cultural or generational characteristics or have widely differing levels of experience. This source of diversity is a great way to encourage spirited discussions and steer clear of groupthink.
Identify and Communicate Your Goals
As a rookie manager, you’re likely full of fresh ideas to help your team improve upon its current practices and procedures. Don’t get me wrong, this is great! However, you need to curb your enthusiasm – at least for the time being.
Doing away with all of the “old ways” as soon as you arrive is sure to leave a sour taste in your team’s mouth. You can avoid this by taking some time to settle into your role before you make any major changes to your team’s inner workings. Rookie managers need to observe their team’s performance from a leadership perspective and talk to their team to learn how things work.
Once you settle in, draft a team charter that defines what you’re all there to do. Next, you need to set performance goals for each person on your team. Consider setting a few stretch goals – or goals that “stretch” everyone’s abilities. You can also use Management by Objectives (MBO) to ensure that these goals align with those of your organization.
After you’ve identified a handful of achievable goals for your team, you need to communicate them regularly. One of the best ways to accomplish this task is with business storytelling. This is especially true if you are to help others find meaning in what they’re doing on a regular basis.
Rookie managers should also make it a point to set some personal goals. These can include developing any new skills you may need to hone in order to succeed in your new role.
Be a Great Role Model
As a rookie manager, it is critical that you know that your team looks to you to set an example. If you want to shape your team’s behavior, improve performance, and forge good habits, you need to lead by example.
Show your team, through your words and actions, that you mean what you say. For instance, if it’s important that the entire team shows up for a Monday morning team meeting, make sure that you never miss one yourself. If you want your team to start trusting each other, demonstrate trust by sharing information about yourself. Doing so provides your team with a reason to trust your judgment and decisions. Furthermore, they’ll be more likely to follow your lead.
Provide Timely and Meaningful Feedback
Your team cannot improve if they don’t know what they need to work on. Furthermore, they won’t stay motivated unless you praise their effort and successes along the way. This is why constructive criticism and timely praise are vital. Without either one, your team is flying blind.
Make it a point to give feedback as close to the event as possible. It’s important to find the right balance between helpful criticism and a positive approach to improvement. You can use tools like The Losada Ratio to find this delicate balance.
You also need to be consistent with your feedback. Weekly or monthly feedback sessions are far more effective than annual meetings, so try to discuss performance frequently. This way, your team can improve incrementally, which will lift your entire team’s performance and productivity.
Furthermore, use sound judgment and sensitivity when giving feedback. Make it a point to address performance issues privately, but give praise publically. This is a great way to bolster morale and inspire others.
Even the most experienced of managers can’t do it all. This is why you need to learn how to delegate effectively. When used correctly, delegation helps you manage your own tasks and responsibilities better. It also helps you build your team’s skills and boosts their confidence.
To successfully delegate, you need to match the right person with the right task. You need to delegate tasks that will help someone develop new skills or further their career.
When you delegate a task, make sure to tell the team member who takes it on what you expect in terms of results. However, do not tell them how to do the task. It is critical that you avoid micromanaging. Micromanagement will not help either party. Instead, you can check in regularly to see if they need help. Otherwise, let them complete the task on their own.
It should go without saying, but management is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Different situations require you to wear different hats. The most effective managers know when they need to switch hats and change roles.
For instance, sometimes you’ll need to be an inspirational leader for your team. Other times you’ll need to be a mediator, a figurehead, or a negotiator.