the No. 1 problem first-time managers face is failure to build partnerships and foster teamwork. Aisha Mootry, a media supervisor at Tapestry, a multicultural media agency in Chicago, has decided that won’t be a stumbling block for her.
Mootry, 29, was promoted to her current position from media planner last July. Her main responsibilities are to develop African American media plans for company clients and to increase the company’s African American client list. When she was a media planner, Mootry concentrated on one set of relationships. Now, as a media supervisor with two associates to manage, she has a whole new set of relationships to build. “There are many layers of relationships that need to be managed — the people you supervise, your supervisor, and others you have to work with and give some direction to in order to get your job done,” she explains. “I have an open-door policy and encourage my team to ask questions if something is not understood. I keep my directors well-informed — good or bad — and keep them advised on my progress with projects and my overall workload.”
Mootry’s cooperative approach extends beyond her supervisors and direct reports. “Occasionally, I work with associates on the investment and general-market teams. In the event I need them to chip in on an assignment, I first clear the project with their direct supervisor, then work with them to form deadlines that suit the client’s needs as well as their schedule,” she says.
When you’re a manager, being sensitive to the challenges of your staff and co-workers goes a long way. “I suggest that the manager meet one-on-one with the staff to understand their roles and responsibilities, as well as to hear any concerns they may have. The manager should then meet with the entire staff to share his or her understanding of tasks and procedures and to look for any potential conflicts or misunderstandings,” advises Flynn-White.
A year ago, Tarsha Polk was appointed director of sales and marketing for Fort Worth, Texas-based CrimeWeb Network, a Website that allows information collected by national public safety agencies to be distributed to citizens, news media, and law enforcement agencies. She manages two employees, and develops and implements sales strategies and marketing programs that will create brand awareness.
Thirty-two-year-old Polk, who was an independent e-commerce specialist prior to joining CrimeWeb, was not only new to her position and the company, she was the first manager the company ever hired.
Fulfilling the responsibilities of an established, defined position is challenging enough. Suddenly having to make up the rules as you go and doing it in an unfamiliar company or corporate culture can be overwhelming. “Many times I felt lost,” Polk admits. “I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing or how to handle some situations.”
In a case like this, experts say speak to your supervisors and make sure you are in agreement about what’s required of you. Identify people and places in the company from which you can get the information you need to do your