Congratulations, You’re A Manager! Now What?

First-time supervisors should properly prepare for the new challenges

Leadership training and a support system are must-haves for every new manager. Polk worked with a professional coach for three months to better learn to prioritize, delegate, and manage her time effectively. She also has a mentor who gives her helpful advice. “She told me not to second-guess myself. Being a new manager, I would sometimes second-guess my decisions and be indecisive. She told me to go with my first instinct,” says Polk.

Regardless of the amount of training and sage advice you receive, know that your role will consist of a lot of on-the-job training. There are many strategies you can learn from a program or seminar — how to identify and successfully manage various work styles and personalities, for example — but identifying the right opportunity to implement them and then doing so is something you can’t really be taught. “Managers are supposed to make decisions,” says Mootry. “But there’s a very thin line between knowing when to step up as a decision maker and when to transfer power.”

The world of management is a great unknown in many ways, but with a little observation and study, it can be successfully navigated. Think of it this way: Someone thought you worthy of your new position. This is your chance to prove them right.

The Laws of New Leadership
Find a mentor and join professional organizations. Identify someone in your company who manages well or managed you well. Ask if he or she will mentor you. Get involved with an outside club or association. “It’s through sharing ideas and issues and hearing about the experiences of others that new managers grow,” says Dresdene Flynn-White, a career coach with Action International Business Coaching Team in Chicago.

  1. Be patient and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Developing strong managerial skills takes time; don’t expect to have all the answers right away. “Mistakes are an aspect of learning,” says Oak Park, Illinois-based author and executive coach Mary Stewart-Pellegrini. “Allow yourself a learning curve.” And be sure to seek guidance when you need it, from your own supervisor or colleagues in your professional network.
  2. Support your staff. Regularly ask your staff if they have the direction, training, and resources they need to do their job. Maintain an open-door policy so your employees know you’re willing to listen and help provide solutions to any problems they may have. “It says a lot about you as a manager if your direct reports are promotable,” says Aisha Mootry, a media supervisor with Tapestry in Chicago.
  3. Be firm but fair. Set high goals and standards for your staff. Talk to each of them about the importance of their job to the rest of the company. Don’t allow substandard work but understand that mistakes are going to be made. Working with and through others requires a fair amount of flexibility and sensitivity.
  4. Applaud effort and achievement. It builds team confidence and encourages future contributions.

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