As a first time manager, you face a tough challenge. Whether you've climbed the ladder and have just been promoted (congrats), or whether you've just been offered a new manager job somewhere new (also congrats), there's a lot of pressure.
Pressure to deliver.
Pressure to be seen to deliver.
Pressure to have your team get on board.
Pressure to have your team like you.
Pressure to have all the answers.
Pressure to make all the right decisions.
Pressure know how to manage all situations.
That's a lot. So it's okay to feel a bit overwhelmed if you're a first time manager, and it's okay to fee like you're a bit out of your depth.
These tips will help you with that.
1. Start with connection
Connection is everything as a first time manager. Without it, you'll be floundering and missing everything, and you'll be as effective as a lead parachute.
Connect to the people around you: to what they're calling out and to what they need.
Connect to a vision: to something that stirs you, something that drives purpose, something that's meaningful. And connect to an environment: to building an environment where people can experiment, grow and do great work.
How do you do that?
One way is by asking questions. Questions to yourself, but equally to those around you.
Questions to yourself
- How do I do my best work?
- What matters to me here?
- What kind of experience do I want to have?
- What kind of environment do I want to create?
- What's a way I can lead by example?
Questions to others
- What do you need?
- What's missing?
- What's a way of doing this that serves the work better?
- What kind of experience do you want to have here?
- What matters to you about what you're doing?
Those will get you some great answers and help you connect in meaningful ways. Use whatever questions or means feel right for you, but start with connection.
2. Know enough
As a first time manager the temptation is to think that you need to know it all. You need to know how everything works, where the risks are, where the opportunities are, who the people are, what they're good at, what they're not good at, what the plans are, how those plans are being implemented, and so, so much more.
This will have you running round in circles, running yourself ragged, trying to do it all. Which, of course, is a great way to drive yourself loopy and even burn yourself out.
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you need to know it all and have all the answers. No one person can achieve that.
Behind the pressure to have all the answers is the strong desire to not be caught out, or for people to see you as not knowing something. It's self-protection, plain and simple. And it doesn't help you, the team or the work.
Instead, know enough.
Seek out enough information to make one smart choice. Ramp up your knowledge on one thing in order to understand which levers you can pull in order to achieve something. Know enough about a problem to be able to ideate a solution with the team.
Trust yourself to know enough, don't pressure yourself to know it all.
3. Don't do it all alone
A sister problem to wanting to know it all, is the belief that you need to do it all alone.
First time managers (and some experienced leaders too) think they have to stand as a figurehead, taking on all the responsibility and leading from the front.
Gotta be strong. Gotta be capable. Gotta be responsible.
But no first time manager is an island, and once again this need to take it all on your own shoulders is about something else, something deeper. If you can stay there in your bubble and absorb all the responsibility, then nobody can call you out for not doing enough and for not being good enough.
Which is nonsense, of course. You have a position of responsibility, of course you do, but you can only deliver against that responsibility through the whole team coming together and working in concert.
You're allowed to delegate responsibility for a task or project to someone who has a matching strength, or to someone who might stretch from the challenge. You're allowed
But it's not simply that this is what's allowed. Giving people autonomy and encouraging ownership is inherent in confident leadership.
You have a multitude of skills, experience, talents, strengths and appetites around you. Leaning into that is how great work happens.
Being a first time manager in a nutshell...
If I was to attempt to wrap up what this is all about and put a bow on it, I'd say something like:
The job of a first time manager is to serve the team in pursuit of great work.
Do that, and you'll nail it.