Your hard work has paid off: You’ve been promoted. Congratulations! Transitioning from individual contributor to new manager enables you to effect change at a higher level in your organization, empower others to exercise their strengths, and set a vision for your team.
It’s exciting—but also overwhelming. After all, that’s a lot to accomplish, and 58 percent of managers said they didn’t receive management training before making the shift to supervisor.
So, where do you even start? Here are seven tips to help you avoid the common pitfalls many first-time managers face.
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Top Challenges for New Managers
1) Start Delegating
You’re no longer just a doer, checking tasks off a to-do list. You’re now a leader and a coach, who needs to focus on helping others succeed. And that requires delegating responsibilities.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of saying, “I’ll just do it myself”—especially when faced with an assignment you’ve completed multiple times or a system only you know how to use. But you need to fight the urge to tackle tasks alone. The more time you spend upfront teaching direct reports how to solve a particular problem, the less time you waste when the assignment resurfaces later on.
By delegating, you prove to your employees that you trust them to get the job done and value their input—and that has a positive impact on morale. Gallup research shows that managers are primarily responsible for their employees’ engagement levels. You need to provide employees with professional development opportunities and the chance to learn new skills. Remember: If your team fails, so do you.
2) Learn How to Address Difficult Situations
Given that employees in the United States spend 2.8 hours per week on workplace conflict, it’s inevitable that you’ll find yourself in some tense conversations.
When you do, your instinct might be to ignore them in hopes that the situation will eventually resolve itself. Perhaps confrontation makes you uncomfortable or you don’t want to hurt a subordinate’s feelings. The more you avoid an issue, though, the worse it becomes, which is why you need to learn how to effectively resolve workplace conflict.
If members of your team approach you with a problem, actively listen to what they’re saying and practice empathy. It’s important that you acknowledge your employees’ feelings and understand their perspective, so that you can get to the root of the issue and collaboratively work toward a proper solution.
3) Acknowledge Changed Relationships
Workplace conflict often occurs when your relationships start to change. If you were promoted from within, it’s possible that the person you routinely gossiped with is now a direct report, or that you’re managing employees who were once your peers.
Finding a balance between friend and manager is hard—but important. Some information is too confidential to share, and you can’t let personal relationships color your judgment. That’s why it’s best to proactively address any changes. It could be as simple as saying, “I value our friendship but, as a manager, I need the team to trust me and see me as fair and consistent.”
While it won’t be an easy conversation, it is a necessary one.
4) Focus on Building Trust
Research shows that when employees feel trusted by their manager, they exert extra effort at work and are happier in their role. So it’s important to prioritize building trust.
Schedule one-on-one meetings with each of your direct reports. During those meetings, ask what their professional goals are and how you can help them take the next step in their career. If they want to learn a particular skill, is there a project you can assign them or training you can recommend? If you invest in their future, it’s likely they’ll feel more invested in the company.
Transparency can also help build trust. When decisions are made, speak openly about the implications and results of those decisions, whether positive or negative, with the team. Share important information, as well as what you’re working on, and encourage others to do the same. That open and honest communication will foster trust amongst the team.
5) Offer Timely Feedback
Seventy-one percent of employees want feedback as soon as possible. If there’s an employee that needs feedback, make sure it’s timely; don’t just wait for the annual review. Subordinates can’t apply advice if the project has passed, and you might cause additional roadblocks if you don’t address the situation right away.
By offering timely feedback, you’re giving employees the chance to improve their performance and grow professionally, which, in turn, will build trust.
6) Find a Mentor
The problems you’re facing likely aren’t new. Someone in your company or industry has already dealt with an employee who’s underperforming or has been forced to tell someone who’s over-performing the benefits he or she wants aren’t guaranteed.
That’s why it’s important to find mentors you can turn to for advice or support when issues arise. By learning from their mistakes, you can avoid making missteps yourself.
7) Don’t Let Yourself Get Discouraged
If issues do arise, don’t get discouraged. You’re a new manager; you’re not expected to know everything. Ask for help when needed, own up to mistakes, and graciously accept any feedback.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in a new role. But when you do, remind yourself that you were promoted for a reason.
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