You’ve just been promoted to run a department at your company, and since you’ve never been in such a position before, you’re not sure where to start.
How will you get it all done? Will you earn the respect of your new peers? How do you manage people? How will you ever know everything?!
Before you freak out, remember one thing: Many have paved the way before you and there’s no shortage of resources to tap into as you settle into your new role! Here’s some of what I’ve learned.
8 Tips for New Managers
- Embrace what you don’t know. No one expects you to know everything (and if they do, then we need to have another conversation), so give yourself that break.
- Don’t be afraid of asking questions. Instead of getting caught up playing guessing games, proactively set meetings with key stakeholders whose work intersects with yours around the company. Approach each meeting with a specific set of questions for that individual with the aim of exploring how you will work together, how you can build upon what your predecessor put in place and what traps or patterns to avoid falling into. Use these meetings to get a sense for the politics of the management team as well, as there are bound to be some level of politics at play, for better or for worse.
- Get organized. Spend the first chunk of time- maybe it’s a couple of weeks- to understand how things work, what your typical day would look like and how to plan out your day to set yourself up for effective working. For example, back at my former company, I was one of the only managers in the office on Fridays, so because there were no meetings, I was able to truly crank out work for eight hours sans interruption. A really great resource for understanding how to work better and pursue less in order to be an effective worker and/or leader is Essentialism, by Greg McKeown. Essentialism teaches you to boil it down to the true essence of what you are in the role to do. Make sure you’re crystal clear on that core function you’re there to serve.
- Don’t make promises. While you’re getting your bearings, it’s important not to commit to a specific set of results before you know what you’re truly working with. This includes having a true understanding of the resources available to you, understanding deadlines and what they really mean and what roadblocks might get in your way of getting the results promised in the time allotted.
- Be clear on expectations. Make sure your are clear about what is expected of you and have regular check-ins with your managers about your progress. You want to be able to make measurable progress once you settle in, and you’d like your boss or the upper management team to make note of your growth. This is just 101 stuff- if you’re setting goals and expectations, with the buy-in of senior management, AND you’re regularly checking in on your progress, when it comes to annual review time, your review and accompanying raise should be a no brainer! And on the flip side, it works in your favor when things aren’t going to plan. You’re able to clearly state why you haven’t reached a particular goal, for example, if your time is being split in too many ways (seriously, read Essentialism). Also, being clear on expectations doesn’t end with management. With your direct reports, it’s also important to be transparent and clear on what you’re there to do, and to update them on a regular basis, opening up the pathways of communication from the first meeting onward. Ask for feedback, and be clear.
- Don’t underestimate the power of a mentor. This was critical for me in the early going. My only regret? Not having two mentors. I worked with a management coach, who was a true mentor and teacher as I adjusted to a new management role in a tough environment. I also worked with my dad on a lot of management issues. While he was my solid go-to noon call at work or Sunday night pep talk coach, I would highly recommend building a relationship with a mentor (where you can reciprocate in some way) who is in your field and has gone the way before you. If I had to do it all over again, I’d look to find a mentor who had media/events experience.
- Delegate effectively. Oh, how I wish I had let go of more things and delegated more effectively! Sometimes this is more of a problem when there aren’t a whole heck of a lot of people to delegate to. Regardless of organizational structure, it’s important to figure out a delegation strategy.
- Resilience. Settling in as a new manager is not always the easiest process in the world. Following the tenets above will help, but remember chipping away at your health and well being and not keeping how you’re feeling in check will ultimately lead to your unraveling (or in my case, a nasty case of rosacea.) Take time out for yourself, and make sure there is one day a week where you turn off email and your computer. Figure out what works for you, as there is no shortage of resources out there. I recommend the app calm.com to my clients, and I recently upgraded to the $9.99/year option that allows you to customize your meditations. If you’re in the moment and the moment is not a good one, give yourself permission to unplug yourself from it and reset. The Alexander Technique, often associated with a program actors use, is a great way to help you identify and lose harmful habits that come with stress and live and move in a more relaxed way- all while opening you up to work smarter. Whatever technique or practice you choose, building some sort of mindfulness or resilience practice into your week-to-week, will help you manage the steep learning curve and the sometimes- corporate politics to become a successful manager.