Back to school: 5 things all new managers should do

It’s ‘back to school’ and the start of a new academic year, certainly if you are in the UK. And that ‘new boy/girl’ feeling can hit even the toughest of us when we step up into our first management role. It can be even harder if you end up managing the team you have been part of. With the rough and tumble of the school playground playing out in corporate life.

So, here are 5 things you should do if you are new to management.

1.Have a first ‘100 days’ plan. The first three months are often the time when you have the opportunity to make the biggest impact. If you haven’t yet started your new job then great, get going with your plan now. If you’re already in your role, don’t worry – it is always a good time to plan. You can use headings such as people, processes, systems, culture to get you started. And if you want to know more about why the first 100 days matters so much, check out this Harvard Business Review article by Michael D Watkins.

2.Get yourself a mentor (if you don’t already have one). If there is someone in your organisation or in your profession whose management/leadership style you admire, then approach them. As a mentor myself, believe me when I say that you won’t be irritating the person. If anything, they’ll probably be hugely flattered. I’ll be looking at how you can get the most out of mentoring in a future post.

3.Book time with each of your direct reports for your first week in the job. This needs to be uninterrupted, quality time. Around one hour per person should suffice in this first instance. I find taking people for a coffee, either in the office building or off-site works. One word of advice, you want the other person to have around 75% of the air-time, not the other way round. It’s an opportunity for you to find out more about them – what they like at work, what they don’t like, their aspirations, their hopes. Your 25% is an opportunity for you to set out your own stall – who you are, your values, your hopes for the team.

4.Ask questions. It was Voltaire who said, “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers”. Aside from the omission of women, Mr Voltaire is right. I’ve observed too many new (and not so new) managers not ask a question, instead trying to give off the air of already having all the answers. Believe me when I say that no-one has all the answers. Not even Stephen Hawking! Ask questions. You’ll set a great example, helping to create a culture where it’s okay to do so.

5.Know your key performance data. Get comfortable with it. Really comfortable. If, like me, you’re not overly comfortable with financial data then seek out a colleague who is and ask them for help. Likewise, if you love certain types of data and are good at interpreting and using them, then offer to help peers who might be struggling – this is always a good thing to do. It was Peter Drucker who said, “What gets measured gets managed”. Don’t manage the wrong things. Know your data!

So, good luck to all new managers out there. You’re going to be brilliant!

P.S. For a really in-depth look at the facets that make a great manager, why not check out my friend’s book? It’s called ‘The Psychological Manager’ and it’s brilliant!

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