"I'm suddenly a manager, how do I do this?"

Posted by: Alisha Sedor, Founder

Millennials are job hopping a lot these days, and it can actually be quite advantageous. In fact, staying at a company for more than 2 years can cost you - studies indicate you could be paid 50% less than your job-hopping counterparts.

That said, all of that moving around creates losses in institutional knowledge and managers who don't have years of experience with the company or in managing teams. Additionally, independent contributors continue to be promoted into managerial roles because they're experts in their field but not necessarily because they have great managerial skills or even training.

So, you're suddenly a manager. Now what? Unfortunately at many companies, it’s often on new managers to seek out their own development and the assistance of coaches and consultants to hone their skills and effectively lead teams. If that's the case for you, I recommend building a toolkit for yourself. See what's out there and pull the tools and methods that work for you at the times you need them. What are some of those tools, you ask?

First, familiarize yourself with your company's Human Resources (HR) processes and policies. Spend time with your HR team on topics such as payroll, managing time-off requests, compensation and performance reviews, benefits, and how you should escalate HR issues to them. You're going to be the front line for your team on these issues. It makes conversations much easier if you can avoid saying "let me get back to you on that" every time your direct has a question.

Practice having difficult conversations and learn how to prepare for them. As a people manager, your business is people and the problems they bring will often be sensitive subjects around their growth, performance, and personnel issues. The best managers can navigate these conversations smoothly. Don’t have HR? Hook yourself up with some resources like Dear People Ops and The Balance.

In addition to the difficult conversations, communicating well with your directs generally is essential to being successful. Making sure that you're all on the same page in driving toward your goals is a 2 way street - you need to exercise both listening and feedback muscles.

Listening goes beyond hearing the words someone is saying. You have to be tuned in as well to unspoken queues like feelings and values that are being communicated under the surface of the conversation. The American Medical Association actually has a great model for listening to patients with empathy that I'd argue applies to direct reports as well! I'm also a fan of Stanley McChrystal's TED Talk as some inspiration.

Feedback isn't just telling your employees what you think. Effective feedback is about providing them clear critiques and praise that help them identify how to continue doing great work and improve on things that aren't quite meeting expectations. Check out 10 Examples of Giving Effective Employee Feedback from Officevibe and identify your communication style to ensure you modify if needed so you deliver feedback clearly to your directs.

Lastly, your job as a manager is to drive a team to produce. To do that, you need to delegate effectively and set clear expectations. This gives members of your team the opportunity to grow their skills while getting yourself some bandwith. Doing it the right way is essential, however. MindTools has 10 great points on how to successfully delegate:

  1. Clearly articulate the desired outcome. Begin with the end in mind and specify the desired results.
  2. Clearly identify constraints and boundaries. Where are the lines of authority, responsibility and accountability? Should the person:
    1. Wait to be told what to do?
    2. Ask what to do?
    3. Recommend what should be done, and then act?
    4. Act, and then report results immediately?
    5. Initiate action, and then report periodically?
  3. Where possible, include people in the delegation process. Empower them to decide what tasks are to be delegated to them and when.
  4. Match the amount of responsibility with the amount of authority. Understand that you can delegate some responsibility, however you can't delegate away ultimate accountability. The buck stops with you!
  5. Delegate to the lowest possible organizational level. The people who are closest to the work are best suited for the task, because they have the most intimate knowledge of the detail of everyday work. This also increases workplace efficiency, and helps to develop people.
  6. Provide adequate support, and be available to answer questions. Ensure the project's success through ongoing communication and monitoring as well as provision of resources and credit.
  7. Focus on results. Concern yourself with what is accomplished, rather than detailing how the work should be done: Your way is not necessarily the only or even the best way! Allow the person to control his or her own methods and processes. This facilitates success and trust.
  8. Avoid "upward delegation." If there is a problem, don't allow the person to shift responsibility for the task back to you: ask for recommended solutions; and don't simply provide an answer.
  9. Build motivation and commitment. Discuss how success will impact financial rewards, future opportunities, informal recognition, and other desirable consequences. Provide recognition where deserved.
  10. Establish and maintain control.
    1. Discuss timelines and deadlines.
    2. Agree on a schedule of checkpoints at which you'll review project progress.
    3. Make adjustments as necessary.
    4. Take time to review all submitted work.

You’ll save yourself loads of headaches if your employees are clear on what they’re supposed to be doing. You can outline performance requirements, utilize OKRs, or assign projects in your weekly 1:1s. Whichever method, just be sure your directs know what you expect, timelines, and how to deliver their work product to you.

The above tools are a great start but by no means the entire list of things that managers need to be good at in order to support an effective team. Stay tuned for future posts on excelling as a manager, and if you’d like to work with a coach on our team you can schedule a consultation. Having a great coach is one of the best ways to identify how you can grow as a manager and support your team.

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