First Time Manager? Here's What You Need To Know
By Pauline Millard, Ellevate Network Content Strategist
There are certain career milestones most people hope to achieve: that first real job, your first raise, and then, your first management position.
As exciting -- and scary -- as it is to be given this sort of promotion, it comes with a new set of responsibilities and worries. We asked Ellevate Network members what advice they would give someone who is fresh to the land of management.
You’ve Got This Handled
Halie Noble started out at as an intern at the first company she worked for, and was then hired full-time to run the intern program. It was a big leap, but Halie took it in stride.
For some people, when you’re first handed over the rings of management, it can be hard to grasp that you don’t have to ask permission to do a lot of things. Doing so may even slow down what you’re trying to accomplish. But being given free reign can also be really empowering.
“It's scary to be handed the steering wheel, but what you realize is that you're also given the gas pedal. The faster you onboard and become comfortable taking charge, the faster your organization will see progress and results.” Halie said.
Don’t Worry About Being Likable
Kathryn Minshew, the founder of The Muse, knows first-hand what it’s like to be put in charge of people when she had little experience. Early in her career at McKinsey, she had a team of three people, and she constantly wondered if they took her seriously.
“Managing people is a skill. No one is flawless the first time they do it,” Kathryn said. “It’s possible to be effective and push people to achieve and still be kind and thoughtful.”
Kathryn said that above all, be authentic. Don’t put on a manager persona at work, in an effort to seem more authoritative.
“Being a good manager is kind of like a Venn diagram,” Kathryn said, “It’s an overlap of your best self and your best management style.”
You’re A Manager, But You’re Also A Mentor
Managing people is an art, not a science. Instead of reading tons of books about management, the first thing to remember is that even when you’re the boss, you’re also a mentor. So meet with people individually, and get to know them from different angles. What motivates them? What’s their spouse’s name? What interests them outside of work?
Lina Duque thinks of it this way, “Engage your team in their own development and help them reach their individual career goals. When your team members feel you're invested in them, they will be more motivated to give their best to the company."
Of course, you will always encounter people who suddenly won’t perform up to par. That’s when being a mentor is even more important.
“When I see someone on my team lagging behind, or reflecting burn out, I know it is time to have a conversation with them and find out what's going on,” Halie said, “It is not the time for critique, threats or blaming, but the chance for honest feedback and potential process improvement.”
Halie said she likes to get to the root of the problem. She likes open-ended questions such as, "What are you doing now that you weren't doing X amount of time ago that is causing you disdain or slowing you down?" "What aspects of your work do you really enjoy doing, and is there a way we can get you on those tasks more often?" and the always simple, always crucial, "How can I help?"
Be An Ambassador For Your Team And Your Department
If your team does something extraordinary, find a way to get them some air time throughout the company. This may come via internal newsletter, blog posts, trips to conferences or shout outs at company wide-meeting. Employees feel valued when they’re validated, so always seek out ways to show off how much the stars on your team shine.
Kristy Wallace, President of Ellevate Network, also says that it is important for the team to feel that they can come to you for support. “Sometimes your team will hit roadblocks within the company. It is important that you understand their concerns and work to eliminate the challenges for them. It is important to show that you are all in it together.”
Imposter Syndrome Will Rear Its Head
Imposter Syndrome plagues a lot of high-achieving women. Even though you’re educated and accomplished, you may chalk up a lot of your success to luck, and fear that at some point the higher-ups will realize that you’re a fraud. Of course, reality is usually the complete opposite. You were promoted because you deserved it.
“I think a lot of people encounter the feeling of, "How did I get here?” when they are first invited to be a part of major conversations or business meetings they previously haven't been included in,” said Halie. “You got here because you deserve it, and those that brought you in did so because they value what you have to say. So say it.”
Get Yourself A Mentor
While you’re being the team’s fearless leader, you may need one of your own. Find a more seasoned manager -- in or out of your company -- and check in with them regularly. Chances are they’ll be flattered that you sought them out. They may have tricks up their sleeve that you would never have thought of.