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Lessons in Leadership

Twelve Tips for New Managers

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1. Don’t let the position go to your head.
You have not just become Grand Dictator of the Universe, so don’t begin ordering people around and watching their every move. Did you find that helpful when you were “just an employee”?

2. But don’t be afraid to act like a manager.
While you don’t want to go mad with power, you do need to become comfortable with the power you now have. You must be able to provide direction to your employees, give them feedback, help resolve problems, and address performance issues. Otherwise, people will begin to view you as a wimp.

3. Discuss your role with your boss.
Along with a new job, you probably have a new boss, so you need to be clear on his or her expectations. Have a meeting to discuss any of the following questions that might be useful: What are the most important goals in my job? What is your view of my staff? What decisions do you want to be involved in? How do you want me to share information with you? What are your particular “hot buttons”? And any other questions that might be helpful.

4. Learn about the organizational culture.
If you are in a new organization, take time to figure out the “lay of the land”. Many people have made career-killing mistakes by failing to adapt to a different way of doing things. Even if you have been with your organization for a long time, you are now at a different level and need to learn about the management culture. Your new boss and your new peer group can be very helpful here.

5. Learn from your role models.
You have probably worked for several different managers in your life, so try to take the best from each one and avoid their bad habits. As an employee, what did you want from your manager? What motivated you? What turned you off?

6. Get to know people and let them get to know you.
Begin to hold regular staff meetings (and be clear on what those meetings should accomplish). Take time to meet with employees individually to discuss their work, get their view of the department’s strengths and weaknesses, and find out what they need from you. Do the same with your new peer group. You are now a member of a management team and need to be able to work collaboratively with those colleagues. If your organization offers “Transition Meetings” or “Assimilation Meetings”, talk with your Human Resources department about having one.

7. Understand individual differences.
You now have to manage a group of people who have different styles of working, communicating, and making decisions. This is where you learn that not everyone does things the way you do. But as long as the results are okay, so is their work style.

8. Discuss your role with your staff.
If you were promoted over your peers, all of you need to adjust to the change in roles. This will be easier if you talk about it with them. Acknowledge that everyone is having to adjust, which may be a little uncomfortable for awhile. Talk about your goals for the department and the way that you like to work. Ask what questions they have about the change. If you have joined a new organization, the transition is different, but the conversation will still be helpful. You might also consider having your boss talk with the staff about the goals for your department and why you were selected to lead it.

9. Compare your leadership style with your predecessor.
Under their previous manager, your staff became accustomed to a certain way of doing things. They must now get used to a different set of expectations and preferences. To help them adapt, encourage open discussion of similarities and differences in leadership style. If you did not know your predecessor, ask about his or her style and determine what you are likely to do differently. Unless they are psychic, your staff can’t know how expectations have changed unless you tell them.

10. Talk with any staff member who applied for the job.
This may be uncomfortable, but it will help to move things along. Acknowledge that you know they may be disappointed, but that you hope the two of you will be able to work together. Ask if they have any advice for you as you start this new job. If the person is a valuable employee, express sincere appreciation for their contributions.

11. Identify the most important goals of the department.
Write up an initial plan for your department and share it with your manager. Once he or she has signed off, share the plan with your staff and ask for their input. If this represents a big change, meet with each person individually to discuss new expectations.

12. Manage your stress!
A new management job can be stressful for awhile. If you’re feeling frazzled, seek out some stress management tips and put them into practice. One helpful hint: find someone outside of your work group to talk to about this transition. A mentor, coach, or trusted friend can be a good sounding board and stress reducer.

If you find that management is not for you, there are always other choices. But the odds are that once you get through the learning curve, you are likely to really enjoy your management role.

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