Managing Employees

Glide Over the Pitfalls of Becoming a Manager With These 5 Steps

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I often have the opportunity and privilege of working with new managers who are navigating the challenge of assuming their new roles. They are energetic and eager to learn and make the necessary adjustments as they move from being a single contributor to successfully serving as a manager.

Based on my experience, here are the five most common lessons that new managers should quickly learn if they want to succeed:

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1. Focus on others not yourself.

Until you became a manager, your main focus was getting your work done on time and assuring its quality. Once you become a manager, your key job is to inspire others to perform to their full potential.

Think about those on your team first. What do they need from you to be successful? It could be your time, needed resources or training. You should have their back at all times.

2. Deal with the weakest link on the team.

More often than not you will be assigned a pre-existing team. A manager needs to be able to bring together all the members of the team so they can perform better than just the sum of its parts.

This will require you to quickly assess the abilities of all players and decide of everyone is on the right team and in the appropriate role. What skill development does each individual need to thrive?

You may find that some staffing shifts are required. Many new managers think that time will take care of performance or attitude problems and find it difficult to make changes. But the sooner you deal with or eliminate the weakest link, the quicker your team’s performance will improve.

Remember you're being judged by the results of your team. I haven’t worked with a manager who has regretted these types of decision. What they regretted was not acting sooner.

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3. Develop a plan before delegating.

New managers are so used to solving all the problems and carrying out a course of action as opposed to delegating.

But delegation doesn't just involve handing something off to another person. Effective delegation requires first determining all the tasks to be done and understanding the capabilities of the individuals involved and mentoring and coaching them through the tasks as needed or providing more structured training. And finally managers need to create check-in points to be sure projects are moving forward as planned.

4. Coach staff instead of dispensing answers.

While serving as a manager, you may find team members asking you questions. Yet often these inquiries are not the ones you really should be answering. Yet you gladly provide the solutions.

So what happens next? They keep coming back for more answers.

I call this practice “throwing them fish." But what you should be doing is teaching them to fish.

The best method to use is a coaching technique. Ask questions to prompt an employee to arrive at his or her own solution. When a manager learns to coach, this develops staff members by providing them with a process for solving problems.

And when people develop their own solutions instead of being told how to do something, they truly own the process.

5. Don't fear overcommunicating.

It's not enough to tell a team member something once and expect the message to be understood and remembered. I run across this a lot (and not just with new managers), regardless of whether the message is about a change, a task being delegated or performance adjustments.

In today’s world, the amount of information and messages that people receive on a daily basis is rapid and voluminous. Not only do managers need to repeat messages, but they should be tailored to the individual receiving it. Understand how each person likes to be communicated with, the frequency, the medium (email, text or verbal) and the level of detail desired. 

So if you're stepping up into a new management position or recently were promoted, start planning to implement these techniques. The sooner you're able to act on them, the quicker you'll be noticed by your manager as a potential candidate for tackling even greater responsibilities.

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