So you’ve just been promoted to management. Congratulations! As opposed to an individual contributor role, you now have the chance to achieve objectives through the efforts of your team, therefore amplifying your results. Sounds easy enough, right?
But as with so many things in life, the devil’s in the details. Management is an entirely different ball game than grinding tasks out on your own day to day. To be effective, managers must inspire their direct reports to greatness, and this entails taking on the role of mediator, advocate, leader, mentor, and more — all rolled into one.
If it sounds overwhelming, don’t fret. Just keep these six tips in mind, and you’ll improve your leadership qualities in no time.
1. Seek out training
Much of a company’s training budget is often spent on individual contributors, in the hopes that managers will magically know what to do on their own. If you’re lucky enough to work for an organization that offers management training, take advantage of it. If not, block out some time in your schedule to read blog posts, take online courses, or attend conferences to learn the ins and outs of management.
2. Ask questions
Regardless of whether you’ve worked with your new direct reports as colleagues for the last five years or you met them yesterday, you need to ask them a lot of questions when you move into management. Strive to understand how your employees think about their roles and how you can help them remove obstacles and capitalize on opportunities.
Here are some questions to ask:
What’s the biggest challenge you face day to day?
What do you think needs to change in this department going forward? (Note: you can’t promise that you’ll enact change, but explain that suggestions are always welcomed and taken seriously.)
What are your ultimate career aspirations? (This can inform your delegation of tasks going forward based on where people want to develop.)
How would you like me to communicate with you? Do you prefer receiving feedback face-to-face, through email, or via some other channel?
3. Set clear goals
Performance review time will go a lot more smoothly if you define clear goals from the start. Collaborate with the employee to brainstorm a few SMART goals, and check on progress regularly.
4. Be an example
When you’re the manager, people look to you to determine how they should act whether you like it or not. With this in mind, set an example for your team with your behavior. If you’d like your direct reports to work hard and meet their deadlines, then you’d better not seek extensions from your boss. If you’d like them to be adaptable to change, don’t balk when a new company policy gets rolled out.
5. Ask for feedback
Feedback shouldn’t just be delivered from manager to employee — it should also flow the other way. Remember: you can’t get better as a manager if you don’t get feedback.
Because direct reports might feel uncomfortable giving their manager feedback off the cuff, solicit it from them in the way they’d prefer to deliver it. For example, consider rolling out an anonymous survey, or organize skip-level feedback sessions where employees share their thoughts with your manager.
6. Realize that you’ll make mistakes
If you’re a new manager, you’re going to make mistakes — and that’s okay. Like anything else, management is a skill that takes time to learn. If you slip up, simply acknowledge your gaffe to your employees, make it clear that you’re dedicated to improving, and move on.
Management can present a world of new challenges and can be intimidating to newly minted leaders. But keep in mind that the best way to learn how to be a great manager is to start managing. Practice building your management muscle little by little by keeping these six tips in mind.