You worked your way up through the ranks of your peers and continued to show initiative until your boss recognized the ambition gleaming in your eyes. Now you’re the manager. In those first moments, your new title is like a trophy you just can’t wait to display: You earned the coveted position. But soon, you realize that there’s life after the victory lap, and the finish line becomes the starting point of an entirely different journey.
Being the manager comes with serious responsibilities and challenges that aren’t always spelled out clearly. Add on the fact that you’re no longer surrounded by peers going through the same thing, and the learning curve begins to feel a lot steeper. But if you keep your eyes open and start working on a plan, you’ll also find some opportunities to make a real difference in the place you work. Use these tips as you get started to help you figure out your new role:
Look at the whole picture. A manager’s job isn’t simply to tell subordinates what to do: They are responsible for making sure that the daily operations of the business are in line with the larger corporate goals, initiatives and policies. So what exactly are you trying to enforce? Talk to your superiors about where the business is headed and what your role is in making that happen. If you can leverage a big-picture understanding of the business and an intimate knowledge of day-to-day activities, you’ll be better equipped to help on either end of the spectrum.
Ask for clarity. Even after you understand the daily tasks of being a manager, you may need some more information before you really know what your boss is looking for. Identify any expectations or goals for your position now, so you are not surprised when you are evaluated on them later. This is also a good time to create a dialogue about problem solving and authority. Procedures are paramount when it comes to dealing with conflict, so don’t wait until there is an issue to figure out how things work. If there isn’t a procedure in place for hiring, firing, disciplining employees, handling customer complaints or emergencies, work with ownership to create them.
Open the lines of communication. After you understand your duties as manager, focus on your team. Meet with each person individually, several times if you can. In the very beginning, ask questions and learn how you can help them best. There will be plenty of time for coaching and goal setting later. If you start throwing down orders right from the start, you’ll have a difficult time getting your team to cooperate with you. Take the time to figure out what is holding your people back, and then remove the obstacles you can so your initiatives can flourish.
Set goals. Managers are tasked with keeping things on track, and there’s no better way to do that than by creating measurable, achievable objectives. With a firm understanding of each person’s strengths and weaknesses, set individual goals that help each team member grow. Set team goals that help them take advantage of the different strengths of the group or develop accountability. If you’re working on a long-term goal, break it down into shorter mini-goals that will feel more achievable to your team. Instead of merely laying down a directive, motivate your team to do their best by explaining how getting on board can help their commission check, their customers or the community.
Three of the four steps are focused on learning and listening, and with good reason: Even if you have been working with the same people for years, you can’t undo your first impression as a manager. If you take the time to focus on serving other first, you will find that you get what you need when you need it most.