Top Tips for First Time Managers

YES! You finally got the promotion you have always dreamed about! You are now the BOSS! As a new manager, you have a lot to prove. With these simple 5 tips, we will help you get it right.

Where do you start? Here are 5 Tips to be successful in your leadership transition. These tips can help first-time managers hit the ground running, and seasoned managers brush up on the fundamentals that will help them refine their leadership:


Your first day as a manager can be one of the most daunting of your career. You’re suddenly responsible for not only your own projects but also the work deliverables of the whole team.  A team that was your peers just the day before. It’s a major transition. That’s why it’s important to get it right from the start and convince employees to trust your leadership.

  1. Set Expectations and the Tone of your Leadership

Developing your own management style doesn’t magically happen when you assume the title “manager.”

It’s common for first-time managers to simply imitate what they’ve seen before—and if they’ve been promoted from within, that can lead them to continue to lead the department and team the exact same way it’s been managed before.  Refect on good and bad managers you have had over the years and set a vision of how you want to lead. Keep in mind, that it will be impossible to please everyone all the time.

As a manager, your job is to provide the structure and guidance for your team to do their best work, consistently.  Keeping things professional at work sounds like a no-brainer, but it can be tricky to monitor the performance of people who are your friends or close associates. Tasks like performance reviews and disciplinary action can be especially awkward when you have them as friends. There is truth behind the lesson that Managers should not be joining the team for every happy hour.

Amazon-owned Zappos made headlines several years ago when they restructured to a “holacracy” and effectively eliminated manager positions.  Their new plan upended its traditional management structure. In lieu of a typical corporate structure, with power concentrated at the top, the online shoe retailer would adopt a decentralized system with “no job titles, no managers, no hierarchy.” The result? 18% of their workforce left the company, a huge turnover rate by any standard. Someone has to be in charge of providing guidance and saying it’s everyone’s responsibility isn’t good enough. When something is everyone’s responsibility, it results in being no one’s responsibility. So, it rests on managers to define expectations and hold the team accountable. In fact, 65% of people say they want more feedback from their boss than they are currently getting, even in traditional structures.

  1. Don’t Micromanage

When you micromanage employees, you send the message that you either don’t trust your team or you don’t trust yourself. All that said from the last point, it’s important to know that managers need to balance between providing guidance and micromanaging their teams. Employees deserve and need feedback, but they typically do not need their manager constantly asking for status updates. Keep in mind, the level of management control needs to balance with the tenure of the team. A new employee that is being trained will need your guidance.

Some leaders try to avoid being a micromanager at all costs — taking a hands-off approach and letting their employees sink or swim on their own.

Other managers seem to take pride in being a micromanager. They want to be engaged, involved, deep in the weeds. They see it as a mark of a true leader.

How to spot critical differences between effective managers and micromanagers:

  • Effective managers lead through influence and example.
  • Micromanagers lead through control. Effective managers know that experience (and the occasional failure) is the only way to learn, grow, and push beyond business as usual.
  • Micromanagers fear failure, no matter how small or insignificant, and may not know how to handle even the slightest setback.
  • Effective managers ask questions that guide their team members to a solution while micromanagers dictate a solution without exploring different options or opportunities.
  1. Build Trust

When you make a promise- keep it.

New managers can be eager to please their new team and prove themselves as an effective leader—which is admirable.

What’s not so great, however, is when those leaders try to do that by making grand promises to their new employees—like switching to a new company-wide software system or immediately changing an intricate implementation process.

As great as these promises sound, brand new managers may not fully understand what it takes to actually follow through. Particular problems may have been around for a lot longer than you realize—and there could be a deep-seated reason that they haven’t already been fixed. In the end, promising too much may gain first-time managers’ favor at first, but can quickly erode trust if your delivery falls through.

Be an active listener to help build respect and trust. When you have your weekly one-on-one meetings, the most critical component is not what you have to say – it’s what your team members are contributing to it. You’re going to hear the good and the bad because that’s what happens when you have open communication. It’s essential that you hear your employees out and always assume they are coming to you with positive intent – they are complaining about the problems because they want your help in solving them. If your boss approaches you from the vein of distrust when you’re making a good faith effort to do the right thing, that can be incredibly demotivating.

  1. Delegate when Possible

Delegating can be hard, but it’s one of the most important new manager tips to apply. It’s good for your own productivity and success on the job. Balancing individual job responsibilities with the time spent overseeing staff is one of the biggest challenges of becoming a new manager.

As an employee, you focused on tasks. You had a to-do list of assignments that you were responsible for, and your main responsibility was to get those things done.

So, it can be a hard transition when all of a sudden, you don’t have that kind of list to guide your day.  After all, multitasking as a Manager often leads to a lack of focus and/or completion.  Rather than trying to do all the work yourself…halfway, delegate.  Start with a list of your tasks and on each one, ask yourself “can someone else handle this better than me”?

When you share the department’s responsibilities across your team, it helps your employees expand their skill set. It also lets you focus on higher-level tasks like budgeting, strategy-setting and generating new business. But how do you hand things over when you’re used to doing everything yourself (or feel like you can do things better)?

As a manager, you can’t focus on individual tasks—you have to focus your effort on helping your team complete their assignments. Now, your success is dependent on the success of your team. So you won’t spend your time “doing;” you’ll be busy coaching, supervising, and guiding your team members.

  1. Schedule Regular, Consistent, Frequent One-on-One Meetings.

Very few people want more meetings in their lives, but for managers, a weekly one-on-one meeting with every direct report is an absolute must. Yes, I said weekly. Think about it: If you can’t give each of your direct reports 30 minutes of your time every week, then you either have too many people reporting to you (and need to add more hierarchy), or you haven’t fully embraced your role as a manager rather than an individual contributor.

In those one-on-one meetings, you want to hit on three things:

  • Their update of the things they’ve been working on, and what they need from you to help them succeed.
  • Your update for them of all the information they need to know to do their job well.
  • A quick brainstorm of future goals, ideas they have and development they might need. This is also a great place to integrate coaching.

Becoming an effective, respected leader takes time.

Just remember: It’s a learning process. Strive to learn continually (and to avoid these common mistakes) and you’ll be well on your way to becoming the manager you want to be.

Agency 8 can help you with management interview training once you are ready to grow your team.  With tools like the Managers guide to Interviewing and the Interview Scorecard, we can help you be confident in your hiring success.

For more interviewing advice such as situational interviews, open-ended interview style, or scorecard rankings follow Agency 8 on our social media.

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