1. Learn Everything You Can
Devour any learning resources you can get your hands on — management training materials, articles on leadership, exercises in effective communication skills, and the like. Read through your company’s HR policies and employee handbook so that you have a better idea of what to do in any situation.
Also, bone up on the latest developments in your area of expertise. If you’re managing developers, can you confidently discuss the full scope of programming language or software tools that your team uses? If you’re in marketing, are you able to evaluate the range of skill sets being utilized by your team, and introduce new ones that can be leveraged for greater success?
2. Get to Know Your Team
If you’re being promoted internally then this is easier — you probably already know a little about the people you’ll be working with. If you’re new to the company, then you’ll need some help. Ask for the names of the people on your team and look them up on LinkedIn and elsewhere on the internet (it’s not at all intrusive; in fact, your team is likely looking you up as well).
Also, research the people managing you. Get familiar with your immediate boss, and all other executives to whom you might indirectly report. Ask HR for a company organization chart to get a view of all reporting structures. If possible, ask around about some of the key players you’ll be associating within your new role: find out what kind of personalities they have, how they manage, what type of people succeed or fail under their management, and so on.
3. Shift Your Perspective
You’ve not focused only on you anymore. Your job has now grown from executing a given set of tasks of your own to helping your employees accomplish their tasks. Take the time to step back and shift your perspective. Learn how to focus on the big picture, and to look beyond your needs to that of your team.
4. Clean Up Your Act
As a manager, your team will be looking at you as both an authority figure and as an example. You set the mood of the team. If you as a manager are consistently 15 minutes late, then it tells the team that it’s okay for them to be late, too. If you are constantly in a bad mood or are impatient, then that affects team morale and productivity.
As a first-time manager, you don’t have to be the “cool” manager (and in fact, you probably shouldn’t be), but you do have to set a good example. If you want to lead a team of professionals, act professionally yourself.
5. Adjust Your Relationships
First-time managers who’ve been promoted internally have an additional challenge, in that the dynamic of their office friendships has now changed. People with whom you’ve shared jokes and secrets are now people you have to manage. Friends who’ve covered for you and vice versa are now employees you have to direct and may have to discipline.
It’s very important to step back from these relationships in order to function properly as a manager. You can’t afford to be seen showing favoritism to old friends; you absolutely want to be objective and fair when engaging each member of your team.
In closing, first-time managers have a job that is as challenging as it is exciting. With the right preparation, you can get a big head start and hit the ground running. Go into your new role with a smart approach and an open mind, and you’ll do a stellar job!