What makes someone a manager is a title. What makes someone a leader is more complex.
Unfortunately, the ideas of management and leadership are often conflated. In reality, there are important distinction. It’s especially important for new managers to understand the differences.
Having the title of manager doesn’t make you a leader. If no one looks to you for vision or guidance, even if you’re officially “the manager,” you aren’t a leader.
Similarly, leadership can come from anywhere, even from those who don’t have others officially reporting to them. New managers must understand that the respect and trust of a leader are earned, not granted.
Even the most successful workers will enter some uncharted territory when they become a manager for the first time. It’s understandable to be unsure of certain things or to feel pressure to be perfect.
In truth, there are only a handful of “must-do’s”.
1. Accept That You Probably Won’t Do Everything Right
Someone who is new to a role will always want to knock it out of the park. But chances are you’ll make a misstep somewhere along the line.
Every new manager should understand that they are not infallible, and should take responsibility for any mistakes made, and learn from them.
Big or small, every mistake is an opportunity to learn how you can be better.
2. Determine The Principles You’ll Stand By
If you’re in uncharted waters of a new management position, your compass is your guiding principles. They won’t always give you the exact steps to get to your desired destination. But they will point you in the right direction.
Define for yourself what your most important actions as a leader are, then use those to guide how you’ll navigate situations.
Some examples of these include action (you find a solution when there is a problem), gratitude (you recognize and appreciate others’ contributions), or balance (you don’t let work overload any person or yourself). Find the ones that are important for you.
3. Find An Experienced Manager You Can Go to For Advice
Those who have already gone through what a new manager is going through can be immensely valuable.
Find someone within your company or your external network who can offer advice about difficult situations and can give general feedback on how you’re doing.
4. Get to Know Your Team
You may already know all of them. But if not, it’s important that you do. Even if someone on your team has a different personality or interests, you’re responsible for spending time with them just as much as you would any other employee.
Set up informal times to grab coffee or get lunch, and try to talk to everyone in the office about life outside of work when the opportunities present themselves.
5. Remember That You’re Their Manager First
It’s great to have a strong relationship with your team. But don’t let it get to a point where you seem to be very close buddies with certain people.
This can cause resentment from others, and can additionally make for uncomfortable situations if you have to provide constructive feedback to an employee with whom you’re friends.
Always prioritize the responsibilities of being an effective manager over being a friend.
Managers are installed for a reason, so don’t leave your employees without a leader and advocate because you chose to be buddies instead.
6. Practice Giving Effective Feedback
Giving feedback can be a difficult situation to navigate, but it’s an incredibly significant responsibility of a management position. Read about best practices and speak with other managers about how they approach it.
You can even practice with a friend if that’d help you become comfortable with these conversations.
7. Understand This Position Isn’t About You
Being promoted to a management position shouldn’t be about your ego.
A manager’s success is measured by the success of their employees – you’re there to guide, lead, and serve them.
8. Genuinely Care
You have a team of unique individuals working with you, all of whom have a life and goals for themselves. You should care about the success of each of them as their manager.
Furthermore, you should listen when they raise concerns and pay attention when they seem overloaded. The last thing an employee wants is to be drowning in work while the manager is completely aloof.
More to Learn
There’s no perfect science to being a great manager. What this role entails will vary team by team and company by company.
However, the more awareness you have of yourself as a new manager, the better. You’re in an exciting, new position. Just never forget: There is always more to learn.
How Does a Manager Become an Effective Leader?
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