New manager checklist — set yourself up for success

Congratulations! You have reached a career milestone by landing your first managerial position. At this exciting time, you’re likely intrigued by the possibilities, eager to get off on the right foot, and battling a few (or a truckload of) nerves.

Butterflies are par for the course. After all, you want to prove to yourself and others that you deserve this increased responsibility. And, while you have probably gone above and beyond as an individual contributor, you realize that leading others to success is a whole new ballgame. —

Stay courageous; each new manager eventually gets into a groove. To make charting your course easier, take a look at this new manager checklist:

Understand the organization and your role in it

Whether you have a history with your employer or are brand new, taking on a managerial position necessitates thorough familiarity with the company’s operations and mission. You cannot adequately lead people to greater heights without knowing the organization’s core values and primary objectives.

  • Gain clarity about your position. Your boss or human resources should provide a detailed job description with a list of responsibilities before your start date.

  • Learn about organizational structure. Who do you report to? Who is in charge of what? Figuring out these things early on helps avoid stepping on toes and provides information on where to turn for assistance on particular issues.

  • Figure out the most pressing concerns for the company and for your individual team. You cannot possibly tackle every problem immediately, so learn what to prioritize. Maybe, for instance, perfecting communication and time management among a hybrid staff currently needs the most attention, but strategizing on a new social media campaign can wait a bit.

  • Introduce yourself to everyone, and learn what people do. Becoming comfortable with other managers keeps you in the loop and expands your network. You may even find a mentor to help you navigate your new role. Don’t forget to interact with support staff, too. You will be amazed how kindness toward a secretary or maintenance worker can pay off and enhance your reputation.

Meet with team members

Building rapport involves learning about your direct charges as individuals and as a group. Start the process early on by doing the following:

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  • Gather as a team. You will get the chance to see group dynamics at work. The meeting also provides a forum to outline your goals, share a bit about yourself both personally and professionally, and express excitement about working with this group.

  • Schedule one-on-ones with individual team members. Read each person’s job description before the meeting to get a sense of his or her expected duties, but be ready to go beyond what’s on paper. What does the individual see as his responsibilities? What is her preferred work style? What are the major challenges of the position? What motivates the person to put forth his best? Learn things about the worker’s interests and life away from the office, too.

  • Pay attention to remote employees. Make an effort from day one to include them. Invite telecommuters to Zoom in to staff meetings. Set up a separate video chat or phone call to speak with each personally.

Circulate

Few actions prove as eye-opening to a new manager as getting away from the computer screen and out into the main workspace. Things to do as you make your way through this area include:

  • Simply observe, making a point to stay as far away from preconceived notions as possible. What is the layout of the office? What are people doing? How do they interact with one another?

  • Ask questions. People take pride in sharing their expertise. What do workers have to say about their tasks and how they are done?

  • Evaluate the vibe. You can learn a great deal about company culture and employee engagement by considering the general mood. Is the place eerily silent? Does it buzz with excitement? Do workers appear stressed out?

  • Engage in random chats. Your presence may lead some employees to spontaneously strike up a conversation. Go with the flow.

Figure out what you need to learn

Yes, your ascension into this position likely developed from your knowledge and strengths. Succeeding here rests on identifying things you don’t know in order to fill in gaps.

  • Get up to speed as quickly as possible on the company’s technology, which serves as the modern means of communicating and managing work. Know how to share documents. Become a pro at the project management system. Learn how to set up video conferences and chat with remote staff.

  • Everyone has potential weaknesses. Can you identify yours? Maybe you know the industry well but lack a background in managerial responsibilities such as motivating individuals or promoting teamwork.

  • Based on your self-evaluation, think about how to go about improving areas where you find yourself lacking. Seminars, books, and TED talks may be useful for acquiring new skills, especially soft ones. Get suggestions from members of your network or fellow leaders at your company.

Embrace a new mindset

Before moving into a management role, your focus was on succeeding as an individual contributor. Now, you’ll be judged by the achievements of your team.

  • Reflect on teams you have been a part of in the past. What specific things made them operate well? What factors caused problems?

  • Think about what it means to be a leader. What characteristics have good managers from your past displayed?

  • Realize that your responsibilities have changed. You are now in the unfamiliar position of accountability to people both below and above you in the organization. How will you juggle the interests of your team with those of upper management?

  • Avoid the impulse to jump in immediately to fix things or do it yourself when individuals struggle. Rather, remember that you are now more interested in employee growth and skill development. Put into practice the old adage, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Earn people’s trust

Undoubtedly, direct reports will be curious about your leadership style. The actions you take during that critical first day, first week, or even first month impact how others perceive you. These early impressions can be difficult to alter, so it pays to make them as positive as possible.

Put a particular emphasis on building trust. Morale and productivity soar when people feel respected and believe you have their best interests at heart.

Actions that encourage trust include:

  • Keep your word. Failing to carry through on promises or threats at this stage spells disaster. Team members will think you merely “talk big” and won’t take what you say seriously going forward. A good way to keep this in check is to avoid overpromising or overreacting.

  • Act as a good role model. You look like a hypocrite for scolding others when they arrive late but regularly don’t show up on time yourself. Display the behaviors and attitudes you wish to see in others.

  • Avoid micromanaging. Nobody enjoys a new manager peering over her shoulder. Such excess projects the vibe that you do not consider the individual competent and are waiting for failure. Instead, check in with team members regularly, and encourage them to seek you out as needed.

  • Admit mistakes. Do not expect others to own up to their errors if you can’t assume responsibility for yours. Work to create a culture of accountability where people learn from what they do wrong.

  • Ask for feedback. Seeking constructive criticism sends the message that you value the opinions of others. It promotes the idea that everyone has a voice that should be heard.

  • Recognize and appreciate others. Workers want to trust that you notice what they do, especially when they go above and beyond their job description.

  • Share credit. Others will feel leery to put forth their best work again if they feel slighted. Spread the glory!

  • Never play favorites. Trust diminishes when a manager fails to hold everyone to the same standards. Even if you are friends with some colleagues from the days before becoming a manager, remain fair and impartial.

  • Maintain an open door. Display a willingness to discuss any subject team members have on their minds. You’ll gain a reputation as a leader who hears people out and thoughtfully addresses concerns.

Complete your onboarding

If new to the company, human resources likely provided you an onboarding checklist. Don’t let these vital activities fall through the cracks while you are busy adapting to your new position.

  • Fill out all appropriate paperwork in a timely manner. Completion ensures you receive your paycheck, insurance, and other benefits without delay.

  • Take manager training modules and reading material seriously. They are a reflection of what the company considers valuable for you to know.

  • Review the employee handbook. Even if you are a current employee moving up to management and not requiring as much of an onboarding process, now is a great time to revisit the document. Read the handbook with “managerial” eyes. You’ll refresh your memory about company policies on issues likely to arise, such as dress code, absenteeism, and progressive discipline.

Take time to recharge

Finally, remember that any new job proves challenging at the beginning. All new hires worry about making a positive first impression and learning the ropes. Add onto this the stress of now being not only a new employee but also a manager for the first time, and you have a recipe for some sleepless nights.

As admirable as it is to want to dive full throttle into your new role, don’t do so at the expense of your well-being. Do not think of caring for yourself as a luxury. Rather, consider it critical for obtaining the energy necessary to perform your best as a team leader. To that end:

  • Eat a healthy lunch.

  • Use time off on evenings and weekends to enjoy some non-work activities that make you feel good.

  • Exercise. Taking a walk proves particularly helpful to both the body and the mind.

  • Unplug from electronics well before bedtime to promote peaceful slumber.

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