The new managers conundrum
As a new manager, you are full of energy and optimism. You want to get this right and be a great manager.
Driven by past experience with multiple leaders, you want to follow the leadership practices that you have admired in your previous managers and avoid their mistakes. You want to do everything possible to coach, mentor, and support your people. You are excited about creating a new and better world for your people where you have a team that is open, honest, and collaborative.
However, reality hits you when you realise that all the right things you are doing, may not be the best for your team or you are falling short of people’s expectations.
You are confused because you always received positive signals from the team and it seemed that people were happy with your leadership.
As a new manager myself, I have been in the same position and have learned with time to create a culture of open communication where team members are able to share their opinions, feedback, and concerns openly. Asking for feedback multiple times in a year will not give you transparency.
You will have to create a comfortable space for open conversation, which takes time to build. This open communication is crucial for your team to gain trust and confidence in your abilities and for them to see that you have trust and confidence in theirs.
Remember that creating a team culture doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and some focused efforts on your end that will make your team see you as honest, supportive, and trustworthy.
Here are a few of my learnings that have helped me and can guide you in your manager role and will eventually place you on a successful path.
You should be clear on your leadership philosophy and values
As a manager, your responsibility is to bring your most authentic self to work, and it starts by knowing your leadership values. When you know your values, you live them every day and make better decisions. Start by making your own personal leadership values list. Write down each value that matters to you, then group the similar values together. For example, honesty, integrity, and authenticity may go together, as may optimism, resilience, and adaptability. Choose one word from each group that is most important to you.
Adapt your leadership style as per people and situation
Spend time learning about your team members’ motivators. For some employees, appreciation works; for others, it is a learning opportunity. For a section of people, it can be a challenging assignment. Know your people and what motivates them to support them in the direction that meets their aspirations. Understand their career aspirations. Ask what they enjoy in their current role and what it is that they would like to improve. Be honest about what you can solve and the things which are beyond your control.
Go beyond work conversations and spend a few minutes checking in on how they are doing in their personal lives, etc. Share about your personal life. This will show that you care beyond work.
New managers are often hesitant to delegate because they are more confident in their own abilities than in those of their employees.
Consider which employee would feel motivated by the task, may have the time, and has demonstrated the required skills—or could benefit from developing them. Also, use your discretion to determine if an employee is ready to take on the task.
When delegating a task, remember that your team’s experience is not the same as yours. They are likely going to perform the task differently than you – and that’s okay. Successful managers know that not all tasks need to be completed to perfection. Accepting some less-than-perfect results is more important than taking on all the work yourself.
Watch how you conduct yourself in stressful situations
Ask yourself what your team experiences when you are stressed or having a tough day at work. Understand that you may have displayed emotions like anger, and impatience, which could affect the overall morale and engagement of the team. Your mood strongly influences the mood of the overall team, so it’s important for you to have a stable ground.
Maintain a stable presence even in tough times to make your people comfortable bringing you the bad news or making any mistakes. They should have confidence that they have your back and that you will remove obstacles for them.
Be a good listener
A good manager knows how to actively listen and respond to speakers' needs. Sometimes, people only want an empathetic ear and sometimes a solution, and other times, maybe a direction. If you’d like to hear everyone’s opinion on a topic, hold off on sharing your own ideas until after everyone else has spoken. This will ensure that no one withholds information that might go against your opinion. Plus, by listening to your team members, you’ll learn the value of hearing different points of view.
Respect your people's time
It’s nice to bring people together. However, if the goal is to only share the information, then an email could be a better use of everyone’s time. Schedule meetings when you have tasks that need group discussion. Share the agenda beforehand and try to keep the time and participant list as small as possible. Give people enough time to prepare for better engagement during the discussion. When possible, delegate the different agenda items to others. Not only will they feel more involved, but it’ll help them develop their leadership skills. Consider yourself a meeting facilitator whose job is to move the conversation forward and make sure everyone is heard. You shouldn’t be the person speaking the whole time!
Build confidence in your team
Though most people like to feel appreciated for their performance, this doesn’t mean you should constantly praise your employees. On the contrary, giving too much praise comes across as insincere. Rather, show appreciation only when you truly believe someone deserves it. You should be specific about their behaviour and describe how the impact of their performance benefits the company.
Being a new manager can be challenging. You are expected to fulfil both your team’s and leadership's expectations. However, success lies in giving time to understand yourself and your team. Leadership is a journey and you learn every day by keeping an open mind and bringing your most authentic self to work.