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  • Irina Ketkin, author of #adventuresofthelearner

Congratulations, you’re a manager! Now what?

You have just become a manager, or a friend of yours has. And while it is exciting, the new prospect is also overwhelming. Provided you (or your friend) know some basics, there is no reason fear and doubt shouldn’t be overcome in no time.

Here are some things you need to know:

1. Your personal life will be affected. Whether you like it or not it will happen – you will work longer hours, especially in the beginning, due to the extra levels of responsibility. The best way to handle this situation is to be open and manage the expectations of your loved ones. If they expect you coming home late and tired, they will be more understanding. Even better, they may be able to help you, not just support you morally.

2. Your attitude will change. As a team member you are expected to know all the ins and outs of the job, see the detail and find the best way to achieve results in less time and with limited resources. As a manager you need to take a step back and look at the big picture. Your job will now demand that people know the ins and outs, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Your role is to guide and engage, not do the work for your team. If that were the case, you wouldn’t be manager, but a team member. You might find power poses to be something you practice as well.

3. History matters. You were made a manager for a reason. Someone saw something in you and decided to give you a try. Yes, that can put a lot of pressure on you, but try to understand what are the attitudes, skills, knowledge and behaviours that brought you to where you are. Work off your strengths and develop them even further. If you are not sure what they are – ask. A good tool to use is a 360-degree feedback or just a regular chat with your peers and/or manager. The same principle applies to your team. Learn what their strengths are and try to utilise them. Find out what failures and successes the team has had in the past and make sure you use this information wisely.

4. You need to manage expectations. And by that, I mean everyone’s expectations. It would be very helpful to you to have a conversation with you (new) boss and understand what it is that s/he wants from you. Then you can transfer this bigger picture to you team by translating it to your own version of the ‘big picture’ that’s relevant for them. Once you know this you can plan for some quick wins – small things to change for the better to make you feel more comfortable in the new setting and show the team you mean business and you put their wellbeing above everything else. Be careful though, as focusing too much on the quick wins can move your focus away from what really matters.

5. Be a role model. It has been proven that in situations that require an out-of-the-ordinary reaction from us (i.e. someone having a heart attack in the mall) we often look for clues in other people’s behaviour. If they act, we act; if they stall, we stall. This is the so-called ‘herd mentality’. That’s why you want to be on top of the behaviours you want your team to exhibit. Involve your team by setting objectives and standards, demonstrate your commitment to achieving goals, commit to your personal development. Which leads me to…

6. Encourage individual development. Speak to your people and find out what gets their engines roaring, what makes them wake up in the morning and come to work. And trust me, it is never money (or almost never; if it is, how can you ensure they have enough of it to focus on other values?). Appreciate your people, comment on the extra effort they put in and encourage them to get better – stretch their comfort zones without breaking them (this is a form of art which I have personally experienced on the receiving end and it is very rewarding).

7. Keep your promises. Putting your money where your mouth is a cheesy cliché but a cliché for a reason. If you cannot deliver on something, do not promise it. If you have committed to something, make sure you give it your best. This really ties with the other 6 principles above.

8. Do not accept the status quo. ‘The way things are done around here’ should not be your guiding light. Reserve your right to postpone judgement until you are familiar with your job, team members and the company. Always want to make things better – that should be your prerogative as a manager.

Finally, I want to make a small clarification between management and leadership. Often it is considered that managers deal with the boring administrative stuff – approving holidays, making shift plans, making the day-to-day run smoothly. While leaders inspire people, guide them, motivate them, work on building the team, or in other words, all the people stuff. The truth is that should not be any distinction between the two. As a manager you do have to do some administrative tasks, but you should also focus on your people, make sure they are well taken care of and they are all working for something greater than the individual parts. What would be some of the advice you would give your new manager? Or advice you would give your new-manager self?

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