You're full of hope for the future and all you'll accomplish. You're exited about building a team and helping others succeed. But you're intimated too; management seems like a lot of responsibility.
You’re qualified, of course, or they wouldn’t have hired you.... right? But no matter how many people assure you "you got this," you won’t truly know what it’s like, or if you if actually "have this" until you get started.
That’s especially true right now when more than half of the US workforce is working from home and new managers have to learn to lead remotely. It feels like a lot to take on, but don’t worry! Everyone’s learning as they go right now, new and veteran managers alike.
The most important thing is to listen to the needs of your team. Your role is to be their advocate and guide as well as their manager. Here are some tips to get you started on the right foot.
It can be overwhelming to start a job as a new manager, especially when you’re being onboarded remotely. Just remember that you’re not alone, and you don’t have to make every decision and face every demand by yourself.
Communication is key in this situation. Set up video calls with your new team as well as your peers in management. Ask people what challenges they’ve been facing and find out if you can help. Ask what goals they want to set for themselves, both individually and as a group, and brainstorm ways to make that happen.
If you’re not working remotely, you can have these kinds of conversations in the office too. Either way, it helps you to understand that you don’t have to make every decision on your own. Your new position comes with a new support network of people who want to see you succeed, so make use of their resources and guidance.
Starting as a manager means building connections with the people on your team—learning about their lives, getting to know their personalities and bonding as a community.
It’s hard to bond over balance sheets and quarterly goals, so consider spending time doing non-work things together. That can be hard to do when your choices are limited by closures and stay-at-home orders, but it’s important to find a way. It may even be more important now than it would be under normal circumstances.
When social media marketing company Buffer surveyed workers about their biggest struggles when working remotely, the second most common answer was loneliness. That number may have gone up, now that people are not only working from home but also discouraged from going out and socializing.
You can give your team some much-needed social time and bond with them as a manager by planning some virtual playtime. A company softball game may be out of the question, but you can plan a Zoom trivia session or a Pictionary game. Use your imagination and research group games that are playable online. Your team will have fun and it’ll start you off on a positive note.
When you’re a manager, it’s easy to beat yourself up for mistakes and shortcomings. After all, you should be a role model for your team, right?
Of course, it’s important to be a role model, but it’s also important to be human. You’re managing other people, not robots, and they all mess up from time to time. They’ll forget about meetings, get overloaded with deadlines or lose important papers—and you will too.
People tend to handle their mistakes in one of two ways. Either they sweep it under the rug and pretend it didn’t happen, or they’ll reach out for help. You want your team to reach out, and you can encourage them to do that by showing how it’s done.
If you make a mistake, admit it and let people know what you’re planning to do to fix it. If you need help, ask for it. Once they see it’s okay to mess up sometimes, you’ll have a more open and collaborative work environment.
There’s a psychological phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Based on a classic study from 1999, it shows that when people are only marginally familiar with a topic, they tend to overestimate their expertise. Because they’re not aware of how much they have left to learn, their knowledge stagnates.
Everyone is susceptible to the Dunning-Kruger effect, especially when doing something new (like managing). The only solution is to be constantly learning and evaluating your expertise.
Remember to check in with others about how you’re doing. Since our brains are wired to tell us that we know more than we actually do, it’s essential to get second opinions. Ask your team members and higher-ups for constructive criticism about how you’re adapting to your new role. Find out what you need to learn more about, then dig in and build your knowledge base.
Management is as much a learning experience as it is a leadership role. It’s all about discovering what your team needs to be able to do their best work, then meeting those needs in any way you can.
Remember, you’re not in this alone. The more you cultivate collaboration in your team and among your fellow managers, the more support you’ll have coming back to you. Keep the lines of communication open by scheduling regular head-to-heads and connecting with the group as often as you can.
Communication in the era of remote work can be challenging, so use the software at your disposal to streamline conversations and minimize confusion. Tools like Calendly can help you to schedule meetings efficiently and keep everyone on the same page. Before you know it, everyone will be looking to you as a model of efficient, collaborative leadership.
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