Own It: How to Thrive as a New Manager

You saw yourself as a leader, and your supervisors agreed. Congratulations! It's time to step into a new role.

As the glow begins to wear off, you might start to feel overwhelmed. Sure, you've worked hard to prepare for this day - but there's a lot you may not yet know, too.

Here's where to start.

Succeeding as a New Manager: Before Your First Day

Start by talking to each member of your new team before your first day on the job, if you can. Introduce yourself, express your enthusiasm for the job, and ask a few questions about each person's role and how they got where they are now. Keep it casual: Your goal is to start building connections and understanding the team a bit better.

Then, take some time on your own to organize your thoughts. As a manager, your job isn't only to ensure day-to-day tasks are done. It's also to understand the company's overall vision and communicate it to your team. Build an environment that helps your team do its best work, and you'll look like a superstar.

Finally, take some care with how you dress. You'll want to project an air of competence, but don't overshoot your team's usual dress code, or you'll simply end up looking stuffy. For instance, if your team is in business casual, "upscale" business casual is a better choice than a formal suit.

Hit the Ground Running on Day One

The first day for a new manager is often a bit awkward, so fight this weirdness with friendliness and connection. Make time to talk to your team and introduce yourself to key people, including your own new boss if necessary.

Day One should focus on two primary goals: Listen and Learn.

By listening to your team, you build trust, and you also gain insight into the biggest current obstacles and how to overcome them. One smart task to assign yourself is to meet with every team member individually during your first week or two in your new role. Ask each team member these three questions:

  1. What works well? What should we keep doing?
  2. What doesn't work? How could we change it to improve things?
  3. What do you need from me so you can succeed in your job?

Take notes, prepare a summary, and meet with the team as a whole at the end of your fact-finding mission so they can help you identify concrete ways to address problems.

Many managers want to "make their mark" by making big changes right away. Doing so, however, can disrupt your team's current successes and even cause resentments. And while you can't please everyone all the time, getting your team's input is a good way to make everyone feel heard in a fair process.

In addition, spend your first day identifying sources of learning. Whether they're management tools or classes, workplace manuals or potential mentors, spot every source of new information you can. The best managers never stop learning.

The First Week: Shift Your Focus

As a member of the team, your job was to complete tasks. As a manager, however, tasks take a backseat.

Yes, you still have a to-do list - and you're responsible for making sure other people's to-do lists get to-done. But there's a word for a task-focused team leader: a micromanager.

Instead, put task completion within a larger context. As the team's leader, your primary role is to contextualize the team's work. In other words, your job is to ensure the team understands how their tasks contribute to a bigger goal or vision.

The best managers never lose sight of this vision, and they make sure their teams never lose sight of it either. How?

Start by understanding what the vision is, as well as how your team's tasks contribute. Then, share this information with your team. Share credit for successes when they happen, since it's the team's tasks that lead to you shining as a leader.

Reach Up and Out

Learning to lead well leaves a lot on your plate. But don't ignore your own supervisor during this time. If anything, communicate more.

Your own boss can help you set goals for your team that align with the company's goals and vision. Your boss can help you learn to manage the team and give you tips on how to tackle any number of tasks more easily as you settle into your new role.

Don't be afraid to seek help outside the organization, either. Your recruiting partner can help you find educational resources and mentors. And when it's time for you to grow again, your recruiter can help with that step as well.