If I only knew then what I know now …
How many times have you said that?
Hindsight is worth its weight in gold and keeps us from repeating our mistakes.
Take a moment and think about it.
If you could go back in time to your first management position, what single piece of knowledge would you take with you to make managing easier or better?
To get some answers, I went straight to people on the front lines – executives and supervisors I respect – and here’s what they said:
1) Share Failure
If a direct report is failing at his job, he isn’t solely to blame. The manager shares in that blame, too.
It’s a manager’s job to train, empower and motivate her employees. If a direct report is failing, then as the manager you have to ask yourself if you’ve done everything you can and given the employee everything he needs to do the job successfully. Employees often fail because they aren’t given the proper tools, procedures or support they need to succeed.
2) Listen More
One trait successful managers have is they’re good listeners on a variety of levels:
- They listen to and focus on their employees’ concerns, wants and needs.
- They listen to the “old pros.” Even if they don’t agree with them, they’ve been there and done that, and you can learn from their experiences.
- They listen to and understand what the company’s REAL mission and goals are. They fully understand them so they’re not making decisions in a vacuum.
- They listen to their own gut. If it feels wrong, don’t do it. Even if others say you should. Investigate deeper until you know what’s causing the issue, and
- They listen to the customer. In the long run, that’s who you really have to satisfy. If you listen to enough of them, they’ll tell you everything you need to do to succeed.
3) Lighten Up
Yes, being a manager is an important job, but you don’t have to be serious 100% of the time.
A lot of first time managers think they have to establish the fact they’re the boss by being rigid and controlling everything. But all that does is make them unapproachable, and puts distance between them and their employees.
Being approachable and accessible garners trust, and when employees trust you, they work harder for you.
4) Don’t Worry So Much About Being Liked
Most people want to be liked. And being liked is great, but as a boss you can’t worry about it too much. If you’re focused on being liked by your employees, then that’ll monopolize your time and you won’t be focused on the issues that are really important.
Remember: You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time!
Be fair, trustworthy and pleasant, and your employees will follow your lead.
5) Be Friendly, But Don’t Be ‘Friends’
While being friendly and approachable is a good thing, being “friends” with your direct reports isn’t. It often leads to favoritism and resentment from employees who aren’t in the “friend” category.
It also affects a manager’s authority – a friend may think he doesn’t have to follow certain rules and that he’s above the other employees. This greatly complicates the employee/boss relationship.
6) Don’t Try To Fix Everything All At Once
Doing so will only lead to frustration and failure. Take baby steps and remember, it didn’t break all at once either.
Fix one or two things at a time. Once you have a handle on that or your employee has a handle on something, go back and work on the next issue.
The fact that you stay calm and tackle things one at a time, instead of becoming frantic and irate, builds rapport and, eventually, respect.
7) Don’t Assume Anything!
People are complicated beings and many things can influence how they communicate. That’s why it is so important not to assume anything.
If something isn’t clear, ask questions until it is. If you’re explaining something, have the person you’re talking to explain it to you. Ask if they have questions. Keep the communication channels open.
8) People’s Emotions Count
Like it or not, how someone feels affects everything he or she does!
Asking employees to leave their emotions at home doesn’t work. It creates a stressful and unpleasant work environment.
And emotions play a major role in how people learn. It’s been shown that people absorb more information if they’re relaxed and having fun. If they’re stressed, scared or upset, concentration and comprehension flies right out the door. So even if someone is slow to pick something up, stressing them out more doesn’t help.
9) Lay A Strong Foundation
Giving a new hire too much too fast leads to having to backtrack later and re-teach the basics that should have been taught in the beginning. Taking the time to lay a strong foundation of the basic skills and core knowledge of a job with new hires first, helps both the manager and new hire in the long run.
10) Don’t Dwell On Your Mistakes
As a first time manager you’re going to make mistakes. Accept the fact and move on – no one’s perfect.
Embrace your mistakes and learn from them. Dwelling on mistakes will whittle away your confidence and make you start to second guess just about everything you do.
And let’s face it, most management skills are best learned by doing.
11) Learn To Accept Help
Your job as a manager isn’t to make all the decisions all the time.
Allowing your employees to make some of the decisions gives them a sense of empowerment and purpose, and is a great source of motivation.
It shows you depend on them and trust them. Even if they make the wrong decision, it’s a learning experience for everyone involved.
So what’s the one piece of knowledge that you have now that you’d take back with you to make your first management job easier? Share it in the comments box below.
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