‘success in management requires learning as fast as the world is changing? ? Warren Bennis
When American scholar and author Warren Bennis coined this quote, he was onto something. Anyone who has joined the management fold can attest to the importance of constantly learning and re-learning.
They can also vouch for the fact that there is no learning curve steeper than the one you undertake when you become a manager for the first time.
For many of our candidates, taking that step up into management or executive leadership can be daunting. This is why Peopleconnexion Recruitment have created 5 exercises for first-time managers.
Whether you?re a new manager yourself or coaching one, we want to throw out this challenge: try an exercise every day. If you get stuck, let me know and I can provide you with some one-on-one advice.
An employee views the business through the lens of their position and their place within a team. Rather than seeing themselves as a tiny cog in a big wheel, managers can step back and see the whole picture.
The transition to management involves understanding the business as a whole, but also how all of the individual pieces work together.
Sit down and map out the entire company (yes really, the whole thing). Make a note to understand the difference between functional units, including how they interact and communicate with each other.
- To gain a deeper understanding, ask yourself:
- If projects are falling behind, which team picks up the slack?
- Are there bottlenecks in the business?
- Who are the ?ideas? teams who create new opportunities and who are the ?worker bees? who execute them?
After answering these questions, make a note to re-answer them with their own team in mind instead. This exercise can help highlight how individual employees and teams contribute to the broader organisation, while identifying new opportunities for cross-cooperation and improvement.
?You are 100% the boss, only 50% of the relationship? – Bill Gentry from the Center for Creative Leadership
New managers might now have 100% of eyes on them, but that doesn’t mean they need to put in 100% of the effort in a relationship. It’s a two-way street.
Check your emails and see how many you have unanswered from different employees ? is this telling of their approach to the professional relationship? Do they make an effort to keep accountable for their work? What about keeping management accountable for projects?
Sometimes the best advice is to find someone that has ?been there, done that?. For first-time managers, finding not just any mentor, but the right mentor plays an enormous part in growth and development.
A great mentor will reflect on the lessons they have learned during similar points of their life.
Reflect on the areas in your professional life needing improvement. Do you need to improve your network? Could you be stronger in your technical skills?
Seek out someone in your organisation or broader professional network who can help coach and guide you. Work together to form an action plan addressing the steps you will take over the next year to improve this area of your professional life. Make a point to check in with each other at least once a month face-to-face or via Skype to track your progress.
When you?re just starting out, one of the hardest lessons to learn is that it’s okay to ask for help. As a new manager, one of the toughest challenges is learning that it’s okay to delegate.
Chances are, you don’t wear a red cape and you can’t swoop in to save every crisis daily. It may be tempting to jump in and help out without anyone asking, but this may be a detriment to first-time managers when they struggle to draw the line.
Take out a pen and paper and jot down every time in the last week that you performed a task a member of your team could have finished for you as part of their job description. Add up how long those tasks took you to complete and tally up your total over an entire week.
Even 10 five-minute tasks per day add up to over 4 hours per week! Imagine how you could develop your team or find new business opportunities if you took back that extra half-day.
Before becoming a manager, you have a to-do list to complete. One of the greatest challenges new managers can face is understanding that people need to become the core of your vision, not the tasks on your plate.
New managers need to be able to master the skill of planning work around how each employee can contribute best and assessing what they can learn from the experience. The assignment itself should be secondary to the opportunities for on-the-job learning. After all, a proficient team who can envision clear development pathways for themselves will be more likely to want to be more productive.
Before you can start planning projects around people, the first step is to set meetings with each member of the team to understand the three following questions:
- What are their career goals?
- What is their greatest challenge right now?
- What did they learn last week?
Once you have established solid answers, you can begin planning and be delegating based on how each team member can be best utilised and challenged.
All feedback is welcome. Is there anything missing from this list?