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4 ways to nail being a first-time manager

By Rebecca Hitchon | 24 August 2023 | Business, Expert Advice, Feature


Experiential learning company, Impact International, shares a guide to being a first-time manager…

Managing a team can be an exciting experience but it can also pose challenges, particularly for first-time managers and those transitioning from a team member to a leader. Statistically, managers promoted from within are more likely to be respected by their former teammates compared to an external hire – but there are still challenges ahead, as being a manager requires a new set of skills and qualities.

1. Clarify what your responsibilities are

When taking on a managerial role for the first time, gaining a thorough understanding of what the role is and where your responsibilities lie are key to successful performance. Think about how you would manage to run a project without knowing what you were expected to do – managing a team is no different.

It is important to establish your role as head of the team, as well as the responsibilities of the team members, to allow efficient working and successful performance. Speak to other managers, see how they manage their teams and don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Take on board feedback from peers, as well as team members.

2. Communicate effectively

As a manager, you will need to communicate effectively to your team. This involves listening as much as, if not more than, you talk. A manager that shows the willingness to listen will create an element of trust and find that employees are more likely to open up, as well as more likely to come with suggestions and be receptive to ideas that you communicate.

When communicating, especially a change of process or important information, it is important to make sure that staff find out from you and not someone else. Where possible, gather staff and communicate big announcements to all of the team, as information slipping out through whispers can cause unrest and make you lose respect as a boss.

3. Delegate responsibility

A common mistake newly promoted managers make is getting involved in the day-to-day tasks that they used to be responsible for. You may be keen to show that you are not afraid to get stuck into tasks, and that you are not above helping out at the level of the rest of the team – particularly if your team is short-staffed.

Alternatively, there is the chance that your old tasks are more familiar to you than the world of leadership. While this can be appreciated, a manager working alongside team members is not a good idea. When actioning tasks that should be undertaken by the team, managerial responsibility can be neglected, resulting in negative consequences for the team and potentially the business.

There may be times where a manager must step in to help, in busy periods or where a staff shortage is causing severe problems, but these times should be kept to a rarity and necessity, rather than a regular occurrence.

4. Set boundaries

This is of particular relevance to those newly promoted to managing from previously being part of the team. It can be easy for a new manager to become too friendly with staff, resulting in clouded judgement and an impact on performance.

While it is part of human nature to wish to be liked, the nature of management means that employees may not always agree with your decisions. But as long as they are for the overall benefit of the team, you are doing the right thing.

Naturally, adding an element of friendship, especially approachability, and ensuring employees know you are a supportive boss are fine – but set boundaries and make sure your position is clear, that you are respected and that you don’t allow personal relationships to get in the way of your job.