How to be a manager for the first time

Stepping into a management role for the first time can be exciting, challenging and a little bit daunting. However, if you’re armed with the right mindset and preparation, you’ll be well on your way to winning Boss of the Year.

Do your research before you start

Before you start in your new role, find out as much as you can about the business and your team. “Getting an idea of the company culture, what their contribution to society might be and how they’re positioned against their competitors is a great place to start,” says SEEK HR Consultant Emma Whalan. “If you’re already in the business, prepare yourself by getting to know your manager and their expectations. Getting to know the team is also really important.”

How to be a first time manager

The traits of a strong leader

Being a good manager is undoubtedly a juggling act. To be a successful manager you need to be able to communicate effectively, motivate your team and allocate time and resources as efficiently as possible. You also need to be a strong decision-maker.

A large part of developing leadership skills is being self-aware. Whalan says it’s important to schedule time to reflect on your performance at work. Seeking feedback from your manager and also key members of your team from time to time will assist with this process by helping you identify how you need to change or improve.

It’s also important to acknowledge that being a good manager takes time and is a constant learning process. Build and improve your skills not just by learning on the job but also taking part in training internally or externally to broaden your skill set with a management course.

Learn to manage the performance of employees and budgets with an online Diploma of Leadership & Management (BSB51915), or build the traits of an effective leader with a Bachelor of Business (Management). Pressed for time? Try a short course to brush up on First Time Manager Essentials.

Managing your team

Building a rapport with your team is crucial to fostering a harmonious work environment. When you first start, set up one-on-one meetings with each member of your team to discuss their role, what their goals are and any challenges they may currently be facing. Also, make the effort to join team lunches and Friday after-work drinks to get to know everyone in a more relaxed environment. Whalan says the better you know your team the better you’re able to determine how to motivate them.

From friend to manager

What if your promotion means you’re now managing previous colleagues and peers? Whalan says you need to be conscious of the fact that your relationships might change. Being someone’s manager could mean that your colleague/friend may now be a little more reluctant to express an opinion or won’t be as willing to share information with you. It’s important to counteract this by asking questions and maintaining an open dialogue. On the flip-side, while openness is crucial, it’s also important to remember that you need to be able to separate what you say as a manager and what you say as a friend.

Have a plan

“The most successful managers I see who are either taking on new teams within their current role or moving into the business, have a really clear plan of what that first month, two months, three months is going to look like,” says Whalan.

Having a concrete plan means taking the time to understand and define with your manager the goals you’re aiming to achieve in the first few months. It’s also important to talk to your team and stakeholders to find out what’s currently working, what isn’t, and to identify potential issues and roadblocks. An overview of how your team fits into the broader context of the business will better enable you to map out what you need to do and the path to achieving it.