As a new manager, you are about to embark on a challenging and rewarding journey that will shape your career. Whether you feel excited or a little overwhelmed, this article is here to provide you with essential tips and guidance to help you navigate the responsibilities and expectations that come with your new position.
From understanding your role, people, and team, to managing yourself, Jens Thiemann explores key strategies that will empower you to become a successful and respected leader. Jens is a Management 3.0 facilitator based in Germany with more than 25 years of management experience in different leadership roles. His goal is to create structures and environments that simplify processes and bring people together by inspiring and strengthening them. In addition, we have asked our LinkedIn followers for their tips.
Let us dive in and discover the tools you need to thrive as a new manager!
As a New Manager… Understand and Accept Your Role
Transitioning from an individual contributor to a managerial position requires a shift in mindset. As a new manager, it is essential to understand and accept your role as a leader. Embrace the fact that you are no longer solely responsible for your own work, but you are now accountable for the success of the entire team.
One thing that often happens is that new managers feel overly responsible and want to control everything. But you need to avoid the temptation to micromanage or you risk becoming a bottleneck in decision-making processes. Delegation is a vital skill for a manager, as it allows you to empower your team and leverage their expertise. Recognize that you cannot do everything yourself, and trust your team members to handle their responsibilities. By embracing delegation, you prevent bottlenecks and foster a culture of collaboration and growth. Check all the tasks on your to-do list, and add, who else can do it, then start delegating.
Reflect on your own schedule: when you feel that “the real work can only be done before 9 or after 5pm” (when the team is not working), then you need to change something. It is not your role to work more. You might consider not attending every meeting or avoid taking every decision on your own (which requires time to understand the details or to explain the decision).
Tips for new managers on understanding and accepting your new role:
- Reflect the shift from individual contributor to team leader
- Avoid micromanagement and becoming a bottleneck
- Free your schedule and reduce tasks
As a New Manager… Understand Your People
To lead a team effectively as a new manager, it is essential to understand the individuals within it and to build trust between yourself and the team, and within the team.
Personal Maps are a useful tool to learn about others. It will help you to understand who the team are, what they like, what hobbies they have or what their family life looks like.
I like to use Personal Maps by first filling out a map for each team member based on my existing knowledge of each person. Here I can see who I already know well and who I may need to build a closer relationship with. After this exercise, I ask all team members to draw their own personal maps. This always provides additional insights, not only for me as a manager, but also for the team members among themselves. Even those who already know each other start understanding and trusting each other more with this handy tool.
Once trust is established, you might dig deeper and ask team members to play the Moving Motivators. This will help you to understand personal drivers – which vary from person to person – and consider how you can build an environment which motivates your team. It also helps you to avoid “promotion traps” (by avoiding granting people something, which does not motivate them, and can even lower their primary motivators).
Empathy is a fundamental trait for any manager. It allows you to understand and relate to your team members’ emotions and experiences. Cultivate an empathetic mindset by actively listening, seeking to understand different perspectives, and providing support when needed. Remember, empathy fosters trust and creates a supportive work environment.
Tips for new managers on understanding your people:
- Use Personal Maps on your own (to see who you already know)
- Use Personal Maps with your teammates (to learn who they are)
- Use Moving Motivators to learn about individual drives
- Recognize and cater to diverse motivators within your team
- Cultivate empathy to foster trust and create a supportive work environment.
As a New Manager… Understand Your Team
As a manager, it is important to remember that your role extends beyond managing individual team members. You are responsible for managing the system in which your team operates. This involves creating and maintaining efficient processes, removing obstacles, and ensuring clear communication channels. Focus on optimizing the flow of work and facilitating collaboration, enabling your team to perform at their best.
You might start by understanding what skills are available within your team. Together with your team, create a Team Competency Matrix. Use what you already know from the Personal Maps, team profiles and other sources, and then reflect your understanding with each other.
The Competency Matrix helps you identify the strengths and development areas of your team members in specific competencies. This not only helps you, but it provides transparency for the whole team so they might learn who to consult for a specific topic.
Use this practice to align responsibilities with individual skills, ensuring that tasks are distributed effectively. Additionally, provide opportunities for professional development to enhance your team’s overall skill set.
Tips for new managers on understanding your team:
- Create a Team Competency Matrix
- Utilize the Competency Matrix to align responsibilities with individual competencies
- Manage the system, optimizing workflow and facilitating collaboration.
“Always keep learning and question your knowledge. Focus on removing the obstacles and enabling teamwork. Do retros for your team regularly. Break silo mentality, question the status quo, but don’t force decisions on teams.”
As a New Manager… Empower Your Team
Delegation is a vital skill for any manager, regardless of age or experience. It will not only help you to avoid becoming a bottleneck, but it will also empower your team. One thing to learn as a new manager is delegating in a clear way: do you delegate a task, but want to decide on your own, or do you also delegate the decision? Can the team execute the task independently, or do you want them to listen to your input?
Delegation Poker is a practice that allows you and your team to clarify responsibilities, and decision-making authority. It helps establish a shared understanding of delegation boundaries, ensuring that tasks are appropriately assigned, and that team members have the autonomy they need to excel.
A Delegation Board is a visual tool that provides transparency regarding the delegation process. It helps track delegated tasks, their progress, and the level of autonomy assigned to team members. This tool ensures that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and the status of ongoing projects.
Tips for new managers on empowering your team:
- Utilize delegation techniques like Delegation Poker
- Create full transparency with a Delegation Board.
As a New Manager… Recognize Your Formal Power
Avoid seeing yourself as “a team member with a different title”. You are different, because of the formal power coming with your new manager role. Some people know this and might want to trick you, or others may not be able to handle the shift when going from being a friend in one situation, to their boss in another. Therefore, you should recognize your new power and how to use (or delegate) it.
Your formal power is derived from your position within the organizational hierarchy. It grants you the authority to make decisions and set expectations. Respect this authority and use it judiciously to influence your team positively. You can delegate your power, e.g. when the team should take decisions, but remember to grant this with clear expectations and rules. Remember Delegation Poker.
Disciplinary power refers to the ability to enforce rules and regulations. While it is important to address performance issues and maintain discipline, it is equally vital to do so in a fair and respectful manner. Focus on constructive feedback and provide guidance for improvement rather than using disciplinary power as a tool of punishment.
Technical power comes from your expertise and knowledge in a specific area. While you may have excelled as an individual contributor in the past, recognize that your role as a manager requires you to shift your focus from executing tasks to enabling and supporting your team members. Share your knowledge when necessary, but also encourage your team to develop their own expertise. Remember to avoid becoming a bottleneck.
When you have been with your team for some time, you should aim to be more transparent and consider creating a Team Agreement. This will foster collaboration and set expectations for team behavior and norms. Collaboratively define values, communication guidelines, and decision-making processes. This canvas serves as a reference point and encourages accountability within the team.
Tips for new managers on recognizing your formal power:
- Recognize disciplinary power, delegate it transparently
- Share your technical expertise while encouraging growth in others
- Establish a Team Agreement to define behavior and norms.
“There will be times when you want to throw in the towel and return to your comfort zone. Remember that you only get better if you work through the uncomfortable situations. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
As a New Manager… Empathy and Communication are Key
Effective communication is crucial for any manager, regardless of age or background. In today’s work environment, utilizing communication tools is essential. Explore various tools that facilitate collaboration, such as project management platforms, instant messaging apps, and video conferencing software. These tools help foster efficient communication, enhance team collaboration, and bridge the gap between team members.
Finally, decide on one communication tool, and introduce full transparency. Why? Because this will avoid the building of subgroups, and silos. It will increase trust and determine when people can always follow up on a discussion (when they like). It will save you time by encouraging you to consider who is allowed to see which information at what point in time and it will avoid a complexity trap which creates more and more ineffective rules.
Spend your time on feedback, as this is a powerful tool for growth and development. Use the Feedback Wrap, which combines positive feedback, constructive criticism, and future-oriented feedback. This approach also helps create a safe environment, establish closer relationships and foster a better understanding between team members. Practicing the principles of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) promotes empathy, understanding, and effective communication within the team.
Tips for new managers on communicating better:
- Use one communication platform to avoid silos
- Avoid unhelpful visibility rules and permissions, but use full transparency
- Practice the Feedback Wrap technique for constructive feedback.
“Stay curious. Ask yourself what’s in it i just heard, saw, … And try to understand and not to judge.
And speak less, listen more.”
As a New Manager… Manage Yourself
To be an effective manager, regardless of your age or experience, it is important to be self-aware and monitor your own behavior. Check, if you act within the Drama Triangle, a social model proposed by Stephan Karpman. It illustrates unproductive communication patterns such as the victim, persecutor, and rescuer roles. Avoid falling into these patterns and instead promote open and constructive dialogue within the team.
Michael Bungay Stanier, a thought leader on coaching, recommends to be mindful of the “Advice Monster” that resides within us. Instead of providing solutions or telling your team members what to do, empower them by asking coaching questions. Coaching questions encourage critical thinking, problem-solving, and personal growth. Use questions such as “what do you think are your options?” or “how would you approach this situation differently?”
In this context, learn the 3-second-rule to avoid the Advice Monster: before providing an ad hoc answer, think about what you want to say, be silent and count to three. Check if this person just delegates a task back to you, by asking for your advice. In this situation, ask them for their own opinion, observe which possible solution they provide, and ask which decision they would make (and why).
You may also download our Improvement Dialogue Cards to access more questions for reflection or simply use one as a reminder about the coaching questions or the advice monster.
Tips for new managers on managing yourself:
- Avoid unproductive communication patterns like the Drama Triangle
- Be aware of the Advice Monster within you
- Start asking coaching questions.
Continue Your Journey as a New Manager
Stepping into a managerial role, whether you are a young professional or a seasoned senior, can be both exciting and challenging. By following these essential tips and accepting your role, effectively handling power dynamics and developing strong relationships with your team members, you can navigate the challenges with confidence and become an exceptional leader in your role. Remember, leadership is a continuous learning journey, and with dedication and an open mindset, you can become an exceptional manager.
This article already provides a lot to learn and considering all these tips will take some time. Nevertheless, it is just the beginning of your journey as a manager. When you have established yourself and the team, you might focus on different improvements.
All this you can learn from the Management 3.0 workshops, starting with a Foundation Workshop.