Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Take the Lead: Tips for First Time Managers

You have your degree. You bring solid experience and expertise to the job. Now what? Management may be the next step in your career. This new role can be exciting and intimidating. The excitement of being a leader and putting your managerial skills to work is what you have been striving for but the unknown of what might be lurking around the corner can also be overwhelming. When asked about fears and concerns, first time managers have said that they worry about losing friends who were once peers but now they are direct reports. Others have worried about not being successful at their new role. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you consider this new chapter of your career.

You Are Not Alone. Identify other managers who you respect who can act as mentors. These mentors have been around the block, they have “been there, done that”. They can help side-step any landmines along the path to leadership. Set up an informational interview. This can be a mid-morning coffee break or lunch once or twice a week to explore strategies, discuss lessons learned and even set goals to help hone your skills. Joining professional associations can be another way to tap into other’s experiences.

Embrace feedback. It is important that your team trusts you and can depend on you to guide them. Active listening and genuine empathy can go a long way to instill and nurture that trust. Ask questions of your team and allow them to be honest with their answers.

Coach for Success. Do not wait for annual performance reviews to give feedback to your direct reports. Establish a consistent one-on-one meeting with each team member. This is a time for constructive criticism as well as praise. These meetings can be very productive to build trust and gain respect. This is an investment of time and energy but well worth it.

Strike a Balance. Managing processes and supervising employees takes time and energy. Not only are you responsible to make sure that the job is done well, on-time and within budget, but that your team is healthy and happy. Be careful not to spread yourself too thin. If you are too consumed by meetings and tweaking work processes, then you risk neglecting your team. If, on the other hand, you are too busy with your team, then you can risk having a mediocre work-product and shoddy performance. Track how you spend your time to see if there is a reasonable balance or a need to adjust accordingly.

Take Notes. One great way to record your lessons learned while on the job, as a first-time manager, is to keep a log or “Leadership Diary” of your daily experiences. This can be a fun way to reflect on your growth.

Visit the WGU Career & Professional Development website for additional professional development resources to assist in developing your managerial skill set. For personalized professional development tips or individual career assistance, contact your career advisor today! 


  1. Another helpful tip in my opinion would be to not go in and just start changing things around. Chances are your staff members are already stressed about the management change in general and if you go in and just start changing everything they will not appreciate that (or you) very much. When I first went into management a few years ago I learned a lot from observing and building rapport/relationships with my staff. The only items I would have changed immediately would have been any sort of policy violation or something not meeting compliance standards. Listen to your people and get to know makes your job as a new manager a lot easier when you do need to correct performance or make changes because they will understand and trust your motives.

  2. Excellent, Ashley. You are so right on all points. The new manager is actually the "newbie" and needs to trust in the process and trust in the team. First understand the operation and how/why things work the way they do before trying to implement any sweeping changes.

    Thanks so much for your comments.

  3. I agree. Though I don't technically manage, I have spent almost 10 years as a State of Utah, UOSH Consultant where I look at many organization's Safety and Health programs to improve their employee injury/illness experience. I have encountered many methods of management, some great and others not so much. Those who are successful in fostering a culture of safety include their employees in detecting problems and finding solutions. When employees are empowered with some of the responsibility, rather than dictated to, they support managers and their decisions. New managers should not engage in changing things, just for the sake of change. A good look at why things are the way they are currently is very important. Enlisting buy-in from those who will experience the change is critical. In my field, one or two serious employee injuries can sink a small business entirely. It is important to protect and nurture the human resource in a business. Without them, nothing happens.