Answers To Your Questions – Succeeding As A New Manager

Recently I’ve had a few questions come my way about on-boarding successfully as a new manager. As the old classroom adage goes, if one person is asking the question, then there may be others out there wondering the same. So, I figured I’d answer them in this 5min article. Here’s what a lot of your peers are wondering:

Is management really something that can be taught?

Yes, it can – and, it has to be experienced. There’s a misconception about leading others where people think that you need to be magically endowed or ‘born to lead.’ The truth is that if you are open to learning and can check your ego at the door, you can develop fundamental habits that underpin great management. Leveraging these fundamentals, and having someone help you along the way, drastically increases your chances of success on the job.

How do I build trust quickly as a new manager?

Huge question! To me, this is the most critical step as a new manager (or any manager for that matter). I recall my first ever team meeting in my new role. I was now leading a team of my peers (gulp), and wanted to set a high performing, trusting tone. I created a dazzling slide deck of how we would all get there together…

As I was excitedly presenting my slides, I came to one about the importance of trust. I think I spent 15 seconds on it, saying something like, “well, we all know each other and have worked together for a few years, so it’s great that we have a good level of trust….moving on…”

And then it happened…a particular person on my team was brave enough to jump in, and say, “Ian we all had trust together as teammates, sure, but this is different now. We need to create trust in a new way with you as a manager.” I’ll be forever thankful for this person speaking their truth (thank you Lori!). It hammered home the most important point about leading people – creating trust. And that doesn’t occur with a slide, or an inspirational quote. Trust doesn’t have a halo effect that magically carries over once you become a manager.

As with any important relationship, trust is paramount and cannot be built overnight. It takes time. As a manager, you have to invest time in listening and understanding your team members individually. Some will trust you very quickly, others will take longer. Such is life.

This begins with weekly 1:1 meetings with each of your direct reports. 30min will suffice (20min for them, 10min for you). If you have more than 14 direct reports, you may not have a choice but to do bi-weekly. Research from Mark Horstman’s book ‘The Effective Manager’ indicates that bi-weekly meetings will produce about 70% of the optimal result compared to weekly 1:1s (an excellent book, by the way).

Your role here is to build a strong connection with your employee. Find out what’s going on in their life (hint: start by asking – “what’s on your mind today?” or “what’s the most important thing we need to talk about right now?”). The aim of these meetings is to signal to your employees that: you are listening and you care; you value their time; they have a standing weekly invite with you ensuring access for questions/guidance, etc.

I don’t like coaching and quite frankly I don’t want to be a coach. What am I supposed to do?

In short, it’s not about you anymore – it’s about them. Part of being a people manager is realizing that you now get paid to deliver results through others. If you just prefer to work on your own and let your team do their thing, management may not be for you. The majority of employees (and especially those in younger generations) expect to learn and develop from their boss. Not coaching risks two core things under your control: results and retention.

Your goal is not to become the best coach in the world, but in the words of author Michael Bungay-Stanier, to become “more coach-like.” And that just means asking better questions, staying curious a bit longer, and resisting the urge to problem solve everything yourself. Coaching is often made out to be a complicated, messy process. I suggest reading ‘The Coaching Habit’ by the author mentioned above. A short, simple, and highly effective read that makes coaching easy to understand and implement. Changed my whole approach for the better.

That’s it for now. Have a fantastic week out there.