The first three months are difficult for new managers. There are some ways to make the transition easier.
Someone Else’s Recruits – Part I
Management is not an easy job. After more than 20 years in management, I can tell you that it does not matter whether you are working with a corporate team, non-profit team or small company, you are still dealing with a variety of backgrounds and personalities – and you are often dealing with someone else’s recruits. These factors can present quite the challenge to even the most seasoned manager, but if you are a greenhorn walking into such a situation you have your work cut out for you.
Take a moment and look at the situation through your new employees’ eyes. Perhaps they feel that they have an established team and view you as bullying your way into the group and taking over, stripping them of their empowerment. Or, you may be coming in on the heels of a beloved leader and the team may view you as someone who wants to come in, take over and take the old manager’s place. While you do need to maintain some sort of order, it is vital that you get your team on your side.
If you are one of “those” types of managers who comes cowboying into the management arena, heady with power, out to take control of the position, employees and everything else that goes with it you are doomed for failure. That is the biggest mistake that a new manager can make.
Like it or not, as a manager you need those employees, especially those who have “been around” and who know the lay of the land. An existing staff can be invaluable in helping you settle into your new position. Remember, you are an outsider. You are coming in to an existing team. The team members have likely supported each other through tough times on the job and celebrated the highs together. For you to come barreling in, attempting to “take over” (whether you mean to or not, that is how you will be perceived, mark my words) will do nothing but make you appear hostile, like the enemy.
While your first inclination may be to “straighten up” the existing problems, your primary focus should be on building a cohesive team. Many inexperienced managers blast into their new positions, making numerous changes and demands. This management model is known as the “Command and Control” method. Although this may be the easy way and the quickest, it is not the best and certainly not the most efficient. Additionally, it just plain does not work, especially if you want a team that works. Your employees, your team should be considered before the bottom line. If you have happy employees who feel valued and empowered, your bottom line will not suffer in the least. Happy employees mean happy customers and happy customers spend more money. However, if your employees are disgruntled and feel as if they are pawns in your power trip, you just might find yourself running your business alone and incurring the tremendous expense of hiring and training new employees – again and again and again.
Your first order of business as a new manager should not be to fix all the wrongs in the company. You have humans working with you and it is your job to get them on your side first. If you can’t get your team on your side, you will be facing tremendous challenges as a manager. I won’t say that you will fail or you won’t stay in your position long, but I will say that if you don’t connect with your team, your new position will be much more difficult.
Don’t try to do everything at once. Take your time, remember to breathe and your transition into you new management position will go smoother. It is important for you listen to your employees and let them know that you value them, their contributions and their hard work. As their manager, you must take the position of team leader but don’t take their power from them. An effective, productive team is empowered and inspired. Keep an employee bulletin board where you post encouraging messages and quotes, reward hard work with recognition (a gold star can go a long way!) and don’t be afraid to ask for another perspective. You are not expected to know everything and have all the answers. To approach your new position with such an attitude is a turn off and will likely land you on the outs with the rest of the team.
A good leader leads by following. They don’t ask their employees to do anything that they would not do themselves and they are open to suggestions from their employees. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know everything and that you don’t have all the answers. Work with your employees, inspire and motivate them by working with them, not over them and you will find your management transition to be much smoother.