One day a group of colleagues and i were walking to lunch, laughing, joking and generally carrying on. I playfully patted a guy on the rear and told him he had “a cute butt.” Only two months later I was promoted to department director and became his supervisor. Up to that point, our relationship had always been cordial, but now that not-so-innocent comment stood between us, and he soon left the company. It was a mistake I’ve always regretted, and leads me to the following list of tips for newly promoted or hired managers:
1. Once you’re a manager, you’re never “off the clock.” As several well-known professional athletes learned, everything you do away from work reflects on your competency at work. Always make sure that everything you do, in every situation, is beyond reproach. You may not agree, and I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is.
2. You were most likely promoted or hired into a management position because of your technical skills, but managing people requires a completely different set of skills. Just as you studied those technical skills, you must study every aspect of being a manager, and apply what you learn as you go.
3. You simply cannot be friends with people who report to you. You can be cordial, fun, a good listener, empathetic, a good leader. But when it comes time to evaluate job performance or make tough decisions, you’ll regret ever becoming a manager if you are also friends with your direct reports. Be prepared for some push back when your former friends accuse you of getting the big head since your promotion, but suck it up and maintain your professional distance. You’ll have a lot less stress in the long run.
4. As a manager, you are required to support company values and goals. When you present a new policy or an unpopular decision, never let your personal feelings get in the way of full support. The worst thing you can do is tell your group something like, “I know, I don’t like it either, but that’s what we have to do.” Say that, and don’t be surprised when there is little or no compliance.
5. Watch what you say. Every word out of your mouth will be scrutinized, discussed, interpreted, and likely taken out of context. I once advised a new hire to be cautious of a certain manager “and her minions” because they would give her lip service but had their own agenda. That comment was repeated to the manager in question and a necessary professional relationship was irreparably damaged. No matter that the intent and advice were good; the word I had chosen was inappropriate and may as well have been dynamite.
6. As you learn and make your own mistakes, remember that errors are the building blocks for improvement. Learn, leave the mistakes behind, and move on.
7. Find a mentor to help you move through–and past–the rough spots. The best mentors are wise, honest, willing to give you candid feedback, and enthusiastic about singing your praises to top management. They must also be free of organizational baggage they will pass along to you by virtue of your association.
8. Before you get too far along in your new management role, get to know yourself. Who are you? What do you believe? What are you passionate about? What are your basic values? Let the answers to these questions be your guide to behavior, and your decision making will be much easier. Be true to yourself. It’s the only sure way to have less stress and more success in your new position.
9. Be optimistic rather than pessimistic. Never criticize your predecessor. If there is something you want to do differently, oommunicate it in terms of benefits, advantages, operational improvements. Change is difficult, even when the change has been made because of dissatisfaction. Just be sure you communicate optimistically and not as a complainer.
What were the lessons you learned as a new manager? Can you add to this list? Do you disagree with something on this list? I’d love to hear from you! Please comment below, and let’s expand this list for the new managers out there!