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Advice for New Managers

Are you a new manager, or hoping to be one soon?

Unfortunately, most new managers are left to sink or swim when they get promoted into a leadership role. The data is concerning, 40% of new managers don’t last 18 months.

Why do so many companies tolerate the lost time, lost opportunities, lost money, and of course the inevitable heartache that comes with dealing with a new manager who does not perform (or who was not given the proper support they needed to succeed)?

Hopefully your company has appointed you a mentor, or has a formal training program in place to succeed in your new role, but if not, here are some suggestions to help you make a successful transition to a management role, inspired by the book The Next Level, written by my friend Scott Eblin.

Change your mindset.

You probably got promoted because you have a reputation for being a go-to person; a person who works hard and gets things done in your functional area. However, if you want to be an effective manager, you must stop being so self-reliant and instead focus your attention on building a team of go-to people. You don’t “do the work” anymore, rather you need to “get things done through others.” You must make the mental transition from using your functional skills, to coaching and supporting your team members to use theirs.

I think of the manager’s role as being like a football coach. You may have been the star player once, but now you have been appointed as coach. You don’t play the game on the field anymore. Now your role is to recruit, train and coach a team of players to perform well in their respective positions, and to play well as a team in order to win the game.

Do what only you can do.

With each promotion the scope of your work expands. Instead of owning a small handful of personal goals, you are now expected to coach each of your direct reports to achieve their Metrics/KPIs and to get their Projects and Tasks done on time. As a manager, you only win when your team wins.  

Peter Drucker said to ask yourself, “What can I, and only I do, that will produce the greatest results?” Focus most of your time on performing those tasks that only someone in the manager’s role can do.

Tip: The most important use of your time is meeting 1-on-1 with your people each week to discuss their performance and coach them to realize their full potential.

Focus on "what and why”, not "how".

Provide clear directions. Put checklists and systems in place.  Set Metrics / Key Performance Indicators for each role. Delegate a manageable number of Projects and Tasks. Now, step back and let your team figure out how to do it. They’ll develop faster and you’ll get more done.

Yes, you are accountable for the results of your team’s work, but don’t micro-manage them by trying to control everything that happens. You may think your way is the right way, but it’s not the only right way. Communicate “what” needs to be done, and give them the context for “why” it is important. Then give people the freedom and autonomy to figure out “how”.

I have a saying: “Successful Business Execution is 20% giving people clarity about what needs to be done, and 80% following up to make sure it actually gets done". Even though you are giving people autonomy to figure out how to achieve their Goals, you still must hold people accountable for achieving the agreed results, and that means running effective meetings every week to discuss and coach performance.

Look at the bigger picture.

Don’t get stuck in your own functional silo. Recognize that other managers have their goals too. Ask other managers what success looks like for them in their functional area. Ask them what is working and what is not working for them currently, and what your team can do to help them succeed.

Study your organization’s strategic plan so you can make decisions that are aligned to the organization’s current strategic projects, and can coordinate the work of your team accordingly.  

If you want to demonstrate to your boss that you have true senior leadership potential, you need to show that you can think beyond your current position, and beyond your functional area. Put your hand up to get involved in the strategic planning process so you can understand the inevitable trade-offs that are required in order to make strategic decisions that are in the best interests of the overall organization.

Learn to say, “No”.

Set clear boundaries on your time and availability. Build some healthy routines that give you a chance to renew so you show up physically and mentally at your best. If you keep adding more things on your plate, and over-commit yourself you will crash and burn. Ask your boss what is truly important to them and focus on delivering just that. Learn to say "NO" to everything else!

See here for more tips on how to improve your productivity as a leader.