20 Tips for New Managers When Building a Better Team

tips for new managers

Transitioning to a management position for the first time is incredibly exciting, but it can also be scary and nerve-wracking from the outset. Those who become managers for the first time encounter a myriad of myths and misperceptions that can lead to mistakes in the early days. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are expert tips for new managers you can use to build and manage a team better.

Tips for New Managers

1. Don’t Let the Position Go to your Head

Just because you are now the manager doesn’t mean you have become Grand Dictator of the company. Be humble and recognize that the managerial position is an opportunity to lead a team of smart people, grow together and contribute to the success of the company and everyone involved. Attitude matters.

2. Remember you All Have the Same Ultimate Goal

New managers need to remember that people are different. Those you will be leading will have their own little quirks and differences, but the important thing is that you are all aiming for the same goal — success. You are a team and need to pull together to succeed. Results are what matter.

3. Understand Your Team’s Individual Differences

Rather than get upset or agitated that the people you manage have individual quirks and different styles of working, communicating and or making decisions, take time to understand their style and accept it if they get the job done and the results are okay. Provide support and guidance where you feel it is needed, but don’t expect people to be perfect or to do things exactly the way you would.

4. Shift Focus to the Big Picture

New managers usually come from an individual contributor role where they were used to engaging in every detail of an assignment –keeping track of who you’ve emailed or the phone calls you need to return — but now you’re a manager. You can’t possibly keep up with all the details of each and every project that the members of your team are working on, and shouldn’t even try. Shift your focus to the big picture. Learn to monitor your team member’s overall progress instead of watching their every move. That’ll help you avoid becoming a micro-manager — which isn’t beneficial to you or your team.

5. Respect Longstanding Employees

Employees who aren’t necessarily older but who have been in a job for a significant period of time, say 5-10 years, won’t take it kindly to a new boss who begins ordering people around or making unreasonable demands. Surmount this potential hurdle by not only respecting the service of longstanding and highly valued employees, but also appreciating their past contributions as well.

6. Talk with Employees Who Applied for the Job

This is one of those uncomfortable tips for new managers that can help move things along swiftly, particularly with employees who feel they were unfairly passed over for the promotion to manger. Acknowledge that you know they may be disappointed, but say you hope you can work together. Ask if they have any tips for new managers they can offer you as you start this new job. It can really help smooth things over for all of you.

7. Learn More About the Company Culture

If you are coming to a managerial position from another company, take the time to figure out the “lay of the land.” Many budding managers have made career-killing mistakes by not adapting to the culture and the particular way a company does things. Your new peer group and bosses can be very helpful here.

8. Avoid Making Promises You Can’t Keep

New managers are sometimes a bit too eager to please their team members and to prove to everyone that they are the right man/woman for the job. They’re tempted to make grand promises that they don’t fully understand what it takes to actually follow through. Guard against making promises you can’t keep. Promising too much may gain you favor at first, but erode trust when you fail to deliver.

9. Demonstrate Competence and Strong Character

New managers frequently think that what authority they have is conferred by their title. But in fact, says Harvard Business School professor Linda Hill in a 2007 Harvard Business article, “New managers soon learn that when direct reports are told to do something, they don’t necessarily respond. In fact, the more talented the subordinate, the less likely she is to simply follow orders.” Earn your teams’ trust and respect by demonstrating your own strong character, competence and ability to get things done. Only after you’ve earned their trust will those people be willing to follow your lead.

10. Exercise Your Managerial Authority

New managers often don’t like to come across as over-authoritative so they sit back and take too long to start managing, which can backfire. Be comfortable with the power you now have and exercise it by providing direction to your team. Acknowledge good work, give feedback and address any performance issues. Also, help resolve problems or people may begin to think you are a wimp.

11. Negotiate Your Way Through Workplace Interdependencies

Many first-time managers report feeling surprisingly constrained by a new managerial role and title. “They are enmeshed in a web of relationships,” writes Ms. Hill. “Not only with subordinates, but also with bosses, peers and others inside and outside the organization, all of whom make relentless and often conflicting demands on them.” To get by, forget about the myth of having full authority and embrace the need to negotiate your way through the intricate web of interdependencies at work.

12. Nurture a Sense of Commitment to Shared Goals

New managers, insecure in their roles, sometimes seek absolute compliance to orders from their subordinates. But, as Ms. Hill writes, overtime they learn that ‘compliance’ is not the same as ‘commitment.’ “If people aren’t committed, they don’t take the initiative,” says Ms. Hill. “And if they aren’t taking the initiative, the manager can’t delegate effectively.” So, nurture a strong sense of common commitment to shared goals, rather than clamoring for blind obedience to your every dictate.

13. Focus Not on Friendships, but on Building a Team.

“When new managers focus solely on one-on-one relationships, they neglect a fundamental aspect of effective leadership: harness the collective power of the group to improve individual performance and commitment,” says Ms. Hill. “By shaping team culture — the group’s norms and values — a leader can unleash the problem-solving prowess of the diverse talents that make up the team.” That’s why it is so important to focus more on building a team than on personal friendships.

For more on building and managing a team, read this page.

14. Seek a Mentor and/or Role Model

Taking on a managerial role generally becomes easier when you have a sound support system in place. A little encouragement from a seasoned manager, for example, can bring great benefits for a novice manager. “Find a mentor and/or role model,” advises Steve Bailey, president of the National Management Association. “Look at others who seem to be effective and happy in their work. Ask them for their advice,” he says. “People appreciate that,” and they are generally willing to help.

For more on finding a mentor, read this page.

15. Develop and Improve Your People Skills

Many companies reward exemplary employees by promoting them into management, whether they’re ready for it or not. For example, you may be a great financial analyst, but not necessarily have great people skills, which can be a problem in management. In this case, you’re going to have to develop those people skills and change the way you approach things if you want to succeed as a manager. Once you get through the learning curve, the odds are you will likely really enjoy your management role.

For telltale signs that you are ready for management, read this page.

16. Communicate Clearly and Often

Speaking publicly to a team behind closed doors can be tough, but it is necessary. That is why you need to communicate “clearly and often to your staff to ensure your team’s understanding and to help them prioritize,” Susan Zeidman, a management and communications expert for the American Management Association, says. Giving prompt feedback is equally important, she adds.

For more on public speaking, please visit this page.

17. Recommend and Initiate Positive Changes

“New managers also need to realize they are responsible for recommending and initiating changes that will enhance their groups’ performance,” adds Ms. Hill. “Often — and it comes as a surprise to most — this means challenging organizational processes or structures that exist above and beyond their area of formal authority.” Master this part of the job and you will begin to seriously address your leadership responsibilities, she says.

18. Demonstrate High Emotional Intelligence

Stress and pressure are commonplace in management. But, when stress turns to panic, smart and rational decision-making is often compromised. Learn to handle diversity and stressful situations with more emotional awareness — knowing what you’re feeling, what your emotions mean and how those emotions can affect other people. That way you’ll be able to guide your thinking and always behave appropriately. Showing some vulnerability and a softer side can also make people better relate with you.

For more on emotional intelligence in management, please visit this page.

19. Show Confidence in Your Team’s Abilities

“Some new managers want to jump in and do everyone’s work — they are afraid that the work will not get done right or it won’t get done the way they would do it, or they feel very comfortable in the ‘doing’ role,” Ms. Zeidman says. But, “New managers need to motivate their direct reports to do the work. They need to ‘let go’ of their fears that others are not as competent as they are,” she insists. When you trust, support and facilitate your subordinates’ abilities, assigned tasks will be completed successfully.

20. Trust in Your Own Abilities

If you don’t trust yourself, how can you expect others to trust and follow your lead? Show more trust in yourself by stepping up to make the tough calls, taking responsibility of your decisions and not letting excuses get in the way. Dig through all sides of issues to find answers. Implement those answers boldly. The more confident the manager is in his own abilities, the better for the whole team and the company.

Project Photo via Shutterstock

David William David William is a Staff Writer for Small Business Trends. He covers franchises, brick and mortar businesses, public policy and other small business issues. He is also founding editor of WebWriterSpotlight.

4 Reactions
  1. Not letting the power get to your head can be hard to do. I have seen so many new leaders get the power into their heads. I think it really takes some experience to avoid this.

  2. It is important to learn the traits of an effective leader as this will propel your team to success. As the leader, you will be able to direct your team on what to do so it all depends on you.

  3. Being a new manager can be tough. I have been there and I can say that managing people is one of the toughest tasks out there. They work and think differently.

  4. Thanks for sharing these great tips. One more point that I’d like to add here is the ability to know what new technology & tools to use when and how to use them is one skill a manager must have. Like using a project management tool could really help a manager manage & collaborate much more easily & efficiently. We use proofhub.com at work and it’s an amazing tool. From tasks & team to time, it manages it all!