April 15, 2019

#ASK-IH What are your best tips for first time managers?

Josh Ho @jlogic

I've recently had a few of my team members become first time managers (who still have some of their individual responsibilities). It's definitely challenging moving from being an individual contributor to leading and managing a team.

I'm drawing from my own experiences and trying to help them make the transition but want to give them more than one perspective. What tips would you give them?


  1. 2

    Where to begin...

    First: survive the first 90 days.

    • Try hard to understand how your team's goals translate to your new goals as a manager. For example, are you hiring like crazy and have to on-board people very quickly? That's different from slowly building up the team and going "deep" on each team members skill/career development
    • Prepare to deal with whatever team dynamic changes might result from you being elevated from "peer" to "manager" (doesn't apply if the newly minted manager is only managing new hires)
    • When in doubt, overcommunicate. It's not just you-yourself-and-keyboard anymore.
    • Set expectations appropriately: "your individual contribution productivity will go down, and that's ok"
    • Absolutely do meet periodically one-on-one, like @rickpower said.
    • Learn to deal with information overload. TAKE LOTS AND LOTS OF NOTES during/right after every one-on-one with your team members. Review previous notes before your meetings. If you're not a note-taker, now is the time to become one.
    • If you've never done it before, take a personality assessment test like Myers-Briggs, then make sure to read about categories and sides of the spectrum that are not yours, because a very large chunk of your job as a manager will be about understanding others.
    • Learn the difference between "delegation" and "abdication of responsibility" :-)
    • Watch out for burnout resulting from the time/resource/mind share conflict between the need to contribute individually vs. the need to manage the team.
    • What @HypeCrux said.

    Second: grow.

    • Understand and refine your communication style. Hopefully you've done something like Myers-Briggs by now, so you should start to feel it when bumping against your limits while managing your people.
    • Understand and refine your leadership style. Are you a taskmaster, a servant leader etc etc? (ton of resources online for this)
    • Get coaching/mentorship, ideally outside of your reporting chain (as in, your boss can be your mentor, but that's not ideal, because sometimes you need to get coached on how to work with your boss, and that's better done with someone that's not signing your paycheck)
    • And on and on and on...
    • BUT also remember that not everybody can/should/want to manage others. Some people make stellar individual contributors. Know thyself.

    There are a thousand more things worth mentioning here. Get a good book on the topic.

  2. 2
    1. Meet individually with all team members to find out what they do day-to-day, strengths/weaknesses, 2-3 year aspirations...

    2. Then meet with all users of things the team produces, what those team do/do with it (if internal), how and how often they use the products (do not commit to heavy-bandwidth enhancements until you've done all steps).

    3. Assess the team capacity (to properly estimate deadlines), align the team with the broader organizational strategy, remove barriers, and assign tasks / projects based on ability/career aspirations/enjoyment.

    All of the above can be done concurrently...

    If not already mandated by the company, try to check in with individual employees at least once a week for general catch up/status updates/roadblocks/etc.

    You may find some time-intensive/low-value items that you can immediately remove (carefully) for extra team bandwidth. Ex: "this report takes up a ton of time, it takes away from me doing x,y, and z, and I dont think anyone uses it." You'll also win points with those team members for this!

    Good luck!

    1. 1

      Love this. Thank you!

  3. 2

    Get to know your​ employees and the things they are motivated by. Go all-in on emotional intelligence stuff.

  4. 1

    My instincts tell me to recommend like 50 books about this, but instead, I'll try provide a different perspective.

    I started a business about 10 years ago. At the time, I thought I knew what managing people was about. Then I started hiring people and I thought I should probably invest in my own capabilities a bit more.

    I ended up doing a fundamentals of management course at NYU and it was probably the best thing i did for my career. It was actually a real eye opener into some basic management fundamentals, which I still think about to this day.

    I think sometimes, unless you have really good coaching and leadership available to you already, getting new managers some exposure to management training can get the ball rolling. Perhaps even looking at the AltMBA course that Seth Godin is running. That looks good too.

    The course I did was about 12 weeks, 4 hours a week, totally remote, and about $1,000 from memory. Maybe less, maybe more. Can't remember.

    1. 1

      I like that. Gotta find some courses.

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