How to succeed in your first management role

Most professionals find themselves in their first management role with little formal preparation. The assumption is that if someone is performing well, they must be ready to take the reins.

But does being good at your job necessarily mean you’ll make an effective manager? Managing your own responsibilities was challenging enough; now that you’re in charge of a team of people who look to you for guidance and inspiration, an entirely different set of skills comes into play.

Let’s take a look at how to address the three central focuses of your new role.

Managing others

The key difference between your previous role and this one is that you’re no longer just thinking about your own actions and performance, but that of a number of others as well.

This requires the ability to think past yourself and the here and now, and see the bigger picture. You’ll need to set objectives for your team that take into account its broader purpose, the specific focus of each team member, and the current priorities that must be addressed.

To ensure everyone is fulfilling their potential and developing in the right ways, you need to decide how and when to have progress reviews or appraisals. The best way to do this can vary considerably depending on your organisation’s policies, culture, and industry, and on the specific roles and responsibilities within your team. While weekly supervisions might make sense with junior team members, veterans may be better suited to more autonomy.

You also need to work out a communication strategy for your team that takes into account your communication objectives. Do you need to provide short daily reminders? Substantial feedback? Vision and inspiration? Perhaps all of these and more? Each objective will require a different form of communication, whether it’s email, one-to-one conversation, or team meetings.

Managing yourself

As well as being in charge of the performance of others, you now have to take more responsibility for your own actions and achievements than ever before. You may have more say over your own objectives, but this will be within the context of more ambitious goals.

Make time to regularly review your own performance against expectations, identifying areas for development. This requires both modesty and self-awareness, with the ability to recognise when you could have handled something more effectively.

Think about how you can play on your strengths more, and address your weaknesses. Are there certain aspects of your approach that let you down? How could you adapt your behaviours for better results?

Managing the needs of others

As a manager, you take on responsibility for meeting a broader range of stakeholder needs. It’s no longer just about pleasing your line manager and your clients, but about satisfying each of your team members, your team members’ clients, the senior leadership team, and a whole host of others.

To start making sense of what can seem like an inscrutable network of people and entities, it’s a good idea to carry out a short stakeholder analysis. Begin by defining who your stakeholders are, then sort them by their levels of influence. This will help you decide who to keep at the forefront of your mind, and who is not an immediate priority.

The next step is to map out the interests of each stakeholder, and think about how you can realistically meet each need with the resources you have. In line with the process above, are there certain stakeholders whose expectations should be surpassed, and others who can be given minimal attention?

These topics will be covered in greater depth in a webinar by leadership expert Nigel Girling, which you can sign up to here. You can choose to receive a recording afterwards instead of attending live.