What To Know When Embarking On A First Management Experience

Getting a managerial or leadership role is exciting and at the same time a little bit daunting. Chances are also that you are starting such role without anyone taking your hand to get you acquainted with the ABCs of management. Management is one of those areas where the expectation is that you will figure things out on your own. Experience is indeed the best and a sure way to learn what to do or not do that – but doing the wrong things increases the chances for you to be one of the 50% of the first time managers who fail during their first year.

So what are some key learnings to take on to successfully navigate your first managerial/leadership role?

  • You are no longer an individual contributor. The transition from an individual contributor to a manager is tough but it is a requirement in order to succeed in a managerial role. The trap or what you might end up doing during an initial phase is to think that you can do both. Sooner or later, and perhaps the hard way – after taking too much on your plate- you will realize that you cannot do both. Measuring your own performance and success as a manager involves different metrics than when you were an individual contributor, as well as maintaining a big picture vision. As part of the transition process, you will learn to delegate, get used to not being in the spotlight for individual contributions, and very importantly redefine the success factors in your new role. Over time, as you mature in your leadership experience, you will be better at identifying activities that are worth your time, or that are needle-moving for yourself, your team or your corporation.
  • Management takes time. A good manager takes time to speak with his/her team in 1-1 settings or to support, coordinate or communicate on vision, tasks, goals and timelines. This time could seem like “sunk time” or “missed opportunities” to do something more productive. But managing people, supporting their growth or coaching them to ensure understanding of issues at stake, is part of your job description. Take pride in doing this piece well, as it’s the foundation on each key performance indicators are in fact met.
  • You don’t get the job, you earn the job. It is easy to assume that because you were given the job, your subordinates will be fully on board with your plan and vision. Regardless of how good or bad of a boss you are perceived day one, the single thing that will earn your team’s trust on the long run is for you to walk the talk, show respect and integrity in everything you do and say. When you do that, you are an authentic leader who builds trust as communication, actions and thoughts are congruent.
  • The buck stops here”. It is easy to give credit when credit is due. It is harder to take the blame when mess-ups happen. The token of a good leader is not only taking responsibility for mistakes – instead of blaming his/her team members – but also learning from them. No team or process is failure-free. Beating yourself or your team up is not a productive manner to deal with mistakes. A successful leader is the one who learns from mistakes, and identifies changes or improvements required to not repeat these mistakes.
  • Stress and overwhelm are not a sign of success. Especially when taking a new role, things might seem overwhelming. However, don’t measure your success by the amount of stress and overwhelm yourself or your team feels. It doesn’t need to be that way, because believe it or not, you are in control of your schedule and response to stress. Taking the time to rest or for self-care, and saying no are two important habits that a successful leader needs to develop and integrate in his/her daily routines. Chronic stress or overwhelm are ultimately a sign of failure on your part as a leader, because no one can function to his/her best when stress runs high.

Being a first time manager is challenging – it is as much of a journey inward to discover and act from your most authentic self, as it is a journey outward that is required to reach your team(s), customers and stakeholders. And such leadership journeys have several attributes in common: continuous self-awareness, continuous growth, and continuous change. As scientist Charles Darwin noted: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

Published by Helene R. Johnson

Helene R. Johnson is a pseudonym. Living life as a mom and manager. Articles are also published on https://tactical-hr.com/, a site dedicated to human resources with a focus on transformational change and development.

One thought on “What To Know When Embarking On A First Management Experience

  1. Great article! And I agree with C. Darwin: the world really belongs to the ones that know how to adapt.


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