You are No Longer an Individual Contributor
This is the one thing that no one ever says out-loud, but it’s so important for you to know as a new manager. In order to be successful, you must approach this role differently than previous roles. Just remember, this will be hard, but you were put in the position for a reason. You will be overwhelmed, but that’s okay! The best thing you can do is leverage your first 30 days as a new manager or new supervisor to set a solid foundation, and that’s what we will lay out for you here.
If you’re new in your role, you may not even know where to start. How should you be spending your time as a new manager to give yourself a solid foundation?
There are 5 key types of activities that will be helpful:
- Build relationships
- Gather knowledge
- Establish expectations
- Tease out pain points
- Assess employees
How you do this is up to you. The best thing you can do is make sure each activity in the first 30 days is tied to one or more of the above objectives.
We’re detailing each of these goals below and have developed a new manager toolkit designed to go alongside this post. In it you’ll find worksheets and further information to help you take action. You can get it delivered for free in your inbox below. Do you feel the overwhelm leaving your body already?
In order to effectively lead your team as a new manager and help them get their work done, you’ll need to establish relationships early. You should focus on these areas:
Your team: this should go without saying but getting to know your team is very important! You’ll want to get to know them at the individual level and as a group. This can be intimidating as many new managers often feel that they have to be “the boss” from day one. Don’t feel that you need to be directing anyone yet; instead, focus on getting to know them and making sure they are comfortable with you. It is so very important to spend time with your team early so they know you care. Leverage one-on-one conversations and sit-withs. Also, bring them in for a team meeting, even if you feel you don’t know what to say…it can just be an introductory meeting. We’ve included some ideas in our new manager toolkit. Also, don’t underestimate the power of donuts. The objective here is to get your team comfortable with you.
Your Boss: if you already have a working relationship, great! You have the hardest part down, but you’ll still need to spend time developing your new working relationship. If you don’t know your manager that well, take the initiative to spend time with him or her. The objective here is to feel out their style and how they think about leadership.
A new manager should spend time developing relationships with their team, peers, manager, and cross functional partners. #leadership
Your Peers and Cross Functional Partners: Who is at the same level as you? They will be helpful as you learn the job, especially early on when you are still trying to figure things out. Take the time to build relationships now before you “need” their help.
People who will help you be more effective: Are there any people who are key decision makers? People who are great at reporting and analytics? People who used to be in your role? Get these people in your corner early. A major piece of being an effective leader is having the ability to navigate the organization to get things done. The foundation to this is relationships.
ACTION: Work with your manager to develop an initial list of contacts and set up meetings with each person.
You may already have a to-do list but trust us when we say it will get much more extensive. Take the first few weeks when you’re not totally overwhelmed to LEARN. Approach each interaction with the objective to understand. As a new manager, you should be mindful to only ask questions to further your understanding. Though you will be tempted, do not try to fix anything yet unless absolutely necessary. By gathering knowledge, you are setting up yourself up for success. In addition, you will also will gain the respect of your team and your peers. This is especially important as a new manager, and something you should be particularly mindful of if you are young and early in your career. These first 30 days are critical in setting the tone, so have patience in your desire to “do”; don’t assume you know better.
You should also make it a goal to understand the basics of your department. This includes key metrics, key interactions and customers, tasks completed on a regular basis, current initiatives, challenges, and relevant historical context.
Combine your objective of building relationships with this objective of gathering knowledge. You should ask for overviews, more detailed overviews, and sit-withs where you actually see the work being completed.
ACTION: get an understanding of how your department works, each employee’s role, and cross functional areas by setting up time with key contacts. In our new manager toolkit, we’ve even given you templates for your notes, and a list of questions to ask each contact to get the conversation going!
Establishing expectations will not be completed in the first 30 days, but it is something you should start to think about as a new manager. Now is the time to reflect on your core beliefs, expectations, and leadership style. Do not wait to start to share some basic expectations, or else you could lose authority and respect with your team. Your goal during these first few weeks is to be authoritative yet humble.
As a new manager, your goal should be to come across as authoritative, but humble. #leadership
You should also take this time to understand the expectations your manager has of you. As you move forward in your role, the expectations should evolve. Ask your manager questions on how they expect you to operate in the first 30, 60, and 90 days.
Key questions you want answered, and eventually communicated to employees:
- What expectations do you have for employees for basic/admin type items?
- What expectations do you have for employees as you onboard? What can they do to help you learn and understand?
- What do you want your personal leadership style to be?
We recognize that these are not easy questions to answer as a new leader.
ACTION: Hold a team meeting where you share with your employees and have them discuss their expectations as well. Have a meeting around expectations with your manager.
Develop an initial assessment of each employee
You won’t be able to fully assess each employee until a few months in, but you will have observations and it’s important to start documenting those now. Take time each week to reflect on your interactions and begin detailing notes on each employee. What is their approach to work? What is their level of knowledge? What are their standout great strengths? Do they have any glaring opportunities?
Also, now is a great time to get a copy of the last 1-2 performance reviews, salary reviews, and other relevant documents from HR for each person on your team, then read them. If the previous manager is still with the company, set up time with them to discuss the team as well. However, you should wait until you’ve had time to form your own initial impression, so that you don’t begin to view those interactions with a bias too early on.
ACTION: Leverage your personal interactions, the employee’s own self-reflection, peer observations, and past reviews as inputs.
As you do the above, you will likely see many opportunities. We said it earlier, but we’ll say it again: don’t act yet. However, you certainly don’t want to lose sight of these opportunities! They will be your road-map for success in your next few months in the role. So instead, you should take good notes and create a running list of pain points. You can leverage your team to help you begin to fix them once you have a good foundation.
If you’re looking for an activity that is nearly guaranteed to help you walk away with many pages of ideas, check out our barriers to good work brainstorm.
New managers should develop a list of pain points in their first 30 days but hold off on taking action until they are established in their role. #leadership
ACTION: Commit to capturing a list of pain points, but resist taking action until you have a solid foundation of knowledge and relationships.
Whew!! We know that was a lot, but honestly…there is a lot to learn in your new role as manager! The best thing you can do to limit the overwhelm is to give yourself some structure and objectives each week.
As a first step, take some time to yourself to develop your weekly tasks for the first 30 days based on these objectives:
- Build relationships with team, boss, peers, key contacts.
- Gather working knowledge on your department, each employee’s piece, and cross functional areas.
- Begin to establish expectations and your leadership style.
- Develop an initial assessment of each employee that reports to you.
- Come up with a list of pain points to convert into an action plan in your next 30 days.
New managers should focus on these 5 things in their first 30 days.