“Congratulations. You’ve just been promoted to manager!”
Sounds like a dream come true, right?
That is, until all of a sudden you’re faced with decisions and duties and maybe even conflicts you never had to face before. Being a manager is an amazing opportunity, but it also requires skills and abilities that weren’t demanded from you before you were promoted.
Chapter 1: How To Prepare For Your New Role
Here you are, a new manager. Did you know that only 15% of first-time managers get any training? That 59% felt that support and help for their new position were not sufficient?
In light of that, the best first advice we can give you is simple: find a mentor or role model.
We’ll be mentioning the concept of a mentor throughout this ebook, and there’s a good reason for that. No book is going to have the perfect advice for your situation. No article will cover all the bases. Find a mentor in your industry, your region, or your actual company if possible. They’ll have had specific experiences that you can learn from. No need to reinvent the wheel.
It’s also a good idea to prepare in a few other ways:
- Set personal goals. What do you want out of this new job? What do you hope to achieve? What do you hope your team will achieve? Define what goals you want to accomplish.
- Educate yourself. We’ll talk briefly about some books you ought to read but look online or for classes in your area that talk about management topics. Learn more about the different departments that you’ll be managing. Get to know the employees you’ll be managing.
- Clarify expectations. Discuss with your boss what they are expecting to see from you. Be sure that you understand. Compare that with your goals. Are you on the same page?
- Be professional. Develop a professional persona both in your behavior, language, and dress.
People follow as they are led. Prepare your team to be the best by preparing yourself in the same way.
Chapter 2: The 7 skills you need to be successful as a manager.
Some of what you need as a manager will be innate. There’s likely a reason you were chosen to be a manager.
There are other skills, however, you will need to learn and build. Even your natural gifts have to be strengthened.
1. You have to know how to get people to respect you.
This heading could have been phrased differently. It could have said that you have to get people to like you. But being respected is more important than being liked. Some employees like ineffectual managers for all the wrong reasons.
According to Psychology Today, the steps to gaining respect are simple:
- Respect yourself. Your own mental health and self-control are the foundation of others respecting you. If people see you don’t respect yourself in your behavior or how you talk about yourself, they will not respect you, either.
- It’s not about being nice. Feeling obligated to be nice leaves you feeling guilty. Nice people aren’t always respected. Instead of shallow niceness, be respectful of all people even in difficult situations.
- Don’t try to please everyone. You can’t please everyone, and you can’t please anyone all of the time. Your goal as a manager isn’t to please people, but to lead them so that their benefit is your concern and not whether they’re pleased about difficult decisions in the moment.
- Learn to say no. You can NOT say yes all of the time. Say no. Say it firmly, sincerely, kindly, but say it. Let those you manage learn to do the task or live with the outcome of decisions they’ve made.
- Their feelings aren’t your fault. Understand that each person you manage is responsible for their feelings. The decisions you make should be made for good managerial reasons, not to deflect or create certain types of feelings in people.
In time, if you are consistent and honest about how you deal with the team you manage, people will respect you for being fair and reliable. It is hard to respect someone who is easily manipulated because they are overly concerned with the feelings of being liked. Your job is to lead, not be liked. Sometimes they are the same, sometimes they aren’t.
2. You have to be organized.
Your ability to be organized is crucial. Disorganization leads to wasted time, lost productivity, and frustration in your team. Your bottom line will also take a hit.
We’ll cover a list of tools later in the article that will help with organization, but no tool will replace a habit of disorganization. Tools don’t solve root problems.
- Make a habit of writing things down. Writing helps you retain information. It also means you’re thinking purposefully about what needs to be done.
- Be goal oriented. Goals have a way of lining up the action and helping you shed what isn’t important to the goal. With goals, peripheral distractions fall away.
- Practice optimism. A can-do attitude makes being organized valuable. A negative attitude thrives in “why bother” disorganization.
- Give detail its rightful place. Pay attention to detail…but forget about being perfect. You can avoid sloppiness without being imprisoned by a fear of making mistakes.
- Use lists wisely. Make to-do lists, but have a system to purge them. If a to-do item never gets done and you move it from the list to list, did it ever really need to be done?
- Avoid procrastination. Do the hard things right away. The more difficult a task is, the more it should be done when you know you have the most energy.
- Use technology to speed up tasks. These days, almost any tedious task that takes up a significant portion of your day likely has software or an app that can speed it up. Identify those time sucks (anyone spending too much time on the employee schedule?) and search out solutions for them. In a lot of cases, those solutions are free or have free versions.
3. You must understand the value of collaboration.
Your team needs to be able to work together as a team. If they remain autonomous units who refuse to work together, you will be trying to herd cats to get anything done.
To encourage collaboration among your team:
- Clarify the goal. Know what you want to be accomplished, and communicate that to your team.
- Help them stay on task. Don’t micromanage, but provide boundaries so your team can be creative within the boundaries without veering off course. These might be time constraints, tools or equipment limitations, periodic status updates, and so on.
- Make communication safe. For a team to collaborate well, everyone needs to feel they are free to share opinions without censure or ridicule.
Successful collaboration gives your team confidence and a chance to exercise their own problem-solving skills.
4. You must be able to motivate people.
Motivating people is the difference between dragging a horse behind a cart, and a horse pulling the cart.
When your team is motivated, all energy is focused on problem-solving, collaboration, and forward motion. No energy is wasted on begging, pleading, and cajoling people just to get the bare minimum productivity out of them.
To motivate people:
- Stop bribing people. Rewards work, but mostly they make people work for…more rewards. The rewards stop, so do the people.
- Make them care. People are motivated when they feel passionate or care about the work. Show them why their work matters. Show them how they are making a difference.
- Make note of progress. Be able to spot progress your team is making, and make sure they know.
Here’s the catch: you must be able to motivate yourself, first. Unmotivated managers aren’t great at motivating their team.
5. You must have critical thinking skills as well as emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is, according to Psychology Today, the “ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.”
Emotional intelligence includes:
- Being aware of your own, and other’s, emotions.
- Controlling and harnessing those emotions in a productive, problem-solving direction.
- Regulating those emotions to keep them from destructive excess in either direction.
Without emotional intelligence, much of what is driving or influencing the relationships and lives of your team will be a mystery to you. The workplace isn’t void of emotion. Remember, emotion is part of what you use to motivate people.
However, you can’t reside only on emotion.
Emotional intelligence is important because you’re leading people, but critical thinking skills are needed for identifying and solving problems.
Can you control emotion and make decisions to solve difficult problems that might create negative emotions in those you manage? Critical thinking includes:
- The ability to identify and analyze an existing problem.
- The ability to gather and interpret data relating to the problem.
- Determining a cause of action that solves the problem with the best result for your business.
- Communicating with your team that plan of action and why it’s the right one.
6. You must have communication skills.
Endless books have been written about how to be a better communicator. As a manager, you’ll never stop working at improving your communication. Absolutely everything you do has a communication component.
According to the Leader Communicator blog, there are five skills you must master:
- Clarify the context. Every person on your team comes to work with their own context from their upbringing, current situation, family life, and experiences. When everyone is listening through their own context, they are all hearing something different when you communicate. As a manager, you have to work on creating a shared vision, a big picture. You might have to explain or describe it from several different angles to cut through all the contexts in the room.
- Communicate to the individual. Even when you’re talking to the team, be sure everyone understands what’s in it for them, and why they should care.
- Repeat, and often. It’s easy, particularly when you’re busy, to have a checklist mentality. You communicated something important once, it’s checked off, and now you move on, right? Nope. You have to communicate the same thing multiple times in multiple ways. If you sent an email, bring it up again in a meeting. If you hung up a poster in the break room, remind your team at the start of a shift. We have to hear things multiple times to remember and process information.
- Listen. When you put information out to your team, you need to listen back. You need to check to make sure your team understands what you were communicating. Find ways to ask questions that get past team members who say they understand when they don’t but are unwilling to admit it, such as having them repeat to you what you have said in their own words.
- Provide action. Communication without a call to action is monotonous. Not all that you have to say to your team will have a call to action, but try to find something. Put into action what we hear helps cement it in our mind.
7. You must know your industry.
Every industry requires different management skills. What you need to manage a restaurant is different than what you need to manage a retail store.
This means you’re driven to keep learning. It means you’re self-motivated to pay attention to industry trends through training, conferences, and publications. It means you take every opportunity to learn from those who have been in the industry longer than you, or from your own boss.
Chapter 3: How to manage friends
Everyone needs friends at work. It’s a miserable place to be if you have none.
Unfortunately, the challenges of being a manager of a friend make it an easy way to lose your friend. 60% of first-time managers say that transitioning from being friends and co-workers to being the manager is the most challenging hurdle.
- Be fair to everyone. The first few times will be the most difficult, depending on whether or not your friend understands the working relationship has changed, but you must be fair in dealing with everyone on the team and not show favoritism towards your friend. This is tricky; sometimes it’s just as easy to be harder on your friends in order to prove you aren’t showing favor to them.
- Use documentation. It’s always a good idea to document the good and the bad, but it’s especially so when you have friends on your team. Should anyone say you are showing favoritism, you will want the documentation to show that you are following policies fairly.
- Lose old grudges. Get rid of the tendency to use office cliques, gossip, and grudges that you might have been exposed to or participated in as an employee against any team member you are now managing. As a manager, you need to start fresh with everyone. Avoid asking your friends for inside information on other team members.
- Wear the uniform. While you may not have an actual uniform, remember that when you are on the job, you are wearing the manager “uniform” and not the “friend” uniform.
- Compartmentalize. Even when you’re “off the job” you must be careful to not talk about work or team members if you are hanging around with your office friends on your personal time. Work gossip and complaints are inappropriate conversations with your friend as long as you are the manager.
- Accept change. In most cases, your friendships will change. Some will cool off, some will end. Your previous friendship has most likely ended as you know it and you must accept that as the manager. Don’t expect people to treat you the same in the break room or the hallway. You’re the boss, not the buddy.
- Be friendly. You can still be friendly. You don’t have to close off from everyone. Just be aware of your position and consider having a meeting right away to address concerns that your friends might have and reassure everyone that your door is open.
- Get a mentor. If possible, find a manager or other leader who can help you as you navigate what will be a tricky time of learning and transition. You can’t go to your friends for advice or help; you need to look up the chain now.
- The good news? As you climb the management ladder, this challenge of managing friends that you’ll face as a new manager becomes less of an issue.
Chapter 4: How to deal with disciplinary situations
Taking disciplinary action against an employee is no small thing. The absolute first thing you have to do is understand what the situation actually is.
Problems are going to come to you in different ways. Other employees will come and tell you about something. You’ll notice negative changes in productivity or sales. Customer complaints pop up. You see something happen first hand.
Know what the problem truly is first, so you know what disciplinary action is called for according to the employee handbook or company rules. Then, determine what approach you are to take based on those rules.
Let’s take a look at a few unpleasant aspects of employee discipline.
Identify Problem Employees
Problem employees can be divided into six different types according to Entrepreneur magazine:
- The Victim. They have no accountability for their actions. They view everything as happening to them, and that they have no control over their life or actions. You must clarify their accountability, that they are responsible for their actions no matter what situation they are in.
- The Hisser. Like a snake, this person seems to lie in wait and then lash out. They tend to rant and are provoked without warning. Unless this person cares about how their behavior is affecting others and agrees to make changes, they will have to move on.
- The Negative. For this person, everything is negative. Any changes, any ideas, any new policies or possibilities are quickly made into a negative. They can bring everyone down. As a manager, this person can be valuable in terms of being a devil’s advocate (great in collaboration!). You must work with them on how they view and accept change, and you should avoid putting them in any leadership role unless they are able to control their negativity reliably.
- The Ghost. This person is constantly absent. They always have a reason for not being present at work or being willing to participate in projects. When there’s work to do, the ghost is gone. As a manager, you need to be direct. Speak frankly; perhaps this isn’t the job for them. If they don’t change their behavior, they need to find a job that’s a better fit.
- The Narcissist. This person is never part of a team. They care only about themselves in all situations. Change is difficult for a narcissist, but if they are extremely talented, you may want to find a way to turn that self-preservation and self-motivation into an asset for your business.
- The Einstein. This person is smart, knows it, and wants to make sure everyone else knows it. Their smarts are an asset, but the arrogance that goes with it is not. You’ll need to talk to this person and try to guide them to use their intelligence to build and encourage others instead of making them feel like less.
It’s valuable to identify which type of problem employee you’re dealing with. Most employees aren’t problem employees, but if they are, you need to deal with them in the right way for a the-the issue they exhibit and also be aware that you can’t let the behavior drag on. For problem employees, there must be a resolution (even if it is firing them) or the whole team suffers.
Your company’s employee handbook will outline what kind of disciplinary action to take in different situations, but there are a few methods that you’ll likely deal with.
Writing people up.
Documentation is crucial as a manager, both for good behavior as well as bad. Legal considerations (which vary in different states) require that you document employee interactions before you take further steps that may lead to firing.
What should you document?
- Repeated or excessive tardiness or absence.
- Poor job performance or outright incompetence.
- Failure or refusal to comply with company policy.
- Violence or threats of violence.
- Sexual harassment complaints.
- Proven drug use or drunkenness while on the job.
Don’t forget to document when an employee, even (or especially) a problem employee, does something good. If you don’t, it may seem as if you only document the bad and it might seem like you are picking on or discriminating against an employee.
When writing an employee up:
- Be consistent. Follow your policies equally for everyone. If you write up one employee for being tardy, you must do it for all employees.
- Be specific. State what happened specifically. Don’t simply write “employee was late”; note how late and on what date. Note the reason or communication you had with the employee to show that the employee knew you had a problem with what happened.
- Be factual. Avoid inserting your own emotional feelings or conjecture about what happened. State the proven facts clearly. Note what policies were violated. Note the date and time it happened and any other information of that nature.
- Note consequences. Write down what will happen to the employee if the behavior continues, according to your policies. Note that you’ve informed the employee of these consequences according to what your policies dictate.
- Have the employee sign and date the write-up. The document is going in his or her personnel file. If the employee will not sign it, write that up, too.
- Allow for response. Let the employee respond in writing for their own file.
Firing an employee.
Firing an employee isn’t a light matter. Except in a few situations (zero-tolerance policies as outlined in your employee handbook), it is a last step in the discipline process. If you’re going to fire someone, you need to do it correctly to protect your business, other employees, yourself, and even the person being fired.
- Be sure your documentation is in place. Don’t open yourself up for legal issues.
- Rely on that documentation, not your emotions. Follow your discipline process!
- Plan ahead for when the firing occurs. The employee may have to clean out their desk, locker, or office. They have to walk through the building. There are HR concerns to consider. Don’t fire someone and then make them sit there as you figure out the plan.
- Have someone present. Whether another manager, your boss, or someone from HR, have another person there to witness the firing so that accusations can’t be made against you.
- Be direct. Don’t be cruel and talk around the issue. Being gentle and direct is the kindest thing you can do to the person you are firing. If you followed the discipline process and rules in the employee handbook, they shouldn’t be surprised.
- Don’t argue. Getting fired is traumatic. Don’t argue with the person being fired, no matter how they react. Stay calm and on point. Let them vent if they need to, but don’t engage.
- Don’t let guilt control you. You might feel guilty or bad about the situation depending on how the person reactions. Don’t make promises to help or do something to alleviate the moment.
Chapter 5: How to deal with managerial stress
The workplace is full of stress. A study found that 80% of workers feel stress on the job, and half admit they need help managing that stress. Some of that stress leads to actual physical pain, with 62% feeling neck pain.
Your employees will feel stress, and you will have your own workplace stress in addition to that which you pick up managing those employees. You must find methods to manage it or you’ll start dragging the effects of that stress into your personal life.
According to Forbes, there are a few key methods that work:
- Reassess your perspective. Some of what you feel stressed about isn’t the reality of the situation. You might be reading into what’s happening, or assigning emotions to it that isn’t necessary. Not everything is a crisis, even if it feels that way. Learn to step back, control how you feel, and logically look at whatever situation is overwhelming you. Is it as bad or impossible as you feel?
- Block and control your time. If you let continual crises or employees drag you around, your time is never your own. You are always on a wheel, never catching up. Set aside a regular period of time during the day or week in which you do not schedule meetings, calls, or any other interruptions. Too often you feel stressed because you’re not getting things done and they hang over your head. Use this time to catch up. You’ll feel better.
- Exercise, and pay attention to the physical. Staying healthy with exercise, diet, and drinking water is not just a trite admonition. Your physical health has a direct impact on how you react and manage stressful situations.
- Find a support network. As a new manager, your work friends (your old support network) aren’t people you can turn to with your management struggles. Find other managers, mentors, or people outside of work, that can listen and offer meaningful support and advice. You need someone to talk to. As a manager, you will be hearing about employee problems regularly. You need the same ability to turn to someone to talk to.
Chapter 6: Building a strong team
Your job as a manager will be much easier if you build a great team. That seems obvious, but it’s easy to fall into the habit of managing the status quo instead of building greatness. To build a strong team:
- Hire the right person. If you have any say or involvement in the hiring process, take it seriously. 75% of employers hire the wrong person, and that ends up being costly both financially and in human resources. Don’t hire in desperation. Run background checks. Talk to their references. Find out what you can and decide if that person is both right for the job and right for your team. Every team has its own personality. Hire wisely.
- Build on strengths. Take the time to discover the strengths of each team member. If an employee is lacking in an area, you aren’t likely to build that up. Give them work to do that fits their strengths.
- Be transparent. Secrecy and isolation make weak teams. Be transparent as much as possible about the big picture, the direction the business or project is headed, what you expect, problems, victories—don’t keep it hidden. Secrecy inspires gossip and division, not strength.
- Build trust and confidence. By being consistent and reliable in how you manage your team and relate to each person, you’ll help them trust you. You also make it easier for them to be confident in their work; they don’t have to wonder how you’ll respond since your consistency erases those kinds of doubts.
- Use mentorship. Good mentors are priceless. Set up a mentoring approach where more experienced team members can help those who are newer. Mentoring benefits both parties involved. They each learn from the experience.
- Skip gimmicks. There are a lot of methods some managers use to “trick” their team into being productive or work together. They might work for a while, but not over time. Focus on building a team that works great together no matter the situation, no matter if there’s a reward.
A strong team is one that works together and isn’t isolated from each other. Create an open team through meetings, communication, office layout, and whatever else it takes to build cohesiveness.
Chapter 7: Driving your team to success
Getting your team to move towards success is not like driving a team of horses. There’s no whips and yelling. You can’t force people to do what you want them to do, but by rethinking how you “drive” your team, you can help them to succeed.
- Their success is your success. Some leaders don’t want their followers to exceed them, which, frankly, makes them bad leaders. If your team members can outshine you, can exceed what you can do—all the better for the team. Don’t be afraid of that. Don’t try to put a stop to it. Give your team every chance to achieve more than you.
- Build leaders within. One reason for item #1 is this: you are always looking for leaders within the team. Give them a chance to lead smaller teams or projects. Find out who tomorrow’s leaders are.
- Take retention seriously. When people quit, it costs you. Stay on top of dissatisfied or unhappy employees, and fight hard to make the work environment one they want to stay a part of. Studies have shown that even “low-wage” workers are costly to replace. Replacing a $10/hour employee? About $3300. There are more costs than just financial, of course. When employees leave, they take their skills, knowledge, personality, and creativity with them.
- Be a motivator. Earlier we talked about how to motivate your team. Take that admonition seriously. Encourage them. Open every door possible to make their work more successful. Reward true achievement, particularly when the work is challenging.
- Use rewards, but cautiously. It is good to reward your team, but remember that rewards are not a substitution for real motivation. If the only thing keeping your team moving forward are rewards, the moment you take the rewards away your team stops. Reward them for great work, hard work, team accomplishments, and meeting goals. Don’t use rewards as a carrot on a stick just to get them to show up to work each day.
- Be goal-focused. You’ll be creating sales and productivity goals, and you’ll be leading your team to meet them. Break down those big-picture goals for individuals or groups on your team. Provide training to help them make their own goals that will help them meet those bigger goals you expect of them.
- Make it safe to be creative. Innovation doesn’t happen by fiat. It happens when people feel free to be creative and come up with solutions that might not seem “safe”. Create an environment where brainstorming, unusual problem solving, and out-of-the-box thinking isn’t mocked or pushed down. It’s easier to manage according to strict systems and structures, but innovation doesn’t flourish in that environment. Being free to innovate is highly motivating for your best employees.
Chapter 8: Recommended management books and blogs you should read
“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” — Harry Truman
Want to be an effective leader? Be a reader. Constantly educate yourself.
These blogs will help you keep up-to-date on the latest employee management techniques and advice you need to know.
- 15Five is an employee engagement and performance tracking system. Their blog has tons of useful advice about how to engage and manage employees.
- SnackNation is a healthy snack delivery service that will deliver to home or office. Their blog tackles things like employee engagement, culture, and realistic approaches to employee wellness ideas (i.e. not programs that are only attainable for large companies).
- OfficeVibe is a service that lets you easily survey your teams to collect feedback and real-time data that will help you build strong, connected teams. Employee engagement is a huge focus of their blog, and they provide a ton of helpful resources.
- When I Work. Not to toot our own horn, but the When I Work blog is a great resource for small business tips, management best practices, and leadership advice. You can download our free ebook The People Management Handbook to dive even deeper into one of the most important aspects of your new role.
Here are just a few books that will help you as a manager:
- The One Minute Manager (by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson)- This book presents common-sense management themes, but does it in a storytelling scenario-based manner which makes the concepts easy to understand and apply.
- The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (by John Maxwell) – Any book by Maxwell should be on your reading list, but read this one for sure. It takes common approaches to management and breaks them down into 21 easy principles to remember.
- Don’t Bring It To Work (by Sylvia Lafair) – This book focuses on why people behave so strangely at work, and how personal lives and personality types come into play in difficult work situations. It helps managers understand the underlying issues that create situations.
- How To Win Friends And Influence People (by Dale Carnegie) – There’s a reason this book is a classic: it is an excellent manual on how to get along with people and get them to move in the direction you want them to. As a manager, that’s crucial.
The list of books you should read is endless but look for books that cover both specific management techniques as well as the psychology of successful relationships. Along with books, build a collection of blogs or news feeds. They will provide you with the latest trends and innovations to consider (or reject) much faster than a book.
Chapter 9: Recommended tools
There’s no perfect tool, and what works for one setting might not for another. However, communication, organization, project management, and scheduling are the foundation of management. There are tools for each of those:
- Google / the cloud. No, not the search engine. We’re talking storage (Drive), document creation (Docs, Sheets), planning (calendar) — your basic software tools, except up in the cloud. The benefit of the cloud, whether you choose to use Google, Dropbox, or Evernote, is that you can make files available easily wherever your employees are at. Employee handbooks and forms, for example, are available everywhere. They don’t have to come into work to read them.
- When I Work. Scheduling employees and handling requests for time off and sick days is made much easier with the When I Work system. Employees and managers can access the work schedule, communicate, and make adjustments from their own phone.
- Trello. Think of a digital bulletin board with sticky notes. That’s the approach Trello takes to help you manage projects or simply unify communication. The beauty of Trello is that it’s flexible in how you want to use it. Other project management apps, like Basecamp or Asana, are powerful but are more geared for serious group project management.
- Slack. Communication is crucial, and sometimes emails aren’t always the best route. Chat rooms that are geared towards business, like Slack or HipChat, keep communication simple, categorized, and immediate.
- Any.do. Sometimes a simple to-do list is all you need. Any.do has a great interface that keeps things easy and uncluttered. Google Keep integrates with Google Docs, as well as works as a mobile app. Todoist and Remember The Milk are a couple of others in a rather large selection of to do apps.
Tools are industry-based. A restaurant manager won’t need what an office manager will need. Choosing the right tools means knowing what you need and not getting caught up in trying to change how you work to fit the tool. The tool must fit you and your goals, and not the other way around.
Chapter 10: Management Is A Tough Balancing Act
Management is tough.
You have to manage your team, but you also have your own work to get done. One of the toughest things new managers struggle with is balancing both of those two.
It’s a balance of personal and work life. Friendliness and not trying to be a friend. Managing but not micro-managing. Meeting goals without dehumanizing your team.
You’ll know when you start to lose balance. Tipping over is when your stress levels start to rise, your employees will seem unwilling or passive-aggressive, and you’ll feel like you’re behind the curve. Come back to this list, if that happens. What are you struggling with the most? What did you forget to do?
Talk to your employees. Talk to your mentor. Talk to those higher up the chain. Be honest and upfront. Management can be lonely; don’t let personal pride make it even lonelier.
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