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Lead Your Team Managing

The Biggest Challenge You'll Face as a First Time Boss

The Biggest Challenge You'll Face as a First Time Boss
Credit: Jirsak/Shutterstock

Being a first-time boss presents a number of challenges. None are more daunting, however, than figuring out how to divide time between the manager's own responsibilities and the job of leading employees, finds a new study from Robert Half Management Resources.

Specifically, nearly one-third of executives said the hardest part of being a manger for the first time is balancing individual responsibilities with time spent overseeing staff.

Another 19 percent said the most difficult aspect is supervising friends or former peers. Motivating their teams, prioritizing projects and meeting higher performance expectations are among the other tough challenges new bosses said they face.

"Becoming a manager for the first time is not always an easy transition," Tim Hird, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources, said in a statement. "More than simply adjusting to a new role, moving into a supervisor position requires adapting to others' work styles and needs."

Hird said new managers must quickly learn to avoid trying to be everything to everyone, and instead focus on empowering their employees. [See Related Story: New Manager Checklist: 5 Things You Need to Know About Being a Good Leader]

"Resist the urge to spread yourself thin trying to meet all the demands that come your way," Hird said. "Delegate projects to capable staff, which frees up time for you and demonstrates confidence in your team."

To help new managers, Robert Half Management Resources offers several tips, advising bosses to:

  • Find help when you need it. Try and figure where you can turn to for help when you have questions. This can mean both internal resources and external experts.
  • Get a mentor. Whether you go through a formal program or find a mentor on your own, it is critical pair up with another manager who you can turn to for advice.
  • Know what's expected of you. You should work with your own boss to developa 30-, 60- and 90-day plan, so you know what the expectations are. In turn, you should communicate those goals to your staff members to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Set clear boundaries. When overseeing former friends and peers, it is important that they know what you expect from them. Explaining your expectations from the start is a good way to ease the tension in what can be a difficult transition for everyone involved.
  • Schedule wisely. Make sure you not only schedule regular meetings with your employees, but also set aside time to work on your own assignments and projects.
  • Don't be a dictator. If you start off making too many changes or piling the work on your employees, you will likely see a lot of pushback. Try taking a collaborative approach and, when possible, let your staff members have a say in some decisions.
  • Be flexible. Since every employee is different, it's best to tailor your management style to each individual when possible. Also, if one approach doesn't work, don't be afraid to change tactics.
  • Cut yourself some slack. It is important that you don't put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect. As long as your staff sees you working hard and helping them to get better, they will rally around you.
  • Have fun. Keeping things lighthearted at times will help make your employees enjoy working with you. It's also a good way to boost morale and help your staff members stay poised under pressure.

The study was based on interviews with more than 2,200 chief financial officers from companies in more than 20 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas.

Chad  Brooks
Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.