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Lead Your Team Leadership

Characteristics of a Good Leader: Tips for New Managers

Characteristics of a Good Leader: Tips for New Managers
Credit: baranq/Shutterstock

It takes time to adjust to a new position at work, especially when you're taking on a management role. Your responsibility is to guide an entire team to success; instead of turning to someone for supervision, you're the person others turn to.

It might feel like you're grasping at straws, but you're not alone – many new managers feel overwhelmed.

We outlined characteristics of a good manager, management behaviors to avoid and management development options to get you started in your role.

Every manager should work on developing these four characteristics.

Collaborative

You want to be passionate about working with your team and encourage your employees to feel the same. While independent work is important, teamwork can establish a more welcoming, supportive company culture.

Summer Salomonsen, chief learning officer at Grovo, a microlearning solution, suggested delegating and coaching tasks, encouraging communication and feedback through regular one-on-one meetings, and prioritizing trust among the team.

Growth-oriented

As a manager, you should focus on helping your employees progress – individually and collectively. Get to know your workers on a personal level so you can help them leverage their interests and talents. Find what works and what doesn't.

"Effective managers take a growth-oriented approach to employee development, challenging themselves and their reports to improve their performance and respond to setbacks," said Salomonsen.

She noted that new managers should provide honest feedback, initiate necessary conversations, and anticipate and address resistance to change.

Inclusive

If you want your team to take risks and contribute to projects, you need to make sure they feel comfortable doing so.

Salomonsen said that in order to inspire original thinking, managers should create an inclusive culture where everyone gets to voice their concerns, opinions and ideas. Encourage authenticity and vulnerability, and help your team cope with any work-related stress.

Leading by example is a great way to achieve this. Just because you're a manager doesn't mean you can't ask for help. Turn to your team when you're at a loss. Start a conversation, and discuss their comments.

Impact-driven

Every worker wants to feel valued. If they don't believe their work is meaningful, making a difference in some way, they won't be as motivated.

"To help direct reports see the 'why' behind their work, managers must learn to be impact-driven, aligning the team's activities with the broader goals of the organization and the values of each team member," said Salomonsen.

She advised forming a connection between individual goals and company goals, reminding each worker why their job is so important. Show your appreciation for each member's effort, and step in to help anyone who falls behind.

"It's all too easy for new managers to adopt bad habits in the busy early days of their new role," said Salomonsen. "Without the right guidance, we typically see first-time managers fall into common behavior traps … "

She noted six management behaviors to avoid:

  • Only providing feedback during performance reviews or when issues arise.
  • Micromanaging rather than trusting your team.
  • Failing to ask for or address questions, feedback or concerns.
  • Being closed-minded to criticism or new ideas.
  • Avoiding difficult yet necessary conversations.
  • Setting expectations too high or too low, or not being clear with your goals.

You should never be left in the dark when taking on a new role. Here are three ways to learn and grow as a leader.

Management training

According to a research study by Grovo, 87 percent of managers wish they were given the chance to learn and progress when they first assumed their role, and nearly half of new managers felt that they were unprepared for their position.

Every company should offer training before hiring. However, whether because of the price of programs or lack of time, many don't prioritize management development as much as they should. In fact, some even reserve these programs only for senior leaders, and offer them just a few times a year, said Salomonsen.

"These sessions may be rewarding and inspiring, but they rarely make an impact on day-to-day work," she added. "Moreover, sending every new manager to a management seminar their first week on the job is prohibitively expensive for most companies."

An option, especially for small businesses, is to turn to internal training. Host a few sessions with other company experts or managers to run through the basics. Often, employees are promoted to a management role, so they already have an idea of company standards and what's expected of them.

Microlearning

Microlearning is a popular training method for small businesses. It's quick, intensive and collaborative. Managers can learn all they need to know in short bursts, without feeling overwhelmed.

"With microlearning, both new and experienced managers can access digestible lessons that focus on the critical behaviors they need to perform their best, right in the course of their day-to-day work," said Salomonsen. "Done right, a microlearning approach allows managers to quickly put new knowledge into practice and gradually improve their habits and skills over time."

Not only is this method of learning more efficient, it's also far more affordable than extensive training programs.

Mentors and L&D partners

Working with a mentor or learning and development (L&D) partner can set new managers up for success by providing them with personal support and expert knowledge.

"Each person is different, and every new manager has their own areas of growth in the early days of their new role," said Salomonsen. "Whether they need to develop their interpersonal skills, time management skills, strategic planning skills or leadership approach, they will need support from senior colleagues … Finding a management mentor or L&D partner early can help set a strong foundation for the new manager's development in their role."

Keep an open mind about colleagues, friends and professional connections, and network as much as possible. Once you work with someone who can guide you through the beginning process, you'll feel more confident in your role.

Sammi Caramela

Sammi Caramela is a recent graduate of Rowan University, where she majored in writing arts and minored in journalism. She currently works as a Purch B2B staff writer while working on her first novel in her free time. Reach her by email, or check out her blog at sammisays.org.