Stepping into a leadership position for the first time can be daunting, even if you feel prepared to handle your new responsibilities. Going from focusing primarily on your own work’s quality to overseeing an entire team’s output can feel overwhelming. However, effectively leading your team and experiencing success can be extremely rewarding.
The relationship between a manager and their team can be complex to navigate. There’s more to it than telling everyone what to do; in fact, that management approach is highly discouraged. We’ll explore the characteristics of true leaders in management positions and a few behaviors to avoid to become an excellent manager.
We’ll highlight four primary characteristics of good managers and offer advice from seasoned influencers on how to incorporate these traits into your leadership style.
Creating a collaborative environment where everyone feels heard, respected and valued is a crucial step for new managers. A team that works together creates a welcoming, supportive culture.
As a manager, you can encourage a collaborative environment by setting the pace for workplace ethics.
According to Summer Salomonsen, former chief learning officer at Grovo, tips for creating a collaborative work environment include delegating tasks, encouraging communication and feedback through regular one-on-one meetings, and prioritizing reciprocal trust among the team.
Good managers should focus on helping their employees progress both individually and collectively. Get to know your workers personally so you can help them leverage their talents. Find what works and what doesn’t, and prioritize identifying and removing obstacles so your employees can perform at their best.
Will Esdaile, vice president of performance marketing at Blue Nile, suggests that managers “have a development goal that isn’t about the business. Have one goal focused on the development of a person (or people) on your team that isn’t connected to a business outcome. This could be developing confidence in presenting by sharing work to a big group or learning a new language.”
Communication is a driving force behind nearly everything people do, so clear communication is a vital characteristic for supervisors. You should set clear expectations for your employees, be transparent about important topics, and establish guidelines for both giving and receiving feedback.
To inspire original thinking, Salomonsen advises managers to create a diverse and inclusive company culture where everyone can voice their concerns, opinions and ideas. Encourage authenticity and vulnerability by leading by example, this could be asking for help or admitting you don’t understand something in front of your staff. Great leaders are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and communicate how they are working to improve challenges.
Money isn’t the only incentive that motivates employees. Every worker wants to feel valued. If they don’t believe their work is making a difference in some way, they won’t be motivated.
Yaniv Masjedi, marketing personnel at Aura, said new managers should “take some time to get to know each team member’s strengths and where they need extra support. Use assignments as a learning process for you and your team. Then support where needed and lean extra hard when you’re able to.”
Masjedi added it’s best to learn alongside your team as you grow into your role. Your staff will see you putting in the work to improve, which will inspire them to do better in their own positions.
New managers often fall into bad leadership habits as they take on their new responsibilities. Salomonsen noted six leadership weaknesses to avoid at all costs.
Several techniques help new managers ensure their team is working optimally. Consider these methods:
You should never feel lost or unsupported when taking on a new role, especially as a leader. Here are three ways you can learn and grow in your new position.
Every company should offer training before hiring. However, many businesses don’t prioritize management development because of expense or time concerns. Some even reserve these programs only for senior leaders or offer workshops just a few times a year, explained Salomonsen.
“These sessions may be rewarding and inspiring, but they rarely make an impact on day-to-day work,” she said. “Moreover, sending every new manager to a management seminar their first week on the job is prohibitively expensive for most companies.”
Internal training is another option that’s especially suitable for small businesses. Host a few sessions with company experts or managers to run through the basics. Often, employees are promoted to a management role, so they already understand company standards and expectations.
Microlearning is a popular training method for small businesses. It’s quick, intensive and collaborative. This way, managers 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,” Salomonsen added. “Done right, a microlearning approach allows managers to quickly put new knowledge into practice, and gradually improve their habits and skills over time.”
Microlearning is efficient and far more affordable than extensive training programs.
Working with a mentor or learning and development (L&D) partner can set up new managers for success by providing 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,” Salomonsen said. “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.
“Everybody needs a mentor,” added Brett Helling, owner of Gigworker.com and Ridester. “Find one and discuss the problems you are facing. Having a mentor or someone with expertise is the clear indication of growth within yourself.”
Kiely Kuligowski contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.