7 Ways New Managers Can Shine

Being tossed into management is like free-falling out of an airplane: The experience can be deadly if you don't know what you are doing, or exhilarating if you do. Read this before jumping.

"Psssttt…Can you keep a secret? I’ve just been made a manager and I haven’t a clue what to do!" This was exactly what went through my head over 20 years ago when I found myself suddenly in charge. My focus should have been on what I could do to shine from day one. But instead, I worried that it would only be a matter of time before my secret was out. Executives and managers shared similar stories with me when I was doing research for my book.

It’s no secret that those who find themselves tossed into management with little more than a hope and a prayer aren’t ready to fully engage in all that is required of more experienced managers. But there is certainly something about you that indicated you were right for this job. Your job is to build on these strengths, while you try and master the other skills necessary to be a successful leader. Here are seven ways you can shine from day one:

1. Manage those above you. Some of you may be thinking, "How the heck am I going to manage people above me when I haven’t even figured out how to do my job?" Trust me. I can tell you from personal experience that if you don’t begin with managing up, you won’t have to worry about managing down. It is critical to learn how to manage these relationships effectively so that you can secure the resources you need to be successful in any situation. Observe how others successfully gain resources in the organization and follow suit when their approach aligns with your values.

2. Decode your boss. I can’t recall a time when I’ve seen a boss adjust their management style to that of an employee’s. This means you will be the one who will be doing the adjusting. Begin by observing how your manager uses authority, the way she relates to others, and her communication style as a leader. Most bosses typically fall into one of the following categories: dictatorial, laissez-faire, bureaucratic, consultative. Once you determine the type of manager you’ve been handed, you can then study ways to work most effectively with this type of leader.

3. Become a master player of office politics. You are in the game, so deal with it. In every organization, there are unwritten rules. We call this office politics. The sooner you understand these rules, the better. Politics in the workplace isn’t just about manipulation. It’s about using power effectively to get what you need. People who are masters at this game follow unwritten rules that allow them to maneuver swiftly through the organization to obtain scarce resources, approval of prized projects, and promotions. Can you see now why it’s important to pay attention to this?

4. Toot your own horn. For years we’ve been taught that it’s not polite to brag. But if we don’t do so, how will others know about our contributions? I can assure you when companies are putting together lay-off lists they aren’t including those whose contributions are well known throughout the organization. You may be the best singer in the room, but no one will know this if you never open your mouth.

5. Manage performance. No one likes to tell an employee they are not meeting expectations, but how can they improve without feedback? Clearly define your expectations and communicate regularly so employees know exactly where they stand all year long. Provide timely well-thought-out performance reviews that are specific in nature so employees know exactly the type of behavior you would like to see repeated.

6. Be respectful. Be mindful of your tone. It’s easy to bark orders and have others respond out of fear. But eventually you’ll gain a reputation that will be difficult to shake. Effective leaders do not yell at their employees nor do they chew them out in front of customers or other employees. They speak to them like they matter.

7. Hire the best. At first it may be a bit intimidating hiring people who are smarter than you. You will shine the most when those around you are beaming. Hire bright people who will step things up in your workgroup and do whatever it takes to see that they are promoted.

Begin by choosing one or two of these tips, and before you know it, you will be succeeding all around.

—Roberta Chinsky Matuson is an internationally recognized expert on increasing profitability by maximizing employee contribution. Her website is matusonconsulting.com. She is the author of Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, a Washington Post Top-­5 Leadership pick. Her new book, The Magnetic Workplace: How to Hire Top Talent That Will Stick Around, will be published in 2013. Sign up to receive a subscription to Roberta’s complimentary newsletter.

[Image: Flickr user Daniel Kulinski]

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2 Comments

  • Gwen Kinsey

    A number one cause for executive failure is not devoting time and energy learning about leadership as a discipline. There are 4 skill sets to leadership effectiveness: business skills, industry specifics, ability to execute goals and leadership as it's own discipline. 

    Many companies provide little support for developing leadership competency. If they do training the training is often centered on business skills, compliance training, etc.

    I'd add one last item #8 on your list-- invest in your own leadership development. Find a mentor, hire a coach, volunteer in a leadership position for an organization (non-profit) where you can practice...read books on leadership.

    Organizations are getting flatter...eliminating layers of "managers". Genuine leaders will always be in demand.