First-Time manager

A bag of ice on my face, blood on my knees and a destroyed t-shirt, that was me during a summer afternoon when I was 5 years old.

Quoting the CEO of Virgin Airlines – Richard Branson:

If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!” – Richard Branson

That amazing opportunity came.
It was the brand-new bicycle 🚲that my elder cousin got for his birthday, and he invited me to go for a ride.

Indeed, I said yes. ✅
And indeed I hit the wall (literally) – I was not ready, and I did not learn along the way.

The same thing happened 20 years later.

The first-time manager experience

Another amazing opportunity came.
My manager offered me the chance to lead a team of 10 people in the data industry.

I said yes.✅

Right after saying yes, I started to feel an increased level of anxiety, asking myself If I am capable enough If I am smart enough and If I would manage to survive at least for a week.

It was a very similar feeling I had when I was 5 years old and crashed riding my cousin’s bike.

Good news, even though the beginnings were tough – I managed to survive in the role beyond the week,

and after 2,5 years in the role,
I got promoted to the senior managerial level.

Years after, I asked myself why I was feeling that way and discovered that what I was feeling is called impostor syndrome, and it is very common for first-time managers to feel such a way.

If you are about to jump into a first-time manager position, don’t doubt it and take the risk.

I am bringing you here on what to focus on for a smooth landing and avoid the common rookie mistakes.

How to be a good first-time manager

Overcome the impostor syndrome
Now you are in charge. Now you are the leader of a team. It is the moment to take decisions.
Change the mindset from being a team member to being the leader of a team.

Watch out: Be the leader, not the boss.
Show them the way, inspire them, and make them grow while they are in your team.

Don’t reinvent the wheel
One of the most common mistakes of the first-time manager is to reinvent the wheel after being very short in the role.

What I mean by reinventing the wheel:
This meeting is not needed, we need to prepare this report in excel, ppt should be done in such a way… making tons of changes after being only a couple of weeks in the role.

These types of interventions normally never work (unless in very exceptional situations).

What’s more,
these types of interventions will make you step on the wrong foot in the role and will make your team doubt your skills and capabilities.
Put yourself in the shoes of your team and imagine that a new manager changes the way you were working for the last two-three years after being a few weeks in the role.

Build your 90 days action plan

“The actions you take your first few months in a new role will largely determine whether you succeed or fail”.

It is not me saying this. It is Michal D. Watkins saying this.

Michal is the writer of the book “The First 90 Days” – where you can find proven strategies to get up to speed faster and smarter in your new role.

First 90 days as a First-time manager

Building on the book “The First 90 Days” by Michal D. Watkins. See a summary of the book here.
I recommend you build not one not two but three action plans.

One action plan for the first 30 days,
one action plan for the first 60 days
and one action plan for the first 90 days.

All of them with the same structure.
Define: Priorities, Goals, and Milestones and discuss all of those with your manager.

As it is commonly said:
“A picture is worth a thousand words” 🖼,
here I bring you an example of how to organize your three action plans.

During the first 30 days is the time to be curious – See and Listen
You should be clear about who are your key counterparts, both internally and externally. Who will be evaluating your job? Once you are clear on the list, schedule 30 min with each of them to get to know each other and ask them what I call the “Mister Paton checklist”.

The “Mister Paton checklist” is the list of questions I always ask my counterparts to get a top-level idea of what role I am stepping in and which opportunities are recognized across the board and need to be addressed.

See below some of the “Mister Paton checklist” questions:

  • Tell me about yourself. Career, how long in the role and future desired assignments
  • What are the most promising unexploited opportunities for growth?
  • How I can help you with any way to cooperate

If you want to get the full list of questions I like to ask during the first 30 days’ action plan, go here.

First-time manager mistakes

Team Management

Every person is different. And every person needs to be managed differently.
First-time managers tend to treat the team the same way she/he used to like to be treated.
Even though the intention is good – what works for one person does not necessarily work for another.

Schedule One to one connects at least once per month, (my recommendation is every two weeks)
sense check what motivates everyone in your team, and more importantly let them talk.

One-to-one is their time.

The time for your team members to speak up, to share their fears, to share their ambitions…

Effective One to one connections will be those when you get to know better your individuals, you understand what motivates and they feel who is on the other side is actively listening and supporting the growth. That’s what an effective One to one would look like.  

Be curious Every person is different.

Avoid Micromanagement

As a first-time manager, you will want to know everything, be in every detail, and be involved in every issue… let me tell you that’s not an option.

While taking over your new role, you most likely will have the tendency to try to control everything as a mechanism to protect yourself and feel you are in control.
Short-term it may work, in the long term, it will not. Imagine you go up the hierarchy of your company and you end up leading a team of 200+ people.

It is not feasible you will be able to control and be on top of every issue.
The ultimate solution to avoid micromanaging is effective delegation.

Effective Delegation

You don’t need to do everything yourself. Your task is getting things done. Not by you but by the team.

The way to achieve it is by an effective delegation of tasks to the team.
What you can do: Pass the actions, with clear expectations and to the relevant owner.

Identify which tasks can be delegated and which tasks need to be owned by you
Personal tip: (As long as possible) I prefer not to have any daily specific task assigned to me while being the manager of others.

Why: In case of fire somewhere in the business, I can immediately jump into the fire with full focus to drive the action plan that will mitigate the issue.

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