9 Essential Tips for First-Time Managers

The transition from core contributor to manager and talent coach isn’t an easy road, so here are nine absolutely essential tips for navigating the ins and outs of management.  

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The eventful road down first-time management  

Landing your first managerial role is a deserved cause for celebration, but the work has just begun. The roles, responsibilities, relationships, expectations, and stress points are all new, and each needs addressing to maximize team success. Studies show that 50% of employees quit because of their boss and not their job which drops HALF of all employee retention responsibilities on managers.  

“Mistakes, conflict, and miscommunication will challenge you, but the effort and active practice of these nine pillars of management will help alleviate these pains and lead to success,” says Abby Prince, ProSearch Director.

These practices are used daily by the professional talent agency, CSS ProSearch, an industry leader in providing exceptional managers who drive award-winning teams. Without further ado, here are the nine pivotal pillars to managing a team for the first time.  

1. Schedule one-on-ones with both direct reports and fellow managers  

Your new responsibilities as a manager are more relationship-intensive than your previous role, so your first actions should be having one-on-ones with not only direct reports, but parallel managers and your new higher-ups. A Harvard Business Review study found that direct reports who get twice the number of one-on-one meetings with managers are 67% less likely to be disengaged. Meet with your people to build focus. 

These don’t all need to be hour-long meetings; it’s really frequency and transparency that counts. Give credit amply and often. You will get just as much out of your one-on-ones as your direct hire will. You’ll discover problems, efficiencies, goals, and desires on both sides that lead to empathy and encouragement. Do the same with your new managers at the director level. Curiously, the most underrated relationships will be your new managerial peers. With hierarchical barriers stripped away, this distinct group can bond over similar successes and challenges of team management and share tips and tricks.  

2. Ask thoughtful questions and be an even better active listener  

The easiest time to practice these skills will be in your aforementioned one-on-ones but should also extend to every interaction you have with your team. New managers often tend to implement their own workplace ideology before consulting with their team which often leads to conflict. Ask thoughtful questions and be an engaged active listener to understand what makes each of your team members motivated, active, and responsive to delegated work.  

Thoughtful questioning and engaged listening show direct hires that you care, and that care leads to shared empathy, a trait believed to be essential to positive office relationships by 86% of employees according to an Emtrian study. Unfortunately, the same study showed that only 42% of employees think their managers and fellow colleagues exhibit empathy. To build trust and empathy, ask questions and listen to your team members.  

3. Address changing relationship dynamics  

If you’re starting your first managerial job at a new company this may not apply quite yet, but if you’re making an internal vertical move at your current company, you need to immediately address work relationship dynamics. Your peers are now your direct reports, your managers are now your peers, and your managing directors are now your direct managers.  

Those private lunches and happy hours with previous peers could be seen as favoritism if you’ve moved onto managing them which causes internal team friction. Take care to address each stakeholder with a freshly tweaked relationship that fits your move to manager. Get closer with your MDs and collaborate more with your fellow managers and acclimate to your perch.  

4. Be the best “leader” you can be  

Your title is “manager,” but what you really are at the end of the day is a “leader.” You will manage KPIs and quarterback Monday meetings, but team success will depend on your ability to lead people, not manage them. Leadership skills are humanizing relationship builders like motivation, consolation, ideation, and more that connect with the humanity of your team in a way that general “management” does not prioritize.  

Empathizing with a struggling direct report and working through solutions exemplifies great leadership. Taking accountability for team failure while dishing out praise for team success will convey to your team that you have their back and promote their progression.   

5. Adjust to delegating work that you previously performed  

Delegating work tasks may be the most practical piece of advice on this list. You are responsible for your team’s results and associated deliverables through your direct reports. The key phrase here is “through your direct reports;” getting used to offloading your contributor tasks takes time, but delegating those deliverables is the only way to meet your marks.  

London Business School professor John Hunt states that only 30% of managers believe they can delegate well so if you’re able to master this skill, you’ll attain maximum team efficiency and blow KPIs out of the water. From a direct report’s perspective, being delegated important tasks shows that your manager trusts you to perform, which builds independence and motivation.  

6. Manage up 

Managing direct reports will be completely new territory to a first-time manager but managing up is a secret skill you may have been building since you entered the workforce. As a new manager, you’ll have a new manager yourself, and you’ll need to build rapport, manage expectations, and find workflow efficiencies with your new boss. In the previously mentioned one-on-ones, make sure you ask your new manager questions like, what are your most glaring needs right now? What skills and characteristics have led to success in this role before?  These will establish parameters and goals moving forward with your new oversight which eliminates ambiguity and miscommunication. You’ll also make yourself known as a living, breathing employee with future ascension in mind. 

7. Find a mentor 

You have so many questions and no answers, but there are people in your organization who’ve gone through the same process and know some tricks to the trade. Find a willing manager, express your ambition, coachability, and genuine need, and they’ll likely be willing to help. This will take the stress off when these challenges do arise and will often present you with solutions you hadn’t thought of.  

 A study by Moving Ahead reported that 84% of polled mentors and mentees found a symbiotic two-way relationship between giving and receiving advice. Mentees get the benefit of solving their immediate challenges, and mentors use the opportunity to build the leadership of the future.  

8. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable  

 Jumping into a leadership role for the first time will give you whiplash, but just know that no one expects you to manage a team to the top in your first couple of weeks. The sooner you get comfortable accepting what you don’t know, the sooner you’ll learn and develop the skills you need to succeed. Be patient with yourself and ask more questions than you can think of to those under you, those managing you, and those at your level to keep an open transparent dialogue.  

Celebrate the small wins and the bigger ones will come in due time. You are not the first to go through these growing pains as a new manager and will certainly not be the last.  

9. Team up with CSS ProSearch to staff your organization with galvanizing leaders  

Whether you’re a hiring manager in need of new managerial energy to spark your team or a talented candidate looking to take their next step into a leadership position, CSS ProSearch has an extensive network of hiring managers and open roles to put great leaders to work. With a focus on technology, consulting, and healthcare verticals, CSS ProSearch provides the finest talent and opportunity through seamless recruitment processes. Connect with CSS ProSearch today to attract top managerial talent!

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