What You Need To Know on Your First Day as a Manager

First appeared in ‘Training and Development’ (Australia)

It’s new. It’s exciting. It’s scary. You’ve got your first managerial job. You’ve also got your first set of real-life problems (or people as they’re also called). You’ve got staff. They’re older than you. They’re wiser than you. They know far more about the Organisation than you. They may even be resentful that someone as young as you have landed the job they wanted. But you want to do a good job, so you’ll learn, Need some help?

Tip 1: When in doubt – tell the truth. – One of your staff asks you on your first day how you feel. Tell the truth; “It’s new. It’s exciting. It’s scary. You’re older than me, wiser than me. You know far more about the Organisation than me but I want to do a good job so I’ll learn.”

Tip 2: Do your homework — Before you start find out as much as you can about the business you’re joining. Find out as much as you can about the culture, the customers, the employees. Find out about your team – personalities, problems, likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses. Ask fellow managers. I know the information will be second hand. Treat it as that. You’ll have your own opinions in a few weeks anyway. Use it for what it is – other peoples’ perceptions.

Tip 3: Know yourself. – Spend some time thinking about you. What do you want from this experience? What’s your vision for the next six months, two years, ten years. Get it clear in your own mind. There’s plenty of evidence that suggests that the clearer it is to you the more likely it is to happen. If you don’t know where you’re going how on earth do you expect your team to know?

Tip 4: Be yourself. – You’ve been given this opportunity because of the qualities you have – use them. Don’t change all that now trying to become someone you think you ought to be. If you’re a patient, softly-spoken liberal type, don’t turn into Gordon Ramsey as soon as there’s a problem. You may have heard that macho management is the way to command respect. If it’s not your way of doing it – it won’t. Your staff will know it as well. Use your own strengths.

Tip 5: Lead by example. – People will be looking to you to set the standard. If you spend three hours in work a day surfing the ‘net you’ll have serious credibility issues reprimanding someone for doing the same. In your first few months in the post you’ve got to display zero-tolerance. If someone breaks the rules you need to address it. You cannot let things go. Your staff will test you, and look to see how far they can push you. Not in any malicious way (hopefully) but because they’re human and so are you and they need to learn about you – your style, your values.

Tip 6: Get the balance right. – So many new managers turn up with the “Hey I’m cool. You get on with your job and I’ll do mine. I see ourselves more as partners” attitude. It doesn’t work like that. However painful it may be you, you are the boss. You make that final decision. Conversely there are managers that won’t socialise at all with their staff. They won’t go out in the evenings with them, they won’t eat lunch in the canteen with them. If you ask them why they’ll say something like, “I don’t want to get close in case I have to discipline them”. I sometimes wonder if these people make their children eat in a separate room at home for the same reason. Get the balance right.

Tip 7: It’s all about relationships. -The quality of the work the team produces is directly related to the quality of the relationships within that team. As the leader you are responsible for this happening. How? By doing everything you need to. People are different – get to know what makes them tick. You do this by talking and listening – a lot of listening. Talk to your people everyday. Every morning talk to a good number, if not all of them. Listen when they tell you about their kids, their cats, their football team. If you’re uncomfortable doing this, well that’s unlucky. This is as much a part of your job as managing the finances.

Tip 8: Tackle the real problems as soon as possible. – Problems are like those dirty dishes you’ve left in the kitchen.. The longer you leave them the harder they get to sort out. No magic fairy comes along to help. It just gets a bit grungier, a bit messier and a bit more unpleasant to deal with each passing day. Get to the root of the problem. Do this by listening. Listen, listen, listen. Listen to what’s said. Listen to what’s not said. Listen to the body language. Listen to your own little voice telling you what to do. If something doesn’t feel right. It won’t be. Trust yourself.

So, when in doubt…. tell the truth… and when not in doubt? Tell the truth.

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