Three Strategies to Manage your Team and Work Better as a First-Time Manager

wooden blocks representing people, stacked on top of one another to simulate a hierarchy

How can you ensure that you are successful as a first-time manager and support your well-being? Moving into a leadership role is exciting, but it can also be stressful with an increased workload and the challenges of managing a hybrid team. There is a steep learning curve, which is made more difficult in organisations without proper training and mentoring support.

Not all the working habits that make you a successful team member are what you need as a team leader. Take the time to identify behaviours that are no longer serving you, and consider what you can do differently. Beyond that, here are three more ways to make the best start as a first-time manager.

Identify your allies

When you move into management, you are responsible for guiding your team to success and helping the company achieve its goals. This means that there are many people across the organisation that you will be working alongside. 

In addition to your own team, you will engage with your manager and other leaders, fellow line managers, and other people across different groups. You might be wondering, “What do they need from me?” It’s a relevant question, but only one side of the relationship. It doesn’t consider how you can get support when you need it.

For each person, identify both what you are responsible for delivering and how they can help you and your team. Know that you have a network of allies across the organisation, and nurture those relationships. 

Expect the unexpected

As a first-time manager, it is easy to make the common mistake of overplanning. You are eager to perform well and make progress in this new role. The result often means a jam-packed calendar and a long to-do list. 

The problem is there is no room for the unexpected. Every week, you will have to help your team solve problems and deal with unplanned events. You just don’t know what those are. If you don’t have time to respond, you will not be able to support your team fully, or you will need to delay another work commitment.

It is always easier to plan for what we know; you can estimate how much time something will take, understand it’s a priority and then schedule it into your week. It’s impossible to do this with the unknown, but you can still do something. Block out 1-2 hours across the day for “I don’t know what yet”.  

This space allows you to be more present when your team needs you without worrying about falling behind on other work.

Encourage upward management

As a new manager, you might feel pressure to know what is happening with your team at all times. The fear of “not knowing” means that the most well-intentioned first-time managers can fall into the trap of micromanagement. 

Micromanagement can result in lower productivity and even burnout amongst your team members. But it is also a source of stress for you, the manager. It is practically impossible to implement a micromanagement approach consistently across a team of more than a few people. There are simply too many things to track at any one time, which means you will either double-check what you do know or worry about what you have missed.

The alternative is to give your team more autonomy over how work gets completed and encourage upward management. 

One-to-one meetings are a good place to start; allow each team member to be responsible for their meeting. To do this well, you need to have a consistent approach for everyone. Essential items include accomplishments, priorities for the week and risks that will prevent the work from being done. 

This approach builds trust within the team and frees you up from time-wasting micromanagement.

These three strategies will improve how you manage your time as a new manager and highlight opportunities to work with others toward your team’s success. By nurturing working relationships and giving yourself the space to be present when you are needed most, you will be better able to handle whatever comes your way as a manager.

About Niamh

Niamh is committed to making the information and tools to improve productivity available to every professional who is striving to improve how they work and live.

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