Congratulations — you've landed your first role as a manager! Now comes the really nerve-wracking part: meeting your team.
Your first week as a manager will arguably be one of the most memorable — if not daunting — chapters of your entire career. After all, first impressions always count, but they count a whole lot more when you're introducing yourself to a roomful of people as their new leader.
The good news is that your first week as a manager doesn't have to be traumatic. With a little bit of forward planning, you can use week zero to set yourself up for a long and happy relationship with your team.
Check out these seven tips for first-time managers and turn a potentially stressful occasion into an auspicious one!
1. Drop the act
The first thing to be said about managing a team is to be yourself.
That might sound obvious, but when they're dealing with first-day jitters and are keen to look and sound the part, many first-time managers fall into the trap of adopting a 'manager persona' of sorts, attempting to emulate the behaviour of their previous bosses or people whose leadership skills they admire.
There's nothing wrong with taking a few tips from your personal heroes, but it's important to remember that you were hired for your skills, experience and suitability for the role, not your ability to mimic others.
Resist the temptation to reinvent yourself for the role of manager — as well as being mentally draining to maintain a false persona, you're unlikely to yield the same kind of results that you would if you were being yourself.
2. Don't rock the boat too much
At least, not at first.
The arrival of a new manager is a stressful time for any team. Your people will be anxious to know what kind of a boss you'll be and how your leadership will affect their daily lives and enjoyment of their role.
For that reason, you should avoid making any drastic changes until you've been there for at least a month.
As well as making a potentially disastrous decision based on insufficient knowledge, by changing things up too early you risk creating feelings of resentment amongst your staff, who will interpret your desire to effect change as an attack on their way of doing things.
Take notes, ask questions, consider alternatives, but don't make any big changes until your team have grown used to you and you're fully up to speed.
3. Know what's expected of you
You probably discussed broader goals and objectives during your interview for the role of manager, but now that you're a bona fide member of staff it's time to sit down with your immediate supervisor and set some concrete goals.
If you've been brought in with a view to helping reduce staff turnover, do you know by how much? If you're heading up an entirely new department, then by what standards will your performance be measured?
The only way you'll be able to hit the ground running is by having concrete goals in mind right from the start.
As mentioned above, you'll probably want to spend a couple of weeks getting to know your team and getting a feel for how everything works, but you should aim to meet with your superior as early as possible and hash out exactly what needs to be achieved in the next 6–12 months so that you know what to focus on.
4. Meet your team individually
Providing that the team you'll be managing isn't made up of dozens of people, it's well worth scheduling one-to-one meetings with every member during your first couple of days.
These meetings needn't last more than five or ten minutes each, but taking the time to sit down with people individually will help you lay the foundations for strong working relationships further down the line — not to mention make it easier to remember people's names!
Just be sure to keep the conversation light — some of your team will naturally be apprehensive about your arrival; the last thing you want to do is give them the impression that they're being subtly evaluated.
5. Prepare for your first group meeting
You've met your team members informally — now it's time to break out your professional side.
You should treat your first staff meeting like you would a presentation to an outside company or potential partner. Whatever the topic of discussion, take plenty of time to prepare to ensure that you create a great first impression.
Some things to consider:
- Know your people. It's not enough to know the names of everyone on your team — you should also know what their roles and responsibilities are so that you can call upon the right people without interruption and keep your meeting moving.
- Prepare the space. The way you set up the room can have a big effect on the overall vibe of your meeting. Do you want all eyes to be on you, or would you rather foster more of a 'team' dynamic? Do you want certain people to occupy certain seats or should everyone sit where they like? Take the time to set up the room so that your meeting goes the way you want it to.
- Set up your gear. If you'll be relying any visual aids or computer equipment during your meeting, make sure that everything is ready to go. Technical hiccups happen to the best of us, but fumbling about with cables or frantically trying to find your PowerPoint presentation doesn't exactly scream 'leader'.
- Stick to the schedule. The best bosses value efficiency and don't take up too much of their team's time. If you set start and end times for your meeting, be sure to stick to them — and remember to thank your team for attending.
Remember: this is your team's first real opportunity to see you in action. Take the time to prepare and use the opportunity to show them that they can put their trust in you.
Be sure to check out our guide to running effective staff meetings for more tips on how to keep your team focused during gatherings.
6. Find a mentor
Management can be a lonely place sometimes. Even if you get along well with your team, you'll always be the person that they report to, and there may be occasions when it would be inappropriate to ask for their input or support.
It's a good idea, then, to have a fellow manager who you can turn to when dealing with situations of a difficult or delicate nature.
Your mentor doesn't have to work at the same company as you, but if possible you should make a habit of meeting with either your immediate superior or someone who heads up another department or team to bounce ideas off them.
Remember: you were hired for your ability to manage a team, not because you're infalliable. Talk to your peers often and heed their advice.
7. Be your own model employee
Yes, you're a manager now, and that affords you a few special perks. But your team will be paying close attention to the way that you conduct yourself — and following suit.
One of the best ways to get the most of your team and encourage them to trust you is to lead by example.
Right from your very first day, you should:
- Arrive with plenty of time to spare. You want your team to be ready to work, not just arriving, right the start of their shift. Lead by example and make a habit of arriving for work with enough time to make a hot drink and greet your team.
- Finish on time. It's fine to do a little overtime when necessary, but generally speaking you should always aim to clock off when you're scheduled to. As well as encouraging your team to get through their work by the allotted hour, leaving on time impresses upon your staff the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
- Never abuse your power. No one respects the manager who ignores their own rules. Never be tempted to slip out for long lunches under the pretence of holding a meeting, or chatting in the kitchen for half an hour just because there's no one around to tell you to get back to work.
- Take holidays. Staff who make full use of their annual leave are generally happier and more productive than those who don't. Encourage your team to make the most of the holiday time they're entitled to by booking your own time off well in advance and taking time to de-stress.
- Keep your cool. There's a big difference between being firm with your team and flying off the handle to make a point. No matter how stressed or annoyed you might find yourself during your time as manager, you should never raise your voice unnecessarily. After all, you wouldn't tolerate it from your staff...
Talking the talk is one thing, but teams respect managers who apply the same rules to their own work as their staff.
It's perfectly natural to be nervous during your first week as a manager. Rather than trying to adopt a persona or shaking things up for the sake of it, however, it's better to be honest and upfront with your team right from the start.
Ask plenty of questions and really listen to what your team has to say. Talk to them about any problems they've been having and find out what they think works well in the business before making any significant changes.
Your team will be looking to you to prove yourself as a worthy leader, certainly, but they'll also be anxious to know whether they can trust you as a person. Keep those channels of communication open and make a conscious effort to play by the same rules that you set for everyone else — it's hard not to respect the boss that integrates with their team rather than constantly hovering above it.