Learning to lead and manage teams are essential skills for anyone looking to advance their career.
While becoming a manager can be exciting, the task can also be daunting for those who have not had formal management experience before.
Leadership and management skills can be learned and honed like any other skill. These skills can quickly become your greatest asset to help grow a successful career with the proper guidance.
Below is some of the best advice compiled for first-time managers:
1. Get to Know Your Team!
Not necessarily on a personal level, but certainly on a professional one. Each person has their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes—good managers can identify these traits and adjust accordingly.
Establish a system for open and effective communication, like having weekly or bi-weekly 1-on-1 conversations with each member. With consistent discussions, you can quickly learn more about how each team member works with themselves and others.
A word of caution: Your authority must be earned. Many first-time managers go from being a part of a team to leading that same team, but changing your job title does not entitle you to the team's respect.
At the very core, you all must move as one unit: treating your team as anything less than human will quickly erode the trust and structure you put in place, no matter how many friendships or bonds you formed.
To give an analogy, think of management as a guiding light for your team, helping them navigate through problems and challenges. The way you go about this can vary with your management style.
Managers that choose to be hands-off can be akin to lighthouses, only stepping in when their team is close to danger. Others choose to be more hands-on, becoming a GPS of sorts and guiding their team through each step of the process.
This guiding principle is why the servant leadership style is becoming more and more popular
. Ultimately, how you choose your management style will depend heavily on what you and your team members are comfortable with. While there may not be a perfect solution, a healthy management style and relationship can go a long way in helping the team be effective.
2. When Communicating With Your Team, Be Specific.
You will inevitably have to interact with your team a lot as you manage them. When communicating goals, expectations, and feedback, it is essential that you make them clear and as easy to understand as possible.
Vague directions and feedback are a common miscommunication on teams but can lead to excessive frustration, especially over time.
Leaving things up for interpretation can result in an enormous waste of time and resources for both you and your team, especially if you took the task in a different direction than you envisioned.
The same principle applies to goals and expectations; having clear and specific goals for the team to achieve allows everyone to prioritize what is most important to get the job done.
In this case, it doesn't always mean simple; often, simple goals can be the vaguest.
Consider using the SMART
goal framework to create effective goals. In this case, the "specific" in SMART can refer to having only a single objective.
Being clear in your communication can improve the way your team interacts with each other as well: especially if you lead by example, your team members can adapt your communication style and utilize it amongst themselves.
Think of yourself as a surgeon in these scenarios: simply asking for a blade can get you a scalpel or a bone saw—two tools designed for very different tasks.
3. Keep Learning.
Let's face it: as a first-time manager, you will not know everything, especially when it comes to management. Not everything will be right at the start; in fact, it may be a little challenging to get anything right at first.
However, put yourself in the best position to learn. Set aside your ego and embrace a growth mindset
. Be patient with your team, and in return, allow them to be patient with you.
To reiterate the first point: listen to your team. If you are open with your communication, your team will offer advice on changing or improving. This may be the most crucial advice you can receive; implementing their feedback shows that you not only are listening and acknowledging their input and feedback but are willing to work with them and take actions to improve.
Learn with your team, consider doing a workplace strengths or communication style test to help give the team a shared language for talking about how you can best work together. Tests loved by teams include DiSC
and Strengths Finder 2.0
If you want to further your skills, consider finding a mentor or sponsor to help guide you as a manager. Look for someone you can readily take advice from; these people can have similar experiences, work in the same organization, or even have the same management style as you. These people can be another way you hold yourself accountable as a manager and can even offer specific advice tailored to you, especially in times of crisis.
Overall, being a manager isn't easy. There is a lot to learn when supervising others and often not many resources. But understanding your team, communicating with them effectively, and constantly learning from your mistakes and others can be effective methods to make your first foray into management a little less stressful.
About the Author
Lomit Patel is the Senior Vice President of Growth at Together Labs (formerly IMVU). Before Together labs, Lomit managed growth at early-stage startups, including Roku (IPO), TrustedID (acquired by Equifax), Texture (acquired. by Apple), and EarthLink. Lomit is a public speaker, author, advisor, and recognized as a Mobile Hero by Liftoff. Lomit's book Lean AI, part of Eric Ries' best-selling "The Lean Startup" series, is now available at Amazon.