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Taking Your First Steps into Management

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Taking your first steps into management can be daunting. Not only do you have a new reporting line and extra accountability, but now you’re looking after a team and are the go-to person for everyone’s questions. If you’ve recently taken on your first managerial position, or are about to, this guide offers practical advice to help you on your way.

Learning to Let GoUp until now, you’ve been responsible for your work and your work alone. You know exactly how each task has been completed and the reasons why. When you become a manager, you say goodbye to that degree of control. That’s because, while you gain responsibility and decision making power, it’s simply not possible to be involved in every decision taken in every piece of work. Some people will find this more difficult to deal with than others. But your success in the role depends on learning to let go and delegate, which will free you up to lead and support your team.

DelegationAs a manager, your role is to identify which work sits best with who. While you can’t possibly achieve as much as your entire team, at this level of management you still need to decide what to take on yourself. Bear in mind this African proverb:

To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together.

By taking a helicopter view of current and future tasks, you can plan how best to use your team’s skills and experience. Half the battle is letting go, the other half is communicating expectations clearly.

Set Clear, Stretching ObjectivesOne way to delegate is to set clear, stretching objectives for your team. Whatever your organisation’s performance appraisal process, setting objectives is likely to play a central role. Use the SMART acronym to write specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, timebound objectives to clearly assess performance.

The objectives should be stretching in terms of complexity, not because you set a large number. Five or six will usually be plenty.

Simple Strategies for People Management

Get to know your team Whether you’ve been promoted internally or are new to the organisation, getting to know your team from a managerial perspective is critical. Find out what makes each person tick, their areas of expertise and how they like to be managed. Even if you’ve worked with your team before, you might not be aware of pressures, like ill health, that could require careful management.

Educate yourselfAs a manager, you’re responsible for adhering to a raft of people policies and employment law. Educate yourself on company procedures about common staff issues such as sickness absence, holidays, performance management, pay and benefits.

Remove blockagesGood managers overcome the blockages that impact their team’s effectiveness. Think about the best managers you’ve had in the past and how they helped you get things done. Perhaps they improved hand-off processes between teams, quickly provided answers to questions and removed blockers within the team so you could work together more effectively. Achieve all of the above and you’ll reduce frustrations, improve efficiency and make work a more enjoyable experience.

Be a cheerleader for your teamIf anyone’s going to cheerlead for your team, it’s you. Promote what your team has done well and stick up for them if there’s ever any finger pointing. Of course, you need to take it on the chin when your team gets it wrong, but the important thing is to learn from any mistakes and coach your team to avoid a reoccurrence.

Keep Your Team on Task Without Being a Horrible BossEstablishing yourself as a member of the team, not just the boss, is a good way to get everyone on side. Good leaders ensure everyone knows what the overall goals and quality standards are plus key milestones; then they trust their team to deliver in the best way they can. If issues arise, ask your team to flag them ahead of deadline so you’re aware and, if required, you can provide support to get the job done.

An effective approach is to hold Monday afternoon meetings. This gives everyone time to get up to speed in the morning before your meeting where you’ll assess progress and set priorities for the week. Project planning tools like Asana and Basecamp will make this a straightforward process.

Conducting One-to-OnesWhile team meetings are important, so are one-to-ones. These should be held frequently (at least monthly) to review individuals’ activity and behaviours. Ensure your discussion is a two-way conversation that provides team members the opportunity to raise topics of importance to them. You can even ask you team if there’s anything more they need from you; this will improve your own performance and that of the team.

These meetings also provide you with an opportunity to identify, raise and deal with any performance issues early on. There’s no need to wait for a formal appraisal. Identify exactly what the issue is and give some examples of when it has happened. Seek the individual’s response and agree support to help them improve. Agree to review performance at a set date and ensure you both agree about what good performance looks like.

AppraisalsAppraisals will likely take place twice a year – once for a mid-year review and once at the end of the year. Performance appraisals may impact any bonus or pay increase and while it’s tempting for the rating to be the focus, it’s important to remember to discuss career aspirations and personal development too. Whatever you discuss at these meetings, there should be no nasty surprises because any issues should have been raised during your one-to-ones.

Ensuring Employee EngagementA team that feels trusted and empowered to do their jobs to the best of their ability is an engaged team that will go the extra mile. Don’t take good performance or extra effort for granted. A simple thank you, asking someone to share their knowledge with colleagues or taking the team for lunch ensures efforts are recognised and makes the team feel appreciated.

Meeting the needs of your team and those of the business is a balancing act and becoming a good manager takes time. Put these tips into practise, seek feedback and continue to develop your own, effective management style.

For support with developing your managerial career, or further advice on marketing manager roles get in touch with us here at Adam on 0207 871 7665 / 0161 359 3789 or at