October 2016
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The Public Manager

How to Succeed as a New Manager

Monday, October 10, 2016

Starting your first manager job? Begin on the right foot with these seven suggestions.

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You are a new manager, and it is your first day on the job. Your four years of outstanding performance as a senior specialist at your agency not only brought you recognition but also led to your selection as a new manager in another agency. You are feeling excitement about tackling a new challenge, mixed with a little trepidation about becoming a manager.

This scenario is played out every time a new manager is selected. You may be managing your former workgroup or one in a new organization. You may be replacing a poor manager or following a good manager. Each variable comes with its own challenges.

These seven points will calm your anxiety and give you a sense of direction, putting you on the right path toward success as a new manager:

1. Learn to Let Go

It is natural for you as a new manager to rely on what you know best as an individual contributor. However, you must let go of the past and the expertise you acquired as a senior specialist. You are a manager now. You must learn to manage. The longer you hang onto that comfortable role as an individual contributor, the closer you will come to failure as a manager.

2. Meet Your Team

Plan to meet each member of your team and listen carefully to what they tell you. You will learn a lot about their previous manager and the culture that has affected their individual and team performance. Discover the roadblocks that are preventing them from achieving their highest level of performance and make plans to address those concerns. Take the time to get to know your direct reports one-on-one and learn what motivates them.

3. Set Goals

Meet with your manager and learn about the goals set for your team and your work unit. Ask your manager about his or her perception of your team's past performance and carefully listen to his or her thoughts about the work culture. After this discussion, meet with your entire team and jointly set performance goals. The goals should be higher than mere objectives, but reachable by a motivated team.

4. Assign, Delegate, and Monitor

Equally and fairly assign work based on each team member's expertise and skill set and the needs of your work unit. This is where you begin to build trust with your team. Delegate authority to execute assignments, but know that you can never delegate responsibility for performance and task completion. Responsibility for the effective completion of all tasks still rests with you. Set up a dashboard where you can monitor performance in real time. This is the beginning of building your team culture and team pride.

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5. Coach and Provide Feedback

Your success as a manager will only come when your team is successful. Dedicate 30 to 50 percent of your time to coaching your team so they can be successful. Provide encouraging and constructive feedback so they will grow in their careers.

6. Provide Positive Leadership

As a manager, you have a responsibility to lead. Become an ethical leader who shows the way with encouragement, and lead from the front.

7. Build a Network

As a new manager, seek out some of your peer managers so you can learn from each other about best practices. This network should grow as your career grows.

In summary, beware of arrogance and don't allow that word to be associated with your management style. Continue to learn how to manage— it's a journey, not a destination.

About the Author

Fred Lang is a consultant for Blackboard and a former chief learning officer for the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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