Excerpt from The First-Time Manager

The jump from employee to new manager is bigger than most people realize. From the most trusted go-to guide for anyone facing new responsibilities as a first-time manager, the excerpt below features why showing genuine concern for your employees is a strength, not a weakness, and a variety of pitfalls to avoid when supervising others.


Genuine Concern

One way to perform your job well is to give full attention to the needs of the people in your area of responsibility. Some leaders make the mistake of thinking that the concern they show for their employees will be interpreted as a sign of weakness. Genuine concern, however, is a sign of strength. Showing interest in the welfare of your people doesn’t mean you’ll “cave in” to unreasonable demands. Unfortunately, many new managers fail to recognize this fact. They are unable to differentiate between concern and weakness.

Your concern must be genuine. You cannot fake it. Genuine concern means seeing that your people are properly challenged, that they’re appropriately recognized, that they’re rewarded when they perform well, and that they receive accurate and timely feedback on their performance.

You can’t start off by complacently telling yourself, “I’m going to be Mr. Nice Guy.” You must seriously take on the burden of responsibility for these people. In fact, you and your team are mutually responsible for one another. You must see to it that the objectives of the company and the objectives of your team members are not at cross-purposes. Your people should realize that they can achieve their own objectives only by doing their part in helping the company achieve its overall goals.

Your team members look to you for leadership. You serve as interpreter for the employees, as you are a primary source of information on the organization’s broader strategies and goals. A vital part of your role is keeping your people informed. Trying to keep your people in the dark or being stingy with information will work against you. Your team members will just look elsewhere in the organization to fill the information void you have created. They will not only receive the message that you don’t respect them by your unwillingness to provide information they need to be successful, they also may receive incorrect information since they come by it indirectly or secondhand.

Pitfalls to Avoid

Most first-time managers do not supervise a large group of people. Therefore, there may be a temptation to become overly involved in the work of your handful of employees. As you advance, you will likely be responsible for more people. It is impossible to be involved in every facet of the work of thirty-five people, so begin now to distance yourself from the details of each task and concentrate on the overall project.

One of the dangers for a first-time manager is that you now may be managing someone who does your old job, and you may consider it more important than other tasks. It is human nature to think that what we do is more important than what others do, but that doesn’t work when you’re the manager. It is not a balanced approach to management. You must resist the temptation to make your old job your occupational hobby, simply because it is familiar and comfortable.

Often, your first managerial job is a project leader or lead position. You manage others, but you still have tasks of your own to perform; you wear two hats. If this is your situation, you must stay interested and involved in the details for a while. When you move into a full-time management position, however, don’t take an occupational hobby with you, lest it distract you from the bigger picture.

Of course, don’t carry this advice to the extreme. When some people move into management, they refuse to help their staff at a “crunch and crisis” time. They read management journals while their staff is frantically meeting deadlines; they are now “in management.” This is just plain stupid. You can build great rapport with your staff if, at crunch time, you roll up your sleeves and help resolve the crisis.

As you transition into your management role stay aware of the most common management mistake—delegating responsibility without authority. You have likely experienced it. Can you think of a time when you were given an assignment but not the authority to be successful? The result was that you were either not able to complete the task or you went back to your supervisor to request the authority you needed. The bottom line is that you were placed in an unwinnable situation.

It is likely that your supervisor did not do this intentionally. He just may have not thought through the authority you would need. Similarly, you will likely not do the same intentionally to the people you are supervising. As you assign tasks to the people you now lead ask yourself whether you are delegating enough authority for them to succeed. You may even want to discuss the question when you make the assignment.

You will succeed as a manager when your people are successful. Part of setting them up for success is making sure you delegate authority with responsibility.


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