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New Challenges for First-Time Managers

Congratulations! You’ve been promoted. Now what?

In your previous role you were a rockstar. They saw something in you and you’ve been asked to lead the next generation of leaders.

As a new manager you will make mistakes and face new challenges, no doubt about it. However, a little preparation can help you through these common, new challenges.

1. It’s Lonely At The Top

lonely-tallYou used to hang out with everyone after work, at the pub or at the weekend BBQ, but now the phone no longer rings. This can be shocking and depressing for new managers, especially if your team used to be your coworkers. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you. They just need time to blow off steam after work and they’d prefer not to do it with their boss. They might also be afraid of saying the wrong thing after a few pints and have it affect their career.

Instead find new peers to hang out with. You’ll want to find fellow managers or others in your line of work or industry leaders. These can be great new relationships, as they can mentor you to become an effective manager.


2. No More Gossip

Be honest, you enjoyed those times of bad-mouthing the company, coworkers or management. Well, no more. You are now the ambassador of the company and its mission. You cannot afford to partake in those gripe sessions any longer. You will lose your teams respect and create an atmosphere of complainers. You need to speak positivity into your teams life and work environment. They need to have a belief that the leaders of the company have things figured out and will fix any issues that cause these gripes. If you participate, you identify yourself as not being part of the solution.

This does not mean that if one of your team members begins to complain, you walk away. This means that you listen and don’t join in. They need to feel they are heard and that you have a solution, or at least understand their issue and frustration. If you do come up short on identifying a solution, ask them to provide one. They may have some great ideas.

3. Gaining Respect

In order to lead effectively, you need your team’s respect. Whether you are inheriting a new team or managing your previous peers, each has it’s own challenges. This is a much bigger topic, but there are a few quick ways to gain respect as a new leader.

First, never get too attached to your title. Just because you are a manager doesn’t mean you don’t need to roll up your sleeves and get in the trenches with your team.

Second, be open and honest. Your team can tell when you’re holding back or not being truthful. You’re not that good of an actor. If you don’t know the answer, don’t make it up. Tell them you’ll work with them to find the answer. If you made a bad decision, fess up. Own your mistakes and learn from them.

Finally, be decisive. You may come to a fork in the road where a decision needs to be made to go left or right. New leaders often freeze if they don’t know which way to go or don’t have all the information. Be decisive and pick a path – go with your gut. If it turns out to be wrong, own it and double back and take the right path.

4. Fear

management-fearThis is probably the most common challenge and even comes up from time to time for long-time managers. Previously, your KPIs were completely under your control. But now your KPIs are often centered around your report’s success. And their success hinges on your success as a manager. This can be scary and overwhelming. Now, not only do your failures hurt you, they hurt your team.

When you have a team that is motivated and self-starting, this can be an easy transition. But if they need that extra push or special direction, this can be downright terrifying. Just remember, you used to be in their position. You know what you needed from your manager. Start there.

As you get more comfortable you can learn their strengths and learning style to help you lead them better.

Finally, the biggest remedy for any of the challenges you will face is to constantly be learning. Find a mentor. Read books. Watch training videos. But most importantly, never assume you’ve got it all figured out.

Patterns of Effective Teams

“Some teams are orders of magnitude more effective than others, turning around business solutions in days or even hours. Their secret is a combination of smart technology choices, great development habits and a powerful team dynamic. In this talk Dan describes a number of patterns of behaviour that he’s identified working with some great teams, beyond the basics of co-location, stand-ups and pair rotation. You’ll gain a new appreciation for old techniques like code reviews, and even working in silos won’t seem so bad!”

Dan North @ New Developers Conference in London

How to Develop an Employee Career Path

  • Developing an employee across a predefined path can take talented employees out of a role they are good at and fill it with a less talented employee. Instead, develop multiple paths and let the employee decide what path they want to take (role expert vs. trainer vs. manager).
  • Establish a model of specific tasks employees can specialized in, while maintaining a general knowledge of others to retaining a loose integration between team silos.
  • If an employee wants to transfer from one silo to another, develop a clear path to do so.
  • Expecting the employee to be a “Jack of all trades” prevents them from mastering specific roles and inhibits their growth.
  • An “earned autonomy” path can be more engaging and motivating for some employees than a management career path.
  • Each new step in the path should come with either a perk (ie. earned autonomy, ) or increased responsibility with compensation.
  • Identify early what path employees want to take and mentor them across this path.
  • Having a clear and defined career path will increase employee engagement.
  • Engaged employees call in sick 33% fewer times a year than disengaged employee.

Top 5 Tips for Self-Mastery

In Robert Greene’s book Mastery he describes 3 steps in your journey to becoming a master of your craft: learning, practicing and mastering. Each step must be done intensively and deliberately. Along your journey, no matter the step, you will need to exercise these 5 tips to fully achieve mastery of both self and your craft.

1. Adjust Your Focus

You need to adjust your mind-set to one of taking full and complete responsibility for whatever is happening in your life. Once you accept your current state at this very moment you can begin the necessary work of moving yourself forward. If you have a mind-set that circumstances are out of your control or that it is someone else’s fault, you will be destined to repeat your past mistakes. Your battle for mastery will be won or lost in your mind before you even begin.

focus

2. Gather Feedback

In order to truly assess your strengths and weaknesses you must elicit feedback from your peers. This can be uncomfortable, or painful, but you must begin the journey by assessing what tools you need to bring with you and what tools to leave behind, as they will only serve to slow you down. Every opinion counts whether you agree with it or not. Own the responses. If you discount any response you may miss a great opportunity to refine yourself and become the best you can be.

Do this often. This will ensure you continue to refine and polish your strengths, while leaving your weakness behind.

3. Self-Reflection

It is important to end every day with self-reflection. Set aside specific time to assess the day. How did you contribute to your success throughout the day? Did you make mistakes? How did you handle it? What are the circumstances surrounding your peak performance?

Understanding oneself is the key to unlocking self-mastery. Do not make excuses. Be honest.

4. Commit to Self-Improvement

Although Robert Greene states the first step is intense learning, often through mentorship, learning shouldn’t stop once you get to the second step. Read books. Listen to podcasts. Read blogs. Explore all avenues of learning. Do not stop once you think you’ve know all there is to know.

“I know that I know nothing” – The Socratic Paradox

This means that you must never cease in you journey to know more, both about yourself and the world around you.

Commitment to self-improvement is not done through hoping time allows for you to spend 10 minutes learning. It is a conscious effort to set aside time for such activities. Your level of commitment to self-mastery will be evidenced by your commitment to this step.

5. Develop Your EQ

Emotional Intelligence is key to mastering yourself and your future. To effectively control you destiny you must be in control of your emotions and impulses. All your effort of self-improvement, self-reflection and adjusting your focus can be lost in a moment of impulsive behavior.

emotionsDo not let your emotions guide you. Control them through understanding what environments you excel and what environments drain your virtue.

If you add these 5 tips to self-mastery to your daily life, along with Robert Greene’s book Mastery you will be guaranteed success. Remember, you are in control of you journey, and it all begins with 1 step.

Are You Emotionally Intelligent?

As business leaders we often talk about the characteristics of what makes a great leader, like: passionate, driven, charismatic, honest, etc., but we seldom talk about emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to sense in yourself, and others, emotions as they rise up, in order to use them effectively and not let them control you. Put in basic terms, it’s not acting like a child when things don’t go your way.

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ALWAYS BE FAIR

Employees are not your children – you will have favorites. Whether it’s because of personality, similar interests or work ethic, you will connect with some employees better than others. Because of this you may find yourself talking with one employee more than another, or speaking differently to them. Your team will see this and any promotion or favoritism will always be suspect.

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ALWAYS REMAIN POSITIVE

If you’ve read my previous posts, you may think I’ve got it all figured out; I don’t. One thing I have figured out is that management is an evolutionary process that is only improved when things change. With change remain positive.

Do not get attached to a policy or process because it will change and probably should change at some point. Encourage your team to identify new solutions to existing problems. You may have looked at the problem from every angle and landed on a solution – you could still be wrong. Allow your team to voice their opinions or new ideas and be flexible with yours.Continue Reading →

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