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How to be a great manager: 5 tips for first-time managers to be successful

Finally getting that promotion you’ve been gunning for is an exciting feeling. But it’s also perfectly normal to be a bit nervous, especially when you’re finally reaching the management level. Even if your company has provided training, figuring out what your priorities should be as a boss can be stressful. But don’t worry, because we’ve got five tips for new managers trying to find their feet!

Immerse yourself in the feedback process

First up on our list of tips for new managers is the importance of feedback. You’ll start to get an idea of people’s individual strengths and weaknesses as you spend time working with them. Regular feedback means you can guide employee development to build on strengths and overcome weaknesses.

A lesser manager might just stick to their annual performance reviews. But if you're here reading this, that means you want to excel as a leader. If that's your goal, you’ll need to be much more involved. Checking in regularly with employees means you can reinforce constructive feedback until it sticks.

But new managers need to build a working relationship with their team. For them, the other purpose of regular feedback is even more vital. It's about giving employees a voice to bring problems to your attention.

It doesn't matter whether it’s an issue with office equipment, or employees experiencing workplace harassment. Trust and regular communication are the best ways to keep these things from being swept under the rug and ignored.

Use goal-setting to establish clear expectations

Thanks to Gallup, we’ve known for some time that many employees in the workplace aren’t clear on their responsibilities. Of course, you’ll need to talk your team through what you expect from them. There's no getting around that fact. But how do you use expectations to keep employees on-task in the long run?

To be a good manager, we can’t stress enough just how important effective goal-setting is for engaging your team. You may prefer SMART Goals for ensuring that tasks are manageable. Or you might be a fan of OKRs because they let employees see how their contributions affect the wider business. Either way, a proper goal-setting system makes it that much easier to keep track of what everyone’s doing.

But let's not forget one of our most important tips for new managers. When you’re managing a busy team, insisting on regular updates between meetings wastes too much of everyone’s time. Employees periodically updating virtual objective trackers means that you always have a clear idea of how projects are going.

So, when performance evaluation season rolls around, you know how each team member is performing going into their next review.

Be aware of employee wellbeing

This next entry on our list of tips for new managers is about wellbeing. It might sound obvious, but don’t forget that your employees are people. A shiny new promotion often comes with an increased sense of obligation. A first-time manager might be anxious to prove that their bosses were right to pick them. But sometimes, new managers can get a bit carried away and push their teams too hard.

Remember your time on the ground as an employee. You know what it’s like to work the old grind. Chances are, you also know what it’s like to suffer under a bad boss. Last year, employee stress hit record-breaking levels. If we’ve learned anything in 2021, it’s that employee wellbeing is absolutely paramount to long-term business success.

Along with manageable goal-setting on your end, you need to ensure that people aren’t pushing themselves too hard. A bit of overtime is sometimes just a fact of life. But your team needs to remember that the official end of their day is what it is for a reason.

Left unchecked, job stress and overwork can lead to burnout, which you shouldn’t take lightly under any circumstances. Burnout can have significant and even long-term to a person’s mental health. So you shouldn’t be surprised if a burned-out employee leaves the company.

In fact, they may even leave your whole industry altogether. As you can imagine, burnout is also very costly to businesses from potential rehiring expenses alone.

Micromanagement is just as bad as being uninvolved

We’ve talked about why it matters to set guiding expectations for your team about the tasks you give them. This next entry on our list of tips for new managers deals with the other extreme: Micromanagement.

In a busy company, even the leader of a small team can have a lot of plates to keep spinning. Spending every free moment breathing down your employee’s necks is a total waste of your time. Sure, you don’t want to be totally uninvolved. But forcing employees to constantly respond to your update requests is just going to make their work take longer.

We’d also recommend resisting the urge to use productivity tracking software. While it may not waste time in the same way as direct micromanagement, it still does more harm than good.

This is because the metrics it uses to gauge employee performance are pretty arbitrary. On top of that, tracking software epitomises the other major issue with micromanaging employees, which is blatant distrust.

Trust is essential for a healthy workplace dynamic. In fact, research into self-determination theory has shown that autonomy can actually boost employee productivity

A bit of nervous micromanagement is understandable from a first-time manager. Again, they can be anxious to make a good impression and achieve results. That might be the kind of manager you are. But if it is, don’t be surprised if your team has grown to dread you lurking over their shoulders.

Take your soft skills seriously

So, other than all that, what else should first-time managers focus on?

Well, these tips for new managers wouldn’t be worth much if we didn’t preach the value of soft skills. These are essential for first-time leaders to master. To finish up our training tips for young managers, we want to focus on two in particular:

Emotional intelligence: This is how well you comprehend your emotions, and those of people around you. In other words, you should know how to manage negative emotions in your team. And more than that, you should be able to tell when someone needs support.

That said, emotional intelligence also means you need to regulate yourself well. You have to be able to identify and handle your own negative emotions. Otherwise, you're liable to take your frustrations out on your subordinates.

Active listening: This is the ability isn't just letting someone talk. It's about showing that you’re listening and engaging with what’s being said. Let employees talk, then ask questions that open up avenues of discussion. By doing this, you give your employees a voice and establish an invaluable dialogue.

Better understand what your people really think about work with a lightweight, habit-forming weekly employee check-in…