Tips for the First Time Manager

Every business relies on effective management to reach the necessary goals for growing the company: maximizing profits, increasing productivity, developing efficient operations and improving employee retention. Utilizing effective management can be difficult even if you’re experienced as a manager, let alone if you’re a first time manager.

Smoothly transition from a productive employee to an effective manager by understanding these first time manager tips, team management skills and common first time manager challenges do’s and don’ts:

  • Learn All the Things
  • Stay on Your A-Game
  • Shift Your Focus
  • Address Changing Relationship Dynamics
  • Understand Your Team Before Making Changes
  • Prioritize 1:1 Employee Time
  • Respect Your Team
  • Delegation is Essential
  • No Micromanaging
  • Give Timely and Constructive Feedback
  • Do’s and Don’ts


This crash course for the first time manager will answer the question of what do first time managers really need to know and serve as a guideline going into your new position.

First Time Manager Tips

Reaching management status for the first time is a huge accomplishment. Some people are excited about it, some people are terrified by it, but both see it as a challenge. You’ll have a new role, new responsibilities, new obstacles and, the best part, new pay.

At some point, your mind may start going in 10 different directions of what to do and how to be a manager for the first time. Use these tips as a new manager checklist for a seamless adjustment and to help create your management style.

Learn All the Things

You must be an ever-absorbing sponge in order to gain, and continue to gain, relevant knowledge that is helpful to your mission of becoming a manager for the first time. This will enable you to stay current with ongoings of the company and your team.

Some organizations offer more training for managers and supervisors than others to assist you in the process. Ideally, your company would have a first time manager training program. If they do not, use these resources for first time managers to help with your knowledge absorption:

  • Management Tools
  • Management Resources
  • Management Classes
  • Formal Supervisor Training
  • Manuals
  • HR Policies

You also want to be a sponge with your employees. Information to review can be:

  • Personnel Files
  • Resumes
  • Past Performance Reviews
  • Past Goals (both those that they were given to meet and those they set for themselves)

Of course, don’t forget to include gaining knowledge about your given field. This can mean:

  • Online Courses
  • Webinars
  • Monthly Meet-Ups for Information Sharing
  • Tutorials
  • Reading (online or a book)

Information in the business world is constantly evolving, which gives plenty of incentive to stay current with trends and up-and-coming thoughts and ideas. You will be a more effective manager if you have the field-related knowledge necessary to lead your team into the future of your company.

Stay on Your A-Game

A manager is an authoritative position and you’ll be looked up to as someone in charge, both by your team and throughout the company. The best way to get others to follow you willingly is to lead by example. After all, you can’t expect the best work from your employees if they don’t see you putting in your best effort.

Being a role model and setting the example means being on top of your game all the time. No complaining about your boss, no showing up late to meetings, no missed deadlines and no false promises. You should always be working to best represent your team, department and company as a whole.

Shift Your Focus

As an employee, your goal was to accomplish tasks. You were likely promoted because you were so good at doing those tasks. However, as a manager, your goal is to best assist your team in accomplishing their tasks. You must shift your focus from your performance to the performance of your team.

This can be difficult for first-time managers because up until this point, you only had to worry about yourself. You were the only one responsible if you failed. Now, if you fail at helping your team, you fail and your team fails.

This doesn’t mean you take all the credit if they succeed. Everyone wants to be acknowledged for their good work, so while you can take credit for the team’s success you must share the credit with your workers. An employee will be less likely to work as hard the next time if they feel that you don’t acknowledge the effort they put in.

This leads us to one of the most important, if not the most important, aspect of management - how to manage your new team!

Team Management Skills

You have the skills to be a successful employee, but now you must know how to be a successful manager. Many things about your job are going to change from this point on. You need to work well and connect with both entry-level jobs for college grads and experience employees that may have seniority over you. 

You must change your skill-set, the dynamics of your work relationships, your understanding of what your work now entails and how you see yourself fitting within your new role in the company. Let these management skill tips be a guide into your foray as a first time manager.

Address Changing Relationship Dynamics

This is possibly one of the biggest challenges you will face first. Promotions can come in varying forms. You can be promoted to a different department, where you’ve never worked with your new team members or it could with a promotion from within, where you’re now managing employees that were formerly your peers. This can make things a little awkward.

The first time manager must address any changing relationship dynamics right away. For instance, the dynamics will likely change if one of your former peers was your go-to work buddy. You may have gone on weekly lunch dates and taken breaks together to discuss office shenanigans, but it’s possible that other employees may now view that as favoritism, which could lead to feelings of distrust or resentment.

Also, while your work best friend is probably happy for you they could also feel uncomfortable going forward knowing that you’re now in charge of them. Talk to them about this and make it clear that you value their friendship but you also want to be fair and consistent to everyone on the team. This may require your relationship to change and adapt itself to the new work environment.

Such a conversation is likely to be difficult but it’s important for your work friend to know that you’re not abandoning them; you’re creating the best possible work atmosphere for the entire team. Most new managers want their team to like them but you also want to show that you’re unbiased and are there to guide the team for the long run.

Understand Your Team Before Making Changes

Resist the temptation to step in as a new manager and make bold changes to the current system and procedures. First, take the time to fully understand your individual employees and the team dynamic before making any drastic changes.

You can do this by having a team meeting and individual meetings with each of your new employees to understand their role, what they like about their job, their biggest ongoing challenges, and any ideas they may have to improve the company. Your goal is not to please everyone but to start building positive relationships and establish open communications.

You can help yourself going into your management future, and help your team perform at a higher level, by understanding your employee’s goals, hang-ups and challenges. Make sure the team knows that you are open to constant and future communications by having an open-door policy or scheduled office hours every day. You want your workers to know how they can reach you if they needed to.

Prioritize 1:1 Employee Time

Your individual employee meetings should not be a one and done situation. Taking the time to meet with team members individually is important when you start as a manager and it is equally important to continue those meetings. Having consistent individual time with your team members is vital towards their personal and professional success and overall career development within the company.

This time gives you a window into their current priorities, ongoing projects and possible questions that have arisen since you last spoke. Having blocked time on your schedule for one-on-one meetings ensures that you consistently meet and the employee will feel valued knowing they have a spot on your calendar.

Respect Your Team

This is an often unspoken but warranted piece of advice to management from employees. No one wants to feel like they are being used for your own purpose without an afterthought. Your team members do work for you but you also work for them. Your team members will become resentful and dissatisfied if you don’t manage them with mutual respect.

One of the biggest ways to gain their respect is to show the employee that you care for them as a person. This is an integral part of creating a stable work relationship and building rapport between team members. Your staff is more likely to go hold themselves accountable, be invested in their work and go above and beyond for you and the company if they feel valued and appreciated by their supervisor.

You can show that you value your employee by listening to them with your full attention and waiting to hear their total thoughts before jumping in. You want them to know you consider their opinion to be important, not that you’re only listening long enough to cut them off and tell them what to do.

Make sure you clearly understand what the employee is telling you and reflect back on it before responding. Your team member should feel that you are really hearing them before you give a solution or opinion.

Delegation is Essential

Just because you’re not afraid of getting your hands dirty doesn’t mean that you should be trying to do everything and anything that comes across your desk. Even though you want to be involved in everything, you cannot be everywhere at once, and sometimes your team will have to manage themselves without you.

Therefore, create an environment in which you are actively relying on your employees to complete projects. You should stay informed but still allow others to lead so they can grow their abilities and become high performers. Your team members will improve their own skills as more projects are handed to your team and you delegate those assignments.

Enabling your employees to reach a greater aptitude allows you and your team to handle more work. This benefits the company and highlights your team as a whole. A good manager doesn’t manage all things but can master the art of delegation, which allows all things to be done effectively and efficiently.

No Micromanaging

When you delegate tasks to specific employees, you’re telling that employee that it is their responsibility to complete the assignment. You are responsible for the employee, but they are responsible for the job. Do not go backward by micromanaging the employee on the assignment.

You want to empower your team and show that you trust them to handle their work. First, make sure you establish clear communications and expectations with the assignment. Then allow them to handle projects in their own way, within established parameters, and provide subtle direction if necessary. Give the employee the opportunity to contribute and solve any problems that may arise before stepping in.

You help to build the employee’s skill set, confidence and decision-making abilities by allowing them to work on their own. Be present if they need assistance and you can check with them periodically to assess their progress or if they ran into any problems. Ultimately though, you want the employee to complete the project with the guidelines that were given and minimal intrusion on your part.

There’s no reason to panic or get upset in the event that your employee does make a mistake. Just as you trusted your employee to complete the assignment, trust that they were doing the best job they could. It is never an employee’s intention to fail or have a poor performance.

Also, keep in mind that mistakes aren’t the end of the world. They are, in fact, an opportunity to grow for everyone involved: individual employee, yourself as the manager and the team overall.

Give Timely and Constructive Feedback

Another essential tip related to what supervisors need to know is how and when to give feedback. Everyone likes to be aware of how they’re doing and where they stand, so make sure you provide your employees with continual feedback. That doesn’t mean every day, or even every week,  but often enough for your employee to feel that they have a grasp on how you view their work.

Use your observational skills to monitor how your employee handles different responsibilities and interacts with other team members. It’s also important to use good communication skills when discussing feedback with your employee. You want the recipient to clearly understand your intentions in giving the feedback. You’re there to provide constructive information on their performance, not tell them they’re doing poorly.

Tell the employee the purpose behind your comments, such as to help them grow, improve their standing within the company or protect them from a force outside your department. Also, do not talk about hearsay, rumors or feelings. You want to stick to observable facts that are concrete so the employee can clearly see why you are making specific statements.

Don’t make the mistake of only talking to your employee when something is awry either. Make it a point to comment when they do a good job on an assignment. It doesn’t have to be a long talk about their work, but mentioning how happy you were with their results will go a long way to maintaining a positive, respectful relationship with the employee.

First Time Manager Challenges

As a first time manager, you’re going to encounter situations and problems you’ve never experienced before. Here are some of the most common challenges of first time manager do’s and don’ts you’ll face managing your team and in the workplace.

What Not To Do:

You’re in the right place if you’ve asked yourself, why do first time managers fail? Just like there are ways you should try to conduct yourself, there are things that should refrain from doing as a manager. Avoid these pitfalls in order to reach your full managing potential.

Don’t Try to be the “Cool Boss”

Resist the urge to be thought of as the “cool boss.” You probably had supervisors in the past that were less than pleasant, maybe even downright unpleasant, but don’t over-correct your negative experience with your own team.

Your number one priority as a manager is to support your team and set them up for success. You want your team to continuously meet their goals and grow as professionals. To that end, provide guidance and hold your employees to a high standard.

Wanting to be continuously liked by your team members can undermine your overall goal. It may cause you to act or react differently in situations that may require a more disciplined approach. You want to manage your team depending on what the situation calls for, not based on how your team may think of you. Along those lines though, don’t fall into the next trap either.

Don’t Try to be the “Mean Boss”

This hits the other side of the coin. You’ll likely face pressure from your supervisor to produce effective results and pressure from your employees to be a strong leader. However, don’t succumb to pressure for results by pushing your team harder than is called for.

At the end of the day, your team will have the best results if you serve and encourage them in your overarching team mission. Long-term growth is what leads to success, not a constant demand for instant results. Your employees will perform better, your team will improve and everyone will hit their goals if you focus on leading your team with guidance and support.

Don’t Play the Hero

When your team runs into conundrums, and they will, don’t put on your red cape and swoop in to save the day. Don’t tell them what to do and how to do it with the perfect solution. Instead, guide your team to problem solve the issue. You want to ask your team pointed questions to lead to their own solution, which many times may be the same solution you had in mind.

The difference is that your team will be more enthusiastic about the solution when they feel it is their own idea. If you just tell your team what to do, they may not see your reasoning and question if it’s really the right approach. This method makes your employees more invested in the process and supports their own personal development.

Don’t Neglect Yourself

This is one of the rarely attended tips for managers managing employees. Being a part of management can be an emotional job. You’re managing various people on a day-to-day basis, and managing doesn’t mean just delegating tasks. If often means managing your team member’s emotional states and their attitudes and reactions to their work environment.

For that reason, a management position requires a high level of emotional intelligence to effectively handle the intricacies of human interactions. Unfortunately for you, a manager doesn’t have the luxury of wallowing when situations get difficult. You must stay even-keeled, calm and rational at all times.

In order to stay composed, you must take care of your emotions. There are many ways to do this: meditating, working out, reading or any other relaxing hobbies you partake in. You must first and foremost attend to your own emotional state before you can effectively manage those under you.

Don’t Make Excuses

This applies to both you and your team. Take full responsibility for the results of your actions and don’t lower your standards for your team. You’re invested in your team’s success and can be tempted to make excuses with underperforming employees. Excuses can happen if you’re in denial about the extent of the problem or you hired the employee and don’t want to admit you made a bad hire.

A team member is not a lost cause if they are consistently underperforming. This just means you need to have more open communication with them about what is expected and what their goals should be on the team. It doesn’t help anyone to lower your expectations. You should have the same conduct and performance standards for the entire team that you have for yourself.

Also, keep in mind that the hiring process is not infallible and sometimes bade hires do sneak in. If your team member does not make an effort to improve you may want to consider letting them go. Although it is difficult to take someone off your team, it will be better, in the long run, to get rid of a negative influence that will drag down the best efforts of the overall team.

What to Do:

Managing a team to the best of their ability is a long-term and ongoing undertaking. There are always things that can be improved to best benefit everyone involved and there are development goals for first time managers that you should be aiming for. Try to hit these marks in order to continue an upward slope towards team greatness.

Do Establish Crystal Clear Objectives

Be clear in what you expect from your employees and be fair and transparent when setting those expectations. Objective success should be black and white; you either accomplished the goal or you didn’t. Obviously, unexpected occurrences do happen but generally speaking, don’t allow your team, or yourself, to make excuses when the goal could have been completed.

You want to try and quantify your objectives and goals, if possible. For instance, if you’re trying to improve sales state how much of an improvement you want to make in numbers, by what time, in what specific areas, and also if you’re trying to increase leads and revenue in addition to sales.

Do Say “We” Instead of “I”

This simple shift in language may seem trivial but it’s not. The change in choice of words can contribute to a sense of teamwork and cohesiveness with your employees. Along those lines, you should always share credit with your team and individual employees, when applicable. Your team is made up of many individual contributors and each one wants to be recognized for their work.

Being a manager is not about claiming credit and wanting to be acknowledged for effort input. The unfortunate fact is that you are more likely to take the blame for failures and be given less recognition for successes. Realizing this and accepting it going into your position will help quell the sting when it does happen.

Leadership is all about sharing credit with your team, not putting the spotlight on yourself when the team does well. Team success and individual success go hand in hand, which in turns leads to a successful business.

Do Distinguish Between “Fairness” and “Equality”

Another seemingly trivial difference, but every bit as important as “We” versus “I.” Your interactions with your team should be based on the employee’s performance, effort and commitment. Therefore, “fair” and “equal” are not the same thing for management purposes.

You should mirror your employee’s engagement to the team and its goals. Be a career mentor whenever you can. Your primary function as a manager is to support your team but that support is conditional. Your staff members are responsible for giving their best effort in order to make the team and the company successful.

Do Learn From Your Team

You will be directing and supervising numerous employees who are on the front lines every day. Your team members continuously execute high-level plans and strategies and will be more aware than you of the in’s and out’s of their job. Have the humility to realize you can learn from them, which will improve your own performance as a manager.

The more you know about what they’re dealing with the better you’ll be able to advise them on what action to take. Your goal is for your team to learn and grow while under your management but you also want to continue your own growth as a leader.

There have probably been times in your past before you became a manager when you wished your boss would listen to your opinion. Keep that in mind as you manage your team and take your employee’s thoughts seriously.

Do Focus on the Right Success Metrics

There are several key factors that can be used to determine success from within the department, such as reaching team goals and company-wide objectives. Those metrics are definitely important but the most significant factor is the growth of your team. This can have varying definitions, like promotions or personal growth and development.

Your team’s environment should be growth-oriented with employees moving up and into new roles. You should not try to simply retain your team members at their current level but instead move them onto bigger and better career paths within the company.

Some workers may not see themselves in the company for the long-term and that’s okay. You still want to do everything you can to help your employees improve themselves because constant personal and professional progress will serve the needs of the rest of the team and the company.

Do Make Your Team Strong Without You

First time managers sometimes believe that their team needs them at all times and they are indispensable to completing projects. However, a truly effective team can work without their manager hanging around the corner. The team that can perform at the same high level alone as when the manager is present is a team that can continuously accomplish goals and objectives. This is an example of a great company culture

You want your team to be self-sufficient and able to problem-solve on their own without you. Of course, you are leading them and are there to assist and guide employees both individually and collectively. They won’t have the answer to every question and that’s when you step in. The idea is to get your team in a space where they use you when necessary but work independently to complete projects whenever possible.

First Time Manager Final Thoughts

Being promoted to management can seem like a daunting task and requires skill in multiple areas, like communication, task management and delegation. However, there are resources and knowledge available to help you transition from a worker bee to a successful first time manager.

If you’re reading this article, that means you’re most likely a newly-minted, first time manager and you want to succeed in your new position. You want to best serve your team and your company by creating a conducive work atmosphere for all of your team members. Recognizing that you don’t already know everything is the first step.

Implementing these first time manager tips will help you accomplish that goal, avoid many common new manager mistakes and establish your type of management role. Becoming a manager for the first time and even being an experienced manager is an ongoing learning experience. It’s never going to be easy to manage various people, projects, internal and external team expectations and your own personal goals.

The good news is that it is possible to become the manager you envision yourself to be. Take it one step at a time and if you do your research and start learning from the beginning, you’ll be in a great place to reach your full potential and your team’s potential.


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