“What would you do on your first day on the job?” That was a frequent question I asked applicants for management positions. The first day on the job is tough for anyone, but it can be tougher for a new manager. Work teams can be nervous about the “new boss” and what kind of changes she will make. There can be someone on the team that wanted the management job and was passed over for an “outsider.” The previous manager may have been a favorite, or was so easy going that the team really had all the power and isn’t about to give it up.
A new manager’s personality and management style can make the transition easy or difficult. Some new managers can’t wait to be the boss and start calling the shots. Others are terrified of giving orders and avoid conflict. While one wants to be everyone’s “best buddy,” another may set himself apart from the work team, sending out orders by email and text.
New managers have a lot of responsibility to upper management and their staff or work crew. Here are five tips to help make your debut as manager deserve a standing ovation.
- Make the first move. Don’t wait for others to find you or introduce themselves. You may want to get your office set up, but spending the first week squirreled away in your office figuring out the computer system may give the impression you’re not friendly or interested in getting acquainted. Get out of the office and meet with the team as a group or individually within the first few days.
- Get out on the floor. Make it a point to meet people where they are. Visit staff in their workspace, on the shop floor, in the field and various shifts. If you have team members who work the night shift, adjust your schedule or pull a 16-hour day to meet them on the job. People appreciate the effort and the opportunity to show you what it’s like in their world.
- Be a learner. You may have a lot of education and experience, but your staff or team members are the experts at their jobs, work processes and company culture. Spend some time learning each job with the team members as instructors. You’ll learn the jobs and even more about the team members and how well they know their jobs.
- Leave the ghosts behind. You may have done everything perfectly at your last job, but this is a new game. Giving suggestions from your past experience is fine, but if you’re always saying, “…this is the way we did it at ABC Company…” the team will soon get tired of listening and wonder why you ever left.
- Build a team, but be the leader. I read an interesting poem once about the difference between a boss and a leader. One line stands out. “A boss says ‘GO;’ a leader says ‘Let’s Go.” It’s important to respect the individual and their contribution to the team, but you were hired to be the leader. The leader stands at the front and takes the heat. She also supports and defends the team from the attack.
Building a team and solid working relationships takes time. As a manager, your success is measured by your team’s performance. Helping them succeed will make you a winner.