Whether you’ve been promoted from within or jumped ship to take a managerial job at a different organization, you’re probably somewhat apprehensive about your new role. After all, we hear more about bad bosses than effective ones. Here’s how to be one of the latter.
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1. Don’t make changes for change’s sake.
“You don’t have to wait months, but you should wait long enough that you truly understand why things are done the way they are before you change them,” writes Alison Green at The Fast Track. “You might think you have a better system, only to discover that there’s good reason for not doing things that way — and staff members might not proactively explain those reasons to you if you appear intent on having things your way.”
2. Ask questions and listen to their replies.
It’s good to offer information about your managerial style and expectations, but don’t fall into the trap of making pronouncements at the expense of information gathering. It’s important to know how your new reports are used to working, how they prefer to work, and what their current goals and needs are. If you don’t take a genuine interest in their daily lives at the office, you’ll miss out on this crucial information.
3. Learn the culture.
Pay attention to the unspoken signs that define an organization’s corporate culture. When do people get to work and when do they leave? Do people have flexible schedules? Do they take enough (or too much) sick time and vacation time? Is the office quiet or chatty? Do co-workers socialize together? Do employees feel like the company’s success is also their success, or are they just punching a clock? You won’t be able to fix every problem in a day, or even a month, but you can take the temperature and monitor any changes.
4. Pay attention to your gut.
Don’t act without information, but don’t discount your instincts, whether it’s about a process or an individual person or a set of priorities. If something seems off to you when you first start, take heed. You’ll never be closer to an outsider’s perspective again than you are on the first day of work. Use that lens to give you insight.
5. Don’t be afraid to act.
Once you’ve been in your new role for long enough to gather the information you need to make good decisions, don’t dawdle.
“Most new managers are not hired or promoted to be business caretakers and status quo maintainers,” Ron Ashkenas in Harvard Business Review Blog Network. “Instead they are expected to take their department or unit to a next level of performance — and putting the strongest team on the field as quickly as possible is one of the keys to making that happen.”
6. Be open to change.
The only thing worse than a wishy-washy manager is one who can’t change her mind when she receives new information. Business needs will evolve over time. Be ready to adapt.
7. Take responsibility for your mistakes.
The jury’s out on whether the exact words “I’m sorry” make managers seem weak or demonstrate integrity, but even if you don’t employ that exact phrasing, you can still take responsibility for making things work on your team. It’s your job to notice what isn’t working and fix the problem, no matter what. The buck stops with you.
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