How to Be a Good Manager
You’re smart, savvy, and successful. You know how to get things done right, you never shy from challenges, and you consistently go above and beyond to show your worth. So it’s not exactly a shock when one day your boss calls you into her office and gives you a promotion. However, once the feeling of complete euphoria and accomplishment wears off, you realize that with a manager title comes a group of people you have to, um, manage. The thought is enough to make you ask for your old position back.
And you wouldn’t be alone. A recent study by the Novations Group discovered that most people fail to make the transition from “individual contributor” to “contributing through others” because they don’t learn the new skills required for the job. Consequently, the study also found that if you don’t continue to move up in an organization, your worth to the company diminishes no matter how great your performance. In other words: Climbing the ladder is a must, and managing a staff is definitely part of the job. The good news is that with the right training, anyone can learn to be a manager. And I know from whence I speak: As Director of Learning & Development at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, it was my job to transform great workers into great managers. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way.
Know your new role. Now that you’re the boss lady, your behavior is under the employee microscope. No more gossiping about the affair the CEO is having with his secretary or chummy lunches with your co-workers. You’re “management,” so don’t be surprised if your colleagues start treating you a bit differently. After all, you’re the one doling out raises, bonuses, and, when necessary, pink slips. So when you comment on something you don’t like, be prepared for your employees to think it’s a reflection on their work. And if you decide to stay late, you can bet your department will too, since no one wants to be seen leaving before you. Though you may still think of yourself as one of the team, you’re not. So get used to the idea. Own your new powers and use them wisely and fairly.
Focus on the team. Yes, you’re the boss, but that doesn’t mean you’re the only one who can come up with good ideas or solve problems. As a manager, you don’t need to have all the answers (you won’t), and you should never ever take all the credit. (There’s no quicker way to torpedo team morale.) Instead, really get to know each member of your department: their strengths, aspirations, and interests in and outside of the office. This will help you put them into roles where they can be happy and productive. Also, go to bat for your people whenever possible. If they feel like you support them, they’re more likely to return the favor. (After all, their work is a direct reflection on you.)
Be clear about your expectations. As the boss, it’s up to you to share department goals with the team and translate them into individual goals for each team member. Make sure that each person knows what they need to be focusing on each and every day to make the department and the company successful. (If you don’t know the company or department goals, you need to figure them out fast.) One of the most important skills a manager needs is the ability to be a good communicator. Your employees aren’t mind readers. If you want things done a certain way, it’s up to you to tell them so.
Hold people accountable. Once you set goals, you need to check in on people’s progress. This isn’t always easy—you don’t want them to think you’re micromanaging them or don’t have confidence in their abilities—but if you don’t know what your team is doing all day, you won’t know when there’s a problem. If you do find someone slacking off, don’t immediately reprimand them. Instead, meet with the person privately and ask, “What happened?” and “How can I help?” You might find there’s a very good reason why they missed their deadline. And if there isn’t, it’s the perfect opportunity to coach them on how to do things differently next time. After all, that’s what bosses do.