Advice for new managers

I am soon starting a new job that will be purely management. I’ve spent my white collar career as an individual contributor or (more recently) as sort of a non-commissioned officer (I lead, but do not manage). Anyways, I start this new job in a few weeks and I realize I have a lot to learn about how to manage effectively. For example, my current boss and I were talking about it this morning, and he had some advice: don’t get too close to your direct reports, don’t open yourself up too much. Tow the party line even if you don’t agree or like it - sell it anyhow. This revelation was because he recently had to enforce some policy decisions that he didn’t agree with. He told us he thought they were bullshit, and naturally we are not following the policy (if the boss thinks it’s bullshit, I ain’t gonna do it).

My director has some notes in his cubicle that say things like “Manage; don’t do”.

Got any good, general advice about managing?

Manage, don’t do, is probably the most important and the hardest one, since you probably can do better than most of the people who report to you. Resist this temptation, since you will be given management stuff to do and won’t be able to do either well.

You will learn stuff that you can’t share. For instance, if there is a problem performer, some people might complain to you that nothing is being done even though you know the person is on some kind of program. The best you can say is “I hear you.” Ditto with layoff discussions - you will have to fire people some day.

As for the party line, try to see the logic behind it (which ICs often don’t get) and justify it instead of just parroting it. But sometimes the party line is just stupid. In that case just saying that’s the decision is better than destroying your credibility by trying to make a stupid policy, or one designed to screw workers, sound smart.
Half the people I managed had PhDs - I had it easier because I both had one and had good research cred, but bull shitting them wouldn’t have worked.

Wander around. Keep up your contacts, and don’t expect to learn things by people coming to your office.

Finally, when you screw up, and you will, admit it. I had a boss who did this, and he was great, and I tried to do it also. Also, you will eventually have to manage stuff you don’t understand as well as you’d like. Look for the logic in an argument instead of the details, and let people in your group with differing opinions argue it out. It will help you come up with the right decision.
Politics is now something you can’t ignore. Understand budgets (I hated them) who owes what to whom, and the ulterior motives everyone has.

You will no longer be judged on what you can accomplish, but instead on what your team can accomplish. It’s a big difference!

Give credit to your staff, compliment them when they do good, not just admonish them when they do bad. You’re already the manager, you’re above them and making more than they are, you don’t need to be stealing the credit for stuff they do

As a newish manager myself, I feel that leading by example is very important. The bad managers that I’ve had were manipulative, lazy, stupid, and paranoid. Don’t be like them. If you screw up, just say you screwed up. Everybody makes mistakes, so don’t fly off the handle if your staff messes up. An employee who’s fearful and anxious gets a lot less work done than one who knows you’ve got his back

Hire good people. Take the time to hire good people. Too many managers look at hiring as a chide, but a bad person can do terrible damage.

A good manager is not necessarily a good leader. But a good leader almost always is (or becomes) a good manager. Strive to be a good leader.

The critical skill of a leader is “coaching”. I would define that as “the process of letting people know that what they do matters to you”. If they do well, it is your job to let them know that you noticed and that you are pleased (good work that gets noticed gets repeated). If they do poorly, it is your job to let them know that it is not acceptable (as well as pointing out the appropriate behavior/response).

Memorize this equation: I = R x T. Influence (I) equals Respect ® times Trust (T). The amount of influence you have as a leader is a product of the respect they have for you and the trust they have in you.

And remember the 4 F’s. Be FIRST(lead by example, set the standards, mood and pace of the workplace), be FAIR ( be honest, give credit where credit is due), be FIRM (hold people accountable for their actions) and be FLEXIBLE (admit when you’re wrong, be open to good ideas).

Best way to earn respect? Be FIRST and be FIRM. Best way to earn trust? Be FAIR and FLEXIBLE.

(and before anyone pipes up that FIRM and FLEXIBLE are opposites, I know… think of them as opposite ends of a see-saw that you must keep balanced).

Source: 17 years as a manager and leadership development trainer for one of the largest privately held companies in the U.S. This spiel was part of my standard orientation for new managers.

I think it depends somewhat on the business you are in. In my field, managers who blindly follow the party line and claim it’s good get very little respect from their reports. Managers who admit that they don’t always agree, but have to live with the same edicts, on the other hand, are well respected.

In my case - we’re all engineers. We’re paid to understand and analyze situations, and solve problems. When management “hides” information, it becomes very obvious.
One of the things I learned quickly was that not all problems need to be solved your way. Yeah, your way might be better. But it may not be enough better to enforce on others. And you probably won’t have time to do that, anyway. Pick which pieces to get involved with, and accept that some things just don’t matter.

Good one. I’d add - hire people smarter than you are. There are always a few out there. I’ve known managers threatened by good people, who hire people they could dominate. They were universally bad managers.
And I forgot another important thing - give constant feedback. One good precept about performance review is that when you sit down to give a yearly review, anything you say should not be a surprise. People hate managers who act throughout the year as if everything was fine, and then tell the employee that they had unacceptable performance at review time.

The one thing I remember about every really good manager I had was that if it comes to push time, and people are putting in lots of overtime hours, make sure you’re putting in even more. If you have people in the office working late, be there, in case they need anything from you to get their work done. Even if you know you can’t do a damn thing, sit in your office and surf the web or catch up on paperwork or whatever. It really shows that you’re serious about <project x> needing to be done, and you’re giving up your freetime as well to make sure everything is done as quickly as can be.

The worst manager I ever had told us we all had to work overtime through the holidays, then promptly left for his cottage for 2 weeks of “deer camp.” You can guess how much overtime the rest of us put in, and how effective a manager he was moving forward.

Make sure your people know that if they simply cannot handle their workload, you’re there to help them prioritize. I was in mgmt. for 20 years (I will never do it again!) and the only thing that made me insane was always the person who would just not do what they needed to because it was too much, and they were afraid to tell me. Make sure they know it’s your job to help them sort things out.

Another thought. When you’re asked to make a decision, make it. I think it was Thomas Watson, IBM, who said something along the lines of (paraphrasing because I am lazy) “Just make a decision. If it’s wrong, you can fix it, but make a damn decision.” I say this because my current boss is a ditherer. If I need a decision, on a time constraint, and I offer up A, B, and C, DO NOT send me out to research D, G, F, X, Y and Z. I am counting on you to make the call, and I will not respect you if you can’t.

This is key.

I recently saw an example of the “Go To Guy” being made the manager of an office. He’d been the “Go To Guy” for a long time - he was good at his job, and the other folks in the office, his manager, and the higher-ups all knew it and respected his abilities. He got the problem assignments, got called in on major issues, and so on. And he produced excellent work.

Then he got the promotion to management. Turned out he couldn’t stop being the “Go To Guy” and let other people handle hard problems. So if one of his people came to him with a problem, instead of coaching them, he’d take over the problem and try to fix it himself.

Net results: (1) he became overloaded with work, in addition to his management duties, and started to look burnt out; (2) his people started to lose their self-confidence and started questioning whether they were valued, because their manager kept taking hard problems away from them.

“Go To Guy” is no longer a manager.

To the OP: does your employer provide opportunities for management training? if so, ask around for a good training module and go to it.

Management is a skill, just like any other employee skill, and the employer should be willing to provide training in that skill, just like training in the things that other workers do.

And, take a look at Colin Powell’s Leadership Presentation.

I am not a manager; I am a supervisor who reports to a manager. So my perspective is from one who is managed. I look to my manager as an information conduit. When I don’t receive timely input on issues necessary to my performance, it is stressful and undermines my confidence her. Please be transparent and proactive with your staff. I understand the pressure that my manager is under; we are all juggling way too many balls. I do not always make timely decisions with my own staff, much as I would like to. But understanding what is critical vs that which can be delayed or even tabled is a crucial management skill. It may take me a week to approve Susie’s vacation request, and I’m never going to address Joey’s ongoing demand to reduce his workload (though I will make encouraging noises about valuing his ideas) but I am going to always be on top of Anna’s performance issues. I know that these are front-line duties, and my manager has different decisions to make which incorporates a more global perspective, but identifying the priorities should be very similar and focused on what keeps the bottom line functionality of the agency in place. You need to be able to inspire confidence from your staff as a very basic bottom line. Managers should know that their position of power may insulate them from open criticism from their underlings, but any deficiencies are known and openly discussed among the staff who report to them. I keep this in mind with my own staff, which is why I will at least make a token effort to appear proactive and to communicate timely, even on matters that I personally think are trivial or that I am not likely to budge on (although if it is a definite NO, I will make that very clear right away).

Be as flexible as you can be. Don’t tow the company line when it is clear that it is coming from the naked emperor (it will undermine your credibility). Don’t openly disparage; just express that you aren’t happy with it either, but it is what it is, and it is your shared job to find a way to make it work.

Address performance issues right away. Be direct and concise about what you view the problem to be, what needs to be done to fix it, and what support you can realistically offer. Follow up on a frequent schedule, and email all agreed-upon performance improvement measures to that staff member. Document everything. Hold people accountable to meeting measurable performance goals.

Mingle with your staff. Get to know them as people. Know their names and something about what motivates them. Your door should seldom be closed. Find things to praise, even with your poor performers.

A lot of good advice has already been given. But here’s one more tip I don’t think’s been mentioned.

Learn to recognize the difference between “That’s the wrong way” and “That’s not the way I would have done it”. Focus on what the goal is and realize that people may have different way of achieving that goal than you would. As long as their way gets to the goal, don’t insist on everyone using your way just because it’s your way. (This doesn’t preclude giving advice. But if people are getting the job done, let them do what they’re doing.)

The best managers I’ve had have been…whatever the opposite of “micromanager” is. They’re the ones who clearly articulate the goals and the timeline, and leave the plan and implementation up to the people actually doing the work. Then they take time to evaluate the results *with *the people that produce them and listen to what worked, what didn’t, and what could be done differently the next time.

This applies to daily goals as well as weekly/monthly/quarterly/annual goals, and to complicated multidisciplinary white collar goals as well as sweeping and mopping the floor.

Of course, this depends on having good, smart people, which goes back to the above advice about hiring good, smart people and not letting your ego get in the way. And if you don’t have input into hiring, fix that first.

I can’t stress enough of being proactive and transparent to your staff. The best managers I’ve worked with have been both, and I strived to be, too, back when I was in management.

I’ve worked with too many managers who loved playing paranoid hide-and-seek. I don’t think any of them realized just how much they undermined their staff in doing so. It also made for a lot of “he said/she said” and unnecessary drama.

Lots of great advice in this thread :slight_smile:

Care about your subordinates as people. My current supervisors are the best bosses I’ve had in my life because they sincerely care about each of us a person. My boss once said to me: “Juicy, you work to live, you don’t live to work.”

You’ve heard the old adage “shit rolls downhill”? The managers that take that to heart are bad managers - all the crap they get they drop on their underlings, which pisses off the underlings.

Instead, be more like an umbrella - your job is to shield your team from all the crap going on around them so they can do the work. You’re the manager so YOU deal with the crap - let your team do the work in peace.

There’s also a different between staying informed and getting reports (which is good), and demanding constant updates. I had two managers (at different times) at one company: the first would check our task log and if we hadn’t updated in a while would remind us to keep it up to date, but otherwise would leave us alone if we were doing stuff. The second wanted a 1-hour daily meeting with the team to see what we were all doing, a 1-hour weekly meeting with the team to tell us what he was doing, a 3 hour meeting every two weeks to decide what we’re doing the next two weeks, a 15 minute daily meeting to go over what we did that day (other than the hour meeting we had in the morning), and a 30 minute meeting every month to ask how we felt about our job. Guess which manager had a team that got stuff done and which had a team that was always behind? Hint: the team that didn’t have a ton of useless meetings got stuff done.