When you get promoted into management for the first time it can be an awesome feeling. Then reality sinks in. Now you're the one in charge. Making decisions. Leading a team.
- Take a deep breath.
- Block off time to think & plan.
- Have a conversation with your boss on expectations.
- Have open conversations with the team you’ll be managing.
- Have conversations with peer managers or other relevant stakeholders.
- Set some goals for the first 90 days.
- Check back in with stakeholders to get additional feedback
Now on to the goodies!
- Take a deep breath. Relax for a few moments. Celebrate and enjoy your promotion.What you’ll notice is that there isn’t a ton of “doing” in the first 30 days. This is by design. A common mistake that new managers make is thinking that they need to be doing “something” different immediately. This can often lead to early mistakes – making changes in workflow, org structures, roles or priorities without thinking through the downstream consequences. Resist the urge to make a ton of changes (unless they are critical/have negative impact) right away – even if you know what you want to do.
- Block off time to think & plan. Here are a few questions it may be helpful to think through.
- What’s your situation? Have you been promoted to lead an existing team? To build a new one? To takeover an existing or new function or project? The assumption is that with the promotion you got some context on the promotion and what your new role will be. If not, then quickly jump to step 3!
- Make a list of everyone that will or can impact your performance in your role. Who’s on your direct team? What do you know (or think you know) about them? What would you like to know about them? Who is not on your team that you need to work with? If you’re in product – it may be the engineering lead, or the product marketer. What executives do you expect to care about what you’re doing? What executives do you admire? The idea is to create a list of people you will engage with over the next 30 days that will play a part in your new role.
- What are some of the high level goals that your team will need to achieve over the next 3-6 months? You don’t need to lay out a detailed plan yet – but having a general direction can be helpful as you go into the next step.
- Have a conversation with your boss on expectations. This one is critical. The purpose is to understand what your boss and other senior executives expect out of your team – tangible business objectives as well as operating practices. Check out our in depth article on the expectation conversation here. The other important thing to remember is that this shouldn’t be a “one and done” conversation. You want to develop a relationship with your manager of open communication and transparency. Business objectives and environments change – the constant will be your ability to discuss those changes together and how you will tackle them as a team.
- Have open conversations with the team you’ll be managing. These conversations are often the hardest ones for new managers, especially if you’ve been elevated to now lead a team of former peers. Try to remember any times that you got a new boss or manager and how you felt. You were probably worried about what they would be like and how they would be to work with. Even if you’ve already worked with your team, people will be curious how things may change now that you’re the boss. What you’ll notice is that most people are just worried about themselves. Take the time to listen to them, share your own worries or fears, and ask them what their expectations, goals, and ideas are. If you have any relevant insights or context to share from your manager, share that. People like to be informed and in the loop.
- Have conversations with peer managers or other relevant stakeholders. Another common mistake first time managers make is a sole focus on their immediate team. It can be easy to forget that along with your direct reports, you are now also part of a larger peer group of managers. If you’re in marketing, this could be the sales leader who is driving revenue for your product, or the finance controller who will now dictate your budget. There might also be the product executive you admire and want to emulate as a leader. Think about all the people who you will need to work with and who you want to learn from, and reach out. Leverage your new role to have these conversations and strengthen your internal network.
- Set some goals for the first 90 days. All of these conversations should start to give you a sense of what role you and your team can play as part of the business. Now you have some initial feedback across the organization around the challenges and some near-term objectives. Does this jive with your own high level observations? Then create specific goals that you want to accomplish in the next 90 days. This article can give you some in-depth tips on goal setting.For example, if you are in sales and the company has product launch goals that it needs to hit in the next quarter, your contribution could potentially translate into:
- Sales: Revenue goals associated with the new product
- HR: Resource/headcount deployment of salespeople against the sales goals
- Marketing: Go-to-market sales strategy developed in conjunction with marketing
- You won’t know all of the details underneath each goal. But now you at least have set areas of focus that you and your team can start to dig into – and that you can ideally even delegate!
- Check back in with stakeholders to get additional feedback. One thing to remember is that this is a continuous process. It’s a good idea to check in frequently or as needed with the relevant people in your network. As priorities change or as you get caught up in your day-to-day, it can be easy to lose track of what and where you should be spending your time. Take the time to establish regular check-ins with the people and teams that you work closely with. Within the first 30 days you should be checking back in with anyone that has a stake in your new role as manager. This will help prevent miscommunication down the road and set up the relationship for productive collaboration.
Pro Tip: In my previous managerial role I would setup weekly, bi-weekly, monthly & quarterly meetings with various people across the organization to ensure we stayed connected on what was happening in our orgs. It also helped create alignment between my boss, my team and other departments we relied on.
This checklist covers a key, broader mindset shift that managers need to make as early as possible as they make the transition into management. The idea is to see beyond your own job and work. Managers (and leaders) are responsible for and expected to think beyond yourselves, and even beyond your team, to a broader company view. If you can internalize that, as you go through the checklist, you’ll be a well-oiled, leadership machine in no time.