The transition from a high-performing individual contributor to a new manager challenges even the most qualified employees. According to Harvard Business Review, nearly half of new managers underperform within the first 18 months of their initial promotion. Yet, most managers do not receive any leadership development until much later in their careers.
To help with the leap into leadership, we’ve asked Sounding Board coaches to give their best advice to new managers entering their first 30 days.
What should I focus on in my first 30 days as a new manager?
This is a time for you to go and do your learning journey. It’s not a listening journey because there is some action that you have to do in getting curious to really understand what is happening for your team. You want to go and talk to your team members, your stakeholders, your customers, partners, and leaders so you can formulate your point of view and identify those quick, easy wins.
Likely, you want to have the biggest impact possible, and some part of you would like to get to roll up your sleeves and do as many things as possible. Well, my suggestion is to take a breath. The most impactful things that you can do in those first 30 days is listen, learn, and build relationships. High-performing teams are made of people. You want to listen to understand how you can create value for all of them. You want to understand who makes decisions in these organizations, how you can influence them, and where you can get the information you need and build relationships.
As a new manager, what's the quickest way to build rapport with team members?
Go first. Be the one that gets a little bit vulnerable, that shares a weakness, that shares a perspective and acknowledges that it’s only one way of looking at the situation. If you can really role model how to engage and how to share, it will give your team members the opportunity to also contribute. But you have to be the one to go first.
Talk to your team about things other than the task at hand or the job that needs to be done. Spend a little bit of time at the beginning of each team meeting just connecting — a question for everyone to answer, a check-in about the weekend, or their life outside work. It may seem that we’re rushed, and we’ve just got things to get done, but spending time connecting on a personal level will reap dividends in the team, building connection, empathy, and resilience. It’s worth taking the time to get to know who the people are, not just what they do.
What's a tip for effective time management for a new manager?
Have a ‘no emails’ time during the day, perhaps twice a day for as little as 30 minutes or as long as two hours. Let your team know that you won’t be reading or responding to emails and communications during that time period.
Mono-tasking. Decide what really needs to get done. Conquer just that one thing for that period of time and then move on. Mono-tasking — not multitasking.
What's the one question you'd like a new manager to consider when feeling overwhelmed?
When new managers feel overwhelmed, I want them to ask, who can I ask for help? High performers often feel like they should be doing it all, especially if they’re trying to prove themselves as a new manager, it could be asking a mentor or a manager for advice. It could be asking their team if they’re looking for opportunities to step up and help out. It could be a leadership coach. It’s amazing how much better you can feel when you get out of your head, and you get talking to a trusted advisor or a colleague, and hopefully, someday you can return the favor.
When a new manager is overwhelmed, I like to ask how they see the problem. Because it is how we see a problem that leads to feeling overwhelmed. Do they see this problem as permanent? Chances are we jump into things and feel like, “Oh, the problem that we’re facing right now can be permanent,” but that’s not always the case. The second one is whether they see the problem as pervasive. People can make problems so big that they stop seeing the good aspects of their lives, their health, their family, and whatever else is going well for them. They forget to see that. And the third one is if they see the problem as personal. Jumping to conclusions like, “I’m not good enough. Maybe I shouldn’t have been promoted. Maybe I don’t really have the skills to be a manager. Maybe I am not cut out to be a leader.” So, exploring how they see a problem in these three lights can help them deal with this feeling of being overwhelmed.
If you could remove one thing from your plate what would alleviate the most stress? You may find that the Eisenhower Matrix helps with deciding on this priority. If it’s urgent and important, the priority is to get it done. If it’s important but not urgent, you should plan a time and schedule that activity. If it’s not important, but urgent, look to delegate that task, and if it’s neither urgent nor important, ask, “Why I’m doing it in the first place?” and consider whether there’s a possibility to delete that task.