The First 30 Days: 3 Things Every New Manager Needs to Master

Getting promoted to your first managerial role is a huge accomplishment – but after the excitement wears off, you may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of managing people for the first time — and for good reason! Managing people is a skill that needs to be purposefully developed. There are dangerous outcomes if this type of leadership development is ignored. According to 2020 research by SHRM, 84 percent of American workers said that poorly trained managers add unnecessary work and stress to their lives.

Here are three strategies you should adopt to make your first month as a new manager a success:

1. Open the lines of communication

Strong communication skills will make or break you as a leader. Why? Because you don’t work in a vacuum. The way you work influences other people on your team — and the organization as a whole — so having open lines of communication and clearly understanding your peers, direct reports and senior leaders is key to establish yourself as a successful leader. 

Every organization is made up of individuals. Blending important soft skills such as empathy and communication will help you ensure that direct reports feel seen and heard. In turn, they will be more productive, and that will increase the bottom line by up to 88 percent. According to a 2020 SHRM study, 41 percent of employees said their manager could improve their communication skills. If your communication chops need work, and you’re unsure how to build empathetic lines of communication as a new manager, start by supporting your team. 

As their new manager, it’s your job to make sure the people on your team feel heard, seen, and motivated. In these disruptive, fast changing times, it’s important that your direct reports know their needs are a priority. Create open lines of communication by celebrating as a team, explicitly supporting them when they offer ideas or ask to try new things, and respecting their intentions if those new efforts don’t pan out as expected. 

Speaking of expectations, it is critical to talk with your boss about their expectations for you in your new role, and from your team as a whole. Opening the lines of communication with your boss is an essential part of creating a culture of transparency that builds mutual trust and respect. This will pay off when challenges arise because unfortunately, they will!

Pro-tip from a Sounding Board Leadership Coach:

"Communication requires us to courageously set aside our assumptions, bias or being right for the sake of initiating and encouraging conversations and all voices being heard."

2. Create a supportive work structure

Setting up a framework or process for workflows now will pay off down the road when you’re too busy to start a new strategy from scratch. Here are some ways to intentionally build support into your day-to-day:

  • Connect with other leaders. One common mistake first-time managers make is solely focusing on their immediate team. Expand your network. Invite peer managers into conversations about mutual support for your roles. For example, if you’re in marketing, connect with a sales leader who is driving revenue for your product, or the finance controller who will dictate your budget. Leverage your new role to have these conversations and strengthen your internal network. You’ll learn more about the organization as a whole and get a first-hand look at the ways other leaders approach projects.
  • Start building your leadership skills immediately. Identify what strengths you already possess and where you need improvement. Not sure? Ask for feedback from previous managers and coworkers, or enlist the help of a leadership coach. When working directly with a leadership coach, they can provide a much-needed external perspective to approach new skill-building and help you measure your growth along the way.

Asking for feedback will make you a more effective leader. In 2021, research from software company Zippia found that
managers who received feedback on their strengths had an 8.9% greater profitability than those who didn’t. Check in frequently with the relevant people in your network. Establish regular check-ins with the people and teams that you work closely with to keep those lines of communication open.

Pro-tip from a Sounding Board Leadership Coach:

"The most important time management lesson for a leader to learn was the one about saying no. If you have too much to do, then you need to find a way to have less to do. It’s about knowing what you can do and delegating the rest — clearly and effectively."

3. Set goals for your first 90 days.

A common mistake that new managers make is thinking that they need to take big action immediately. Rather than jumping right into change, take time to plan out goals for your first three months. What are some of the high-level goals that your team will need to achieve in the next three months? You don’t need to lay out a detailed plan yet – but having a general direction can be helpful as you plan your next steps.

After connecting with your team and leaders across the organization, you should have some initial feedback around the challenges and some near-term objectives to focus on. From here, create specific goals around what you want to accomplish in the next 90 days. During this goal-setting process, you do not need to know exactly how you will achieve every single task, but framing these goals is step number one to complete them. 

To create your 90 day goal list, break the plan into smaller, one-month increments. For each month, create goals and action items. You can categorize each set of goals with objectives such as learning goals, leadership skill development, and performance goals. When you have these goals listed, work backwards to fill in the gaps on what technology and people resources are needed, create manageable timeframes, and determine which other departments will need to be involved. 

Pro-tip from a Sounding Board Leadership Coach:

Time management in leadership is more than putting a to-do list in order. It's about managing your attention as well. . . Your time and attention are the most precious resources you have. It's time to put them to their highest and best use.

The first 30 days in your new role will fly by. Take the time to set yourself up for success by following these tips, and don’t forget to ask for support when you need it. Whether from your own manager or from a leadership coach, don’t be afraid to ask for support as you develop your leadership skills. Every great leader must start somewhere. By prioritizing communication and empathy, getting supportive work structures in place, and setting measurable goals to guide you, you’ll win your first 30 days – and all the days thereafter. 

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