May 22, 2018
You've worked hard, learned your craft and finally obtained that coveted supervisory position. The question is, what now? What can you do to succeed in your new managerial position, and how can you ensure that your first job as supervisor isn't your last?
Your Success Translates into the Success of Your Company
There is, of course, a more important issue, because how well you perform as a first-time manager has a lot to do with how well the employees who report to you perform—and that can mean the difference between success and failure for a business. According to Harvard Business Review1, for example:
"Managers account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement scores across business units, Gallup estimates. This variation is in turn responsible for severely low worldwide employee engagement. Gallup reported in two large-scale studies in 2012 that only 30% of U.S. employees are engaged at work2, and a staggeringly low 13% worldwide are engaged3."
To Succeed, Learn from Best Practices—and Get the Help You Need
Fortunately, there are proactive steps you can take to increase the likelihood that you'll succeed in your new position. According to U.S. News & World Report4, following are 6 of the most important:
1. Identify a Successful Role Model within the Company
Among the most egregious mistakes new managers make is assuming that success only means success if they do everything on their own. In fact, the most successful managers are the ones who identify someone with deep experience in the company culture and knowledge of the ways the organization works and work closely with that individual.
The takeaway—leave your pride at the door. The fact that you're willing to ask for help will not only truncate the learning curve, but also ingratiate you with someone who has influence and clout in the company.
2. Don't Disparage Longstanding Practices—or Employees
It's understandable that you want to have an impact and leave your mark on the business—but that doesn't mean you should attempt to make substantial changes overnight. Doing so tends to alienate employees who've been with the company much longer than you—and who undoubtedly have their own thoughts about how things should be done.
The most successful new managers begin by listening to current employees, particularly those whose work has shaped current practice. Meet with those employees, acknowledging that you have a lot to learn, and that you'll depend on them to help you succeed. If you respect them, odds are they'll respect you and root for your success.
3. Hone Your Time Management Skills
A new supervisory position almost certainly means many new demands on your time—more meetings, more responsibilities, more reading and more decisions to make. That means you'll need to become more adept at prioritizing your activities, learning for example which meetings are essential and which you can skip or send someone else to.
It also means you'll need to learn how to delegate authority. During your initial "listening tour," attempt to discern the strengths of your direct reports. Based on that assessment, be willing to let them make decisions which are within their bailiwick. Doing so will free you to make more consequential decisions, the ones that are more directly related to your managerial success.
4. Learn to Communicate with Openness and Clarity
Your direct reports can't do their jobs properly if they spend much of their time trying to figure out what it is you want them to do. First, help them understand your style of management, including how you like to receive information, what decisions they can make on their own, and those for which they need your approval.
Equally important, to ensure that what you intend to say is what your employees in fact hear, solicit continual feedback. If for example you outline a new project, ask if they have any questions, if anything about your proposal is unclear, and if they have any suggestions to make that proposal stronger. Finally, be transparent—communications with your staff should never be a mere ploy to get what you want. When you ask for feedback and suggestions, mean it.
5. Understand that Mutual Trust is the Cornerstone of Your Success
Being successful in your previous life has been principally about your experience and expertise in your field. As a supervisor, however, there's a new element—simply stated, you can't be successful without the trust and cooperation of those with whom you work—those above you, those at your level, and those who report to you.
Gaining the trust of your colleagues isn't something that happens overnight—it builds incrementally over time and reflects the sum of hundreds of seemingly insignificant interactions and decisions you make. Above all, you need to establish that your word is your bond and that you keep the promises you make. Equally important, among the best ways to garner the trust of those with whom you work is to demonstrate (through actions, not words) that you trust them, their abilities and their character.
6. Give Credit Where Credit Is Due
The spotlight might seem the place you want to be—but the thing about spotlights is that they can get very hot, very fast. Remember that successful supervisors recognize that success is a team effort and are eager to share center stage with those who contribute to that effort. Provide tangible rewards for those who help you achieve your goals.
You could for example host occasional recognition events in which you detail (specifically) the contributions made by those who report to you. If you are recognized for achievement in public events, always take the time to acknowledge the contributions of everyone who helped.
Assuming your first supervisory position is typically a curious mixture of excitement and dread. The good news is that you can increase your chances of success by simply recognizing that you don't need to go it alone. If you remain open to input and acknowledge your own shortcomings, you'll gain the respect of your colleagues who will then want you to succeed as much as you do.
Of course, being a successful manager also means hiring the best job candidates and providing them the tools and resources they need to do their jobs well. To learn more about the ways our continuing education services will foster your employees' professional growth—and help you grow your business—contact us today.
1. Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2014/03/why-good-managers-are-so-rare
2. Harvard Business Review:: https://hbr.org/2013/06/ten-charts-that-show-weve-all-got-a-case-of-the-mondays/
3. Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2013/10/map-the-sad-state-of-global-workplace-engagement
4. U.S. News & World Report: https://money.usnews.com/money/careers/articles/2012/07/12/10-tips-for-new-managers