The Top 10 Challenges for New Managers

Some jobs are harder than others. Being a first-time manager ranks high on that list.

Some jobs are harder than others. Navigating the waters of your first-time manager position ranks high on the list.

The initial few weeks (years) are what I term the early-awkward phase. Mastery isn’t an issue. Survival is. Mastery comes next decade. Maybe.

Most individuals arrive at their first-time management position in one of two ways: battlefield promotion or deliberate development program. You can guess which one is most common.

The battlefield promotion path to management means you’ve got a heartbeat and someone somewhere has a feeling you won’t screw this up too badly. And if you do, well, they’ll promote the next one standing.

For those of you fortunate enough to come to your new role via a proper development path, complete with training, coaching and ample time guiding initiatives, you’ve got a slight advantage. You at least have a clue about what you don’t know.

Regardless of your path to the role, you have at least 10 challenges to navigate the minute you walk in the door on your first day:

Top Ten Challenges of the New Manager:

  1. Gain you subordinates’ trust.
  2. Establish your credibility.
  3. Show respect.
  4. Understand the mission of your team.
  5. Learn your boss’s priorities.
  6. Understand your team’s role in meeting your boss’s priorities.
  7. Learn who does what.
  8. Begin tuning in to the team’s/firm’s culture.
  9. Learn the operating routine of your team.
  10. Learn about your team’s customers.

Here’s one small idea with a big payoff: Prepare your attitude.

Yep, that’s it.

People wear their attitudes on their faces, in their posture and body language and certainly in their verbal communication. You want to make certain your attitude is saying, “I’m here to help, not command and I need your help to succeed.

You want to help your new team members move closer to discovery mode and away from defend mode.

Here are some prompters to help make certain you project the right attitude as you get started as a new manager:

  • Accept that being promoted to lead a team should be humbling.
  • Know that you now play a direct role in the team’s success.
  • Recognize, you cannot succeed on your own unless the team succeeds.
  • Internalize that you are in your new role to serve, not command.
  • Be confident that over time, you will have ample opportunity to form and frame the team and environment. Day one as a first-time manager is not the time.
  • Accept: you may have been an expert last Friday, but on Monday, you are a beginner.
  • Wear your smile as a calling card.
  • Stifle your propensity to critique current approaches.
  • Wield polite questions and active listening as your primary tools.
  • Recognize and live the ancient truism: Be kind for everyone you meet is waging a great battle.

Every single thing you do or say in your initial days as a manager will be interpreted and then amplified. Your focus must be on eliciting curiosity and a sense of hope that your presence means the opportunity for people to prosper.

Art Petty is a coach and consultant working with executives and management teams to unlock business and human potential. He writes the Leadership Caffeine blog.