Q: I’ve just been promoted to manager of our small five-person department. It’s an exciting opportunity, but I am frankly quite nervous. I want to do a great job. Any advice for me?
A; Congratulations! Your nervousness is to be expected; after all, this is your first opportunity to manage others, not just complete assigned tasks.
In some ways, becoming a manager is a little like becoming a parent. You can plan for it, even read a few books, but when the day finally arrives, you need to rely on common sense and a belief in your capacity to succeed.
You’re a boss now: you are accountable for the work of others. This fact should comfort you to some extent because your employer has chosen you for your potential. They believe in you and want you to do well.
As you approach your new duties, let me make one critical recommendation: strive for balance. Don’t forsake your family by becoming a workaholic. Exercise regularly, eat healthy meals and don’t feel obliged to attend every meeting.
Some newly-minted managers mistakenly believe they should suddenly take on a new personality; this is not generally recommended as co-workers and those reporting to you will likely not appreciate your hollow attempt to act like a make-believe manager.
Someone once said it is better to be a first class version of yourself rather than a second class version of somebody else. In other words, copying the behavior of other managers will do little to build credibility with your employees.
On a more practical level, it would be good to carefully review the position description for your new job. It is likely this document will be used as the primary standard for your evaluation so keep it close at hand.
In addition, assess the duties of the five employees reporting to you. You may be surprised to find they are not always “on task” and have even given up or assumed new responsibilities. Your role as their manager will be to hold them accountable – don’t shy away from this key responsibility.
If your department has few or irregular meetings, you should immediately institute one on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Regular and consistent communication should improve morale, allow an airing of concerns, and will give you the opportunity to build a team.
Ultimately, you will succeed by leading by example. Late arrivals, long lunch hours, lengthy breaks, extended phone calls and personal Emailing would be the negative model for your employees. Remember: you are being watched.
Becoming a manager should be a wonderful career opportunity for you. Be prepared to work hard, focus on your assigned tasks, and maintain balance.
Motivate your team by example and don’t lose your sense of humor (which is a great stress-reliever).
Simon Gibson is a university professor, marketing executive, corporate writer and civic leader. He is a graduate of four public universities, including Simon Fraser University, where he earned his doctorate in education. He also also holds a degree in journalism (honours) from Carleton University. His email address can be found here.