20 Tips for New Managers
By Ellen M. Hazeur and Cathy Harris
Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a new manager, follow Cathy’s tips for career success and you will see dramatic improvements in the performance of your team!
1. Lead by Example: Take time to plan ahead so you can give clear guidance. Then, discuss what you and each team member will do and do what you say. Hold others accountable to the same standard. Be it regarding getting to the office on time or leaving only when all business has been completed, the successful manager shows the performance that he or she would like to see modeled. This is the golden rule of effective management.
2. Don’t underestimate role as supervisor: Being a supervisor means tht employees see you differently. You aren’t seen as “one of them” because they know that in your role, your opinion of them as well as your opinion of their work product, can affect their job security and promotability. Therefore, your comments, attitude, and actions have a great effect on the whole dynamic of the team. Be aware of this and ensure that your decisions are fair across the board. Step up to the plate—be the best that you can be and by so doing bring out the best in each and every one of your team members. You can make a difference and show them that they can too!
3. Keep a positive focus: Set an example by committing to focus on what’s working—not just for you but for your employees. Start with what they’ve done well and then help them brainstorm solutions around what isn’t working, or as I like to frame it, “what could be done better.” Not only will you build their self-confidence, but you’ll also promote a “can-do” attitude and we all know that the “can-doers” get the job done!
4. Praise in public and reprimand in private: Making negative remarks about employees in front of their peers not only hurts the individual, it hurts office morale as well. It is also inappropriate and almost always gets repeated to others. If you need to discuss something about “Suzie”, discuss it with Suzie in private! If other employees are talking about one of their peers, stop that behavior immediately. Your team performance depends on it. Whilst trust is the glue that holds teams together, bickering and finger-pointing tears them apart. It is your job to show that behavior has no place at work.
5. Pitch in when there’s a heavy load: Leading by example also entails helping your employees when the work gets piled up. Pitch in an extra hand and you’ll see the other team members follow suit. But don’t forget to address why the work backed up in the first place—the more time you spend solving the cause of the problem, the less time you’ll need to put out fires!
6. Be dependable: Only miss work when it’s really necessary and schedule time off, checking with your team when possible—you’ll want them to do the same.
7. Learn everything about your office and your team members: This means learning the tasks of every position in your operation. Even if you are not an expert in each area, you should be able to perform the basics of each job as well as train someone else in how to do it. This not only shows initiative, but it eliminates the resentment that employees sometimes feel when they know than their manager. Similarly, engage your team members by showing a genuine interest in them and what they value—this builds trust—the glue that holds the team together.
8. “Never let them see you sweat”: Even when you are thoroughly frustrated with an employee or a customer, you cannot afford to “lose it.” Take a deep breath or slow yourself down by counting to ten. These techniques allow you to be calmer so that you can respond tactfully, instead of reacting with a vengeance. If a cooling off period is necessary, ask to re-address the problem an hour or two later. Do not confront people when you are upset; this usually leads to an acceleration of tensions. Under no circumstances should you engage in yelling and/or arguing for a symbolic victory. Not only does it make you look as if you have no self-control, it can also set the stage for a stressful work environment, which may lead to legal repercussions. If your employees lose it, coach them on appropriate responses and coping techniques to manage their frustrations.
9. Do not “vent” in front of employees: There may be days when you feel like screaming or quitting; however, you do not need to share this with the employees you supervise. First, it makes you look as though you can’t handle the job. Second, your employees will start to resent you. Third, you set a negative tone for your team, one which will be repeated. You want to be known for the positive atmosphere you create, one that uplifts and encourages employees to do the best they possibly can. While we all need to vent sometimes, make sure you choose an appropriate time and place.
10. Focus on the solution and not the problem: Emily Dickinson once said, “Dwell in possibilities.” When you focus on how to solve the issue and ask for feedback on doing just that from all parties involved, the chances are that the problem will be solved before you know it. However, if you put more energy into the problem, then it will grow and your employees will model this behavior, focusing on what isn’t working instead of what could work.
11. Maintain your professionalism: Take care of personal business on your dime and don’t ask your employees to do personal favors for you, period. If you have friends that you supervise, don’t do favors for them that you wouldn’t do for someone else. Create win-win-win scenarios—you win, your team wins and the company wins!
12. Keep your personal life where it belongs: Refrain from discussing intimate details of your personal life with your employees. There are some exceptions, like general personal information or information used for scheduling purposes. Some employees may discuss their personal life with you, especially if it is getting in the way of their performance. But for the most part, this is not a two-way street. Since you are an authority figure, too much personal information can blur the lines. No one at work really needs to know about your gambling problems, your sex or party life, etc. Doing so can make it difficult for you to gain and maintain the respect you want and need as a supervisor.
13. Create a “safe” work environment: Immediately report any possible safety problems and also ensure that the environment is free of any type of harassment or discrimination. Ensure that your employees are educated on what’s appropriate so that the work environment is as “litigation free” as possible. Today sexual harassment suits are very prevalent and are taken very seriously. Sexual harassment does not only mean physical touching or bluntly asking someone to have sex. It can encompass the making of suggestive, lewd, or sexual-type comments to other employees or even staring inappropriately. If you notice or hear of any inappropriate behavior, you and your supervisor must do something about it or your office could be held accountable. Indeed, you too could be held personally liable for damages. Of course, lead by example here too. Make a stand that this behavior will not be tolerated.
14. Don’t fuel rumors or petty office games by reacting to them: Office rumors are notorious and you can’t afford to spend energy or time trying to trace all of them. In fact, some rumors are designed to create division between individuals in an office. Some rumors that may affect office procedures or morale may need to be dealt with. But in most cases, you should just remain neutral and just pay attention to what people actually say and do. You’ll also want to restate your policy of a rumor-free work environment.
15. Be a team player and show you care: Show a little interest in all your employees (and not just the ones that you tend to like the most), be courteous and hear them out. Try doing this especially with employees that you may not feel as comfortable with as you do others. You’ll be surprised by the pleasant results you encounter. Indeed, the more attention you put to the positive, the more positive results you’ll see. Being a team player and showing that you care goes a long way toward building trust and loyalty. We all know that the more trust and loyalty we have, the better the team functions.
16. Get the facts: When dealing with office problems research the circumstances before you bring the issue to your employees or even your boss and certainly before you make any firm decision. Everyone makes mistakes. When you do, don’t hesitate to apologize. This shows maturity and open-mindedness and a willingness to work it out.
17. Create an open-dialogue policy: Remember that a big part of your job is to inspire them to give 100% to their jobs. This includes sharing ideas that may make the office operate better. For this to happen, your employees must feel comfortable communicating with you. Sometimes your staff/employees have excellent ideas on how to make the office run better. However, if they are afraid to approach you or feel that you aren’t interested in what they have to say, they will not be forthcoming. This isn’t just bad for them; it stifles the office as a whole. Plus, many opportunities to improve their workplace may be lost. Even if the idea isn’t feasible, listen attentively, and gently but clearly explain why you think it wouldn’t work, and most importantly, commend that employee for caring enough about the office to be thinking of ways to improve it. If they think of something positive that you use, be sure to give them credit for the idea. This is motivating! Your boss will be impressed by the good rapport that you have with your team.
18. Don’t take things personally: From “office grumbling” to complaints, in every office someone will find something to complain about. Because you are the supervisor, many of these complaints will be focused in your direction. However, you set the tone for your office. Coach your team members to adopt an attitude of problem solving rather than complaining.
19. Know your supervisor’s style: By knowing your boss’ style, you can flex yours to speak to them on their terms. Ensure that you and your boss are on the same page. The bottom line is that you don’t want to be perceived as having a different agenda from your superior. If you want to learn more about your behavior style and others’ styles, call 504-241-3255 or 800-924-2284 to purchase your copy of the DiSC Classic, Personal Profile instrument for just $16.00, plus shipping and handling.
20. Clear up misunderstandings/problems as soon as possible: Whether you have an issue with an employee or your supervisor, it is crucial that you get to the bottom of the problem before hurt feelings fester and cause long-term damage. And for goodness sakes, don’t hold grudges!
Ellen M. Hazeur is the Clerk of First City Court in New Orleans. She formerly served on the New Orleans City Council representing District “E”