Management For Beginners
You may have just been promoted from within a company, or you may have just gotten out of college and landed an entry level gig at Target. However you got to where you are, you are now a Manager. A leader of people who are counting on you for direction and guidance, training and support.
Scared yet? You should be. One of the problems I run into a lot with leadership, both colleagues as well as my own management structure, is a lack or taking responsibility. Plenty of managers take responsibility for their direct responsibilities and tasks, yet fail to truly take responsibility for those people who are charged with helping that manager accomplish those tasks and responsibilities.
If you are a leader of people, it is your main responsibility to be there for your team. As an example of what I mean by that, life happens and things come up that no one can plan for. A death in the family may happen, one of your employees may have their car’s engine blow up on the way to work.
Now don’t get me wrong, there will be people who seem to have a serious, life altering emergency weekly or even daily. We’ll address those folks in a separate post as there is a lot of information to go over.
Back to my main point, show your staff that you are there for them. Did their car break down? Ask them if they’re safe, see if they need a ride somewhere or need someone to wait with them while they are sitting there while the tow truck comes to get them.
Another example would be that one of your employees may have just experienced a major loss, such as divorce or a death in the family. Show them that you are there for them. Ask if they would like to talk about it but don’t be pushy. If they decline reassure them that if they do need anything, you are there for them. If they do decide to confide in you, LISTEN. Do not try to problem solve or give advice unless they ask.
This will show them that you are truly there for them, and if they trust that you are there for them, they will be there for you when you need.
It is absolutely vital that you obtain what we call, “Employee Buy In” Meaning that the employees you are directly responsible for “Buy In” or accept and agree with the new vision that you may bring to your department or business. Without the support of your crew on an ideological level, they will do what you tell them to, because you tell them to.
If you are able to garner their respect and trust, they will begin to look for ways to help you achieve your vision and goals without having to ask them, or with very little push back.
Some practical ways to gain employee buy in, include
- Create and communicate a clear vision.
- Show your team that you are there to serve them and you are genuinely concerned with them and their well being.
- Be an example of what you expect them to become.
- Spend time working shoulder to shoulder with every single one of your staff.
- Do not ask them to do anything that they have not SEEN you do yourself.
- Push away all credit and praise from yourself and give it to the crew.
Experienced Manager, New Crew?
This next section will be directed to a manager who has already gained experience being a manager and a leader, but is transferring locations, being promoted, or changing jobs completely.
Everything I have mentioned before still applies, however there are some nuances that must be addressed for this precarious situation.
First things first, it is imperative that you immediately set to work acquiring the respect of the existing crew. They don’t know you from a doorknob and often from past experiences will expect very little from you, prove them wrong. Immediately immerse yourself in learning the way things are done here.
A lot of anxiety and hardship can be avoided by learning how things are already done, as opposed to instantaneously making changes before you understand how anything is done.
In a lot of the instances that I’ve been involved in where I come in from the outside rather than being promoted from within, the employees have been through quite a bit of turmoil. Either they’ve been without clear leadership for awhile or they had interim managers that were just there to babysit until their time was up. In either case it is your first task to show them that you are on their side and are here to help them.
The Assistant Manager or Spurned Veteran
This is a person that I have come across in my travels, quite often. This is the person that is five years deep, holds a key and has put in countless hours, sometimes off the clock. This person feels personally attacked by your presence a lot of times. They have been vying for your currently held position for years.
If handled properly, this person can be one of the most hard working and loyal people you will ever meet. If handled improperly, best case scenario they quit. Worst case scenario this person becomes an active saboteur of not only your success, but the success of the group as a whole.
Once again for full disclosure I have been on both ends of this interesting dynamic and let me tell you, do whatever it takes to make this person your friend.
A few simple steps to ensure this person buys in to your leadership,
- This person will complain, a lot. They are hurt and want to vent, listen to them quietly.
- They will more than likely inadvertently confide in you in an attempt to show you their vast knowledge and understanding of the way things are run and who are the best employees. Once again, listen quietly and avoid pissing contests as much as possible.
- Give them tasks that to complete that will allow them to show off their experience and then give them the positive praise and feedback that they are craving.
- Strategically confide in them some of your own vague concerns to show this person that you understand that everyday is not gumdrops and unicorn farts and that you feel comfortable enough to open up and be vulnerable to them.
- Even if you are wholly responsible for the success of a particular task, event or project and this person helped in the slightest way on it, publicly praise them and thank them for being so helpful. Gush a little if you feel it’s necessary.
- Refer to them as a manager in front of other staff, customers, and so on, omit the “assistant” part of their title.
- As much as possible be the strong, silent type. Keep your thoughts to yourself unless they NEED to be shared.
- When you make a mistake or hurt this person APOLOGIZE WITHOUT DELAY.
Several things to avoid
- Do NOT immediately begin asserting your dominance. This will do nothing but alienate the person that could be your right hand and the rest of your staff.
- Do NOT join in with their complaining about the company or the district manager or owner. This will only add gas to the fire that is this person’s bad attitude.
- Do NOT publicly shame or chastise this person. There is no faster way to lose any hopes of gaining their respect or support.
- Do NOT complain about this person to any of the other staff. Likely they have been friends for years and I PROMISE your trash talk will get back to them.
- Do NOT relegate this person to menial or “degrading” tasks, such as cleaning the toilets, or wiping the front doors down in an attempt to put them in their place.
- Do NOT lose your temper with this person. At this junction they need strong leadership that they know can be counted on. Anger will destroy the bedrock of trust that you are trying to build here.
- Do NOT let yourself be too lenient with this person either. While they need to know that you will not be a tyrant they do need to know that you are in charge and will hold them accountable to do their job just like everyone else.
Stepping into a management role for the first time, or becoming a new leader to a new group of people can be delicate and stressful. If you will humble yourself and be a servant leader you will not only establish your authority, you will solidify it. Show your team that you will be the rock that anchors them in the middle of a storm and you will encourage them to push themselves farther than they thought they could go.