Tips for First-Time Managers from Women Who Have Been There Before

I’ll always remember the first time I was introduced as someone’s boss. I was at our company holiday party, and it’s how my direct report introduced me to her guest. I’d been working with her for a few months, but that’s when it really sunk in: she was my responsibility. I was suddenly in the shoes of the managers who had come before me, and, those were some big, fancy shoes to fill.

Being a manager is a tremendous responsibility that’s not always fun or easy. It is, however, the most fulfilling part of my job. I love the science of marketing, and creating strategy from scratch, but from job to job, the aspect of which I am most proud is helping my team members find purpose in their roles and achieve success.

Good managing requires a few key ingredients: time and practice, and the desire and dedication to deliver for your team. If time isn’t on your side, tap into your will to be the World’s Best Boss with advice from your fellow managers and team members.

tips for managers

Admit you’re still learning, and ask a lot questions

New managers may feel pressure to suddenly know everything about their company, or at least know more than the people on their team. In reality, one reason teams are stronger than individuals, is that together, we harness collective power and knowledge. To be an effective leader, the first thing you can do is to admit that you don’t know it all. Start by asking a lot of questions. What does your team care about? What you can do to help?

“I transitioned a year ago to being a manager and one of my big goals is to understand what is important to my team, to better facilitate a work/life balance,” explains consultant Sarah Stanley. Asking a lot of questions is the best way for you to get to know your team, and for them to get to know you.

Don’t be afraid to love your job

Great leaders inspire amazing work by oozing passion and excitement for what they do. We want to work for leaders who are living and working with purpose. You chose your job and industry for a reason; if that drive is still alive, don’t be scared to share it with your direct reports.

Sarah Foote is a Brand Experience Designer in industrial manufacturing, with a highly motivating manager. “She is beyond passionate about her job, and pushes you to think, strategize and generate ideas,” says Foote. “She makes you feel part of the big decision making processes, and gives her team credit to her superiors or coworkers.” 

Establish consistent communication patterns

Set expectations with your direct reports about when and how to communicate. Establishing good practices at the onset will hold you accountable as a manager, and will help your directs know what they should ask for from you.

“I’m given space to come up with ideas but given guidance to stay in the right lanes,” says Foote, whose manager is consistently communicative, even with small details, and looks out for her, always checking in when she has a lot going on. 

When you have a new team member, set up time to onboard them to you as a manager, just like you would if you were training them to do a task. Work together to declare a cadence for check-in meetings and progress reports. Set aside time to discuss work and projects, as well as to talk development and performance

Recognize that there is more than one way to be right

There is subjectivity in the work most of us do, whether that’s writing articles, creating pitch decks, constructing lesson plans, etc. It is crucial to recognize that our teams will not always be able to read our minds and produce exactly what we expect. However, that doesn’t mean their take isn’t just as effective.

“One thing that was tough for me initially was understanding that I can give someone instructions and have a vision in my mind, but there is more than one way to correctly meet my instructions,” says Stanley, who would sometimes receive assignments that didn’t match her vision, before realizing that there were other ways to achieve the goal. “After digging in deeper, I realized it was good work and a starting point for an even better collaborative vision.”

Demonstrate that you care about your team as people, not just employees

We see the people we work with as much as, if not more than, our families. Since we’re spending all of this time together, managers should make an effort to get to know their teams on a human level.

“I love that my managers actually care to get to know me and are just plain thoughtful,” says Natalia Lee, a marketing and sales coordinator in the urban agriculture industry. Lee comments that she notices when her managers ask about her accomplishments outside of work, like competing in a triathlon, and sending her care packages for her birthday. “Care goes a long way,” she says.

Take cues from your company culture on how to keep team bonding professional and as needed, draw boundaries between friendship and management. 

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About Emily Baseman

Emily Baseman considers herself a fitness generalist. A firm believer that wellness is found by giving your body what it deserves, she is dedicated to working out regularly, drinking lots of water, and eating plenty of vegetables. From barre to HIIT to yoga to cycling, Emily loves to work up a sweat running around to take in a little bit of everything. She is a midwestern transplant to Washington, DC, currently working, cooking, and exploring the fitness scene in our nation's capital. By day, Emily helps social impact brands and nonprofits use social media to tell their philanthropic stories. She's obsessed with her dog, Bascom, red wine, and cheese of all kinds.