Advice for First-Time Managers From First-Time Managers

Advice for First-Time Managers From First-Time Managers

Today’s post is written by Jennifer King. Jennifer is an HR Analyst at Software Advice, a company that reviews recruiting and employee appraisal software. She blogs about technology, trends, and best practices in human resources and recruiting. Read the rest of her tips for first-time managers on her HR blog.

Congratulations! You’ve finally been promoted to “manager.” While the bump in salary and new job title are nice, you now have heaps of responsibility you didn’t have before. As a manager, part of your new job is being responsible for the growth and well-being of an entire team.

You may be crying for help at this point. I spoke with a few recently-appointed managers and an executive coach to get their words of wisdom and advice for first-time managers.

1) Find Out What They Want

One of your new responsibilities as a manager is helping your direct reports reach their career goals. Have that discussion up front and start with a few questions such as, what are your career goals? How can I help you get there? What do you want out of this job?

According to Deirdre Walsh, senior social media manager for Jive Software, “if you start by understanding the career goals and plans for each person, that will help you make better decisions that will benefit the company and the individual.”

When Walsh started managing her team of two back in November 2011, she took as much time as possible up front to get to know her people. By building a relationship with her team early on, she felt better prepared to address business needs as they related to her group.

2) Become the Best Listener

Knowing how to really to listen to your team will be critical as you spend more time with them one-on-one. Cheryl McMillan, an executive coach for Vistage, said “if this is the only skill a manager has, he or she will progress farther than anyone else.” 

But along with that comes restraint and the ability to listen without assuming you know the right answer right away, according to Mike Lee, assistant branch manager for a staffing and recruiting firm. He says new managers should “strive to truly listen during discussions rather than prepare in your mind what you will say next.”

3) Know You Won’t Be Awesome at First

You were probably promoted to “manager” because you have the most experience on your team, you’re a star performer and you have great people skills. While these are all important traits for new managers to have, chances are you won’t actually be good at management in the beginning. But that’s okay. In most cases, new managers need training and development just like any new hire within a company.

“Some people can be good at it right away,” said McMillan. “But there’s a big misconception that people can do this stuff naturally. Management is really a science and an art. People need basic knowledge first and then practice.”

New managers can get a jump start on training by building out a solid plan with development goals and consistent performance reviews. This a great way to assess progress during the first few months on the job.

What advice do you have for first-time managers?

Photo Credit: Victor1558



About Anna Runyan

Anna Runyan has been helping women get their careers unstuck since 2008. She is known for “The Love Your Career Formula” which helps women find new careers they LOVE in 90 days or less and “The Corporate Rescue Plan” which helps women ditch their day jobs and start profitable, freedom-based online businesses in 90 days. Make sure you sign up for her Free ‘CHEAT SHEET’– 7 proven steps to get out of a job you hate and into a career you love.


  1. Excellent advice, Jennifer and Anna! Even though I don’t think I have the “boss” gene, articles like this make me appreciate my own manager more, considering all she has on her plate.

    I also know I don’t ever want to tangle with the woman in your pic up above. She looks tough!

  2. Expect that you will very likely run into HR-type situations that you have no clue how to handle at first. Your reports will respect you more and appreciate you more in the long run if you sit back and say: I don’t know the answer right now, but let me do some research/look into this and find out.

    In my first year managing a large team, I had every possible situation in my lap, including: rebellious legacy staff, hiring new staff, resolving issues not of my making, those of my making, and sorting out everything in between, and even threats made against me. In every situation, keeping a cool head without taking it personally in front of the staff was the first absolute key to success. The second was walking away to get the back up and the information I needed to handle it – not just in the legal sense or the correctness sense, but in the cultural sense. I knew what I would have done, and I was fairly certain that I knew what the legal and HR aspects were but I also needed to confirm that my read on the culture of the company and the acceptance of my actions there would be in alignment as well.

    In almost direct contradiction to the above, there were a few things I did that were in direct opposition to the existing culture of the company at the time but I knew why I was doing it and it was to eliminate any further festering of the lingering bad funk that I’d been hired in to fix. That was a deliberate action and worked out quite well but I had to have my boss’s full support (even when behind closed doors, he was worried about it, he still supported me in front of everyone else).

    Making sure that you DO have your boss’s support is pretty huge, too. :)

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