I have been delivering the Stepping Into Management programme at the University of Liverpool for the last 6 years. It’s one of those assignments that are incredibly fulfilling. People always leave the 2-day programme with much more of an understanding of what it takes to manage people and more self-confidence than they had at the start of the first day.


The career developing course was designed to give people considering a management role the opportunity to understand more about what being a manager involves. It looks at the “doing” of being a manager (the practical day-to-day responsibilities of a management role) and does a little myth-busting at the same time about what managers are not. (They are definitely not magicians having to have an answer for absolutely everything.) It also looks at the “being” and invites participants to do some reflection on their own strengths and softer, yet essential skills. It is often these ‘soft’ skills that make the difference between the effective and not-so-effective manager!


It’s the course I wish I had taken before I stepped into my first management role. Back in the Dark Ages, I had to rely on a selection of rather unhelpful “How to be a Manager” books from WHSmith! They weren’t very good and like most of us, I learnt on the ground. There is nothing wrong with that however having an idea of the basics would have been very helpful.


We’ve just come to the end of another Stepping Into Management programme and this time we invited a past participant back to talk to the group and share what life has been like for her since she attended the course a few years ago. I was delighted to listen to how she had taken away and implemented some of the practical techniques from the course and was using them to develop the team members she now manages. Yes, she stepped into management!


During the Q&A an interesting question was posed. A participant had gone for a job interview for her first management role and been asked “What would your strategy be if you got the job?” She didn’t really understand what the interviewer meant and wanted some advice on how to answer the question.


Here are five things new managers should do when they get the job:

1.  Get to know your people
Building rapport with your people and getting them to trust you takes time yet is essential if you are going to create a team that performs. So in those first few weeks, you want to be investing time to set the foundations for those great working relationships. Be visible and spend some time with them. If you are managing virtually make some time for regular social chat, a virtual coffee in which you spend time getting to know them – not all about doing tasks and getting results. What is their BIG why for showing up each day in the role they are in? What are their aspirations? What support might they need from you?


2. Build the relationship with your own manager
The relationship you have with your manager is not only crucial for you but also your team. There will be times when decisions need to be made outside your authority and you need them on side. Getting to know them and understanding what is important to them about their work and what are their expectations of you is a good starting point? What is the purpose of the team and what are the priorities to be worked on? ‘Design an alliance’ is a coaching technique I use with anyone I worked with or for. It includes some top tips for your manager to help them manage you and fundamentally answers the question “For us to get the best out of each other – how are we going to work together?” It saves a lot of hassle further down the road and can be something that can be revisited through the life cycle of your role and professional relationship.


3. Take your time
Rome wasn’t built in a day! Before you start making plans for change, spend time getting to understand your role and responsibilities, the team and its dynamics, the history, the culture, what is working well. A team with a new manager can often feel unsettled in those early days so you need to be doing all you can to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels safe and their contribution matters.


4. Look after your own wellbeing
Whatever you do to keep well then do more of it. If you don’t put on your own oxygen mask and do those things that keep you well then you can’t be there for others. Sleep, nutrition, time for family and friends, exercise – whatever it is that has you relax and switch off, schedule it in your diary and have a plan for it. I see so many people having unrealistic expectations of themselves trying to be perfect and working 24/7. Are you being your own best friend? New roles have steep learning curves. It’s normal so don’t expect to have it all sussed by the end of the first week.


5. Ask for help
Get some support. If you have never managed before, get some training arranged before you start applying for roles, or in those first few months, find a mentor. Someone with experience who can offer you some practical advice and guidance about being a manager. Working with a coach can help you develop your leadership skills and build your confidence. With many businesses now seeing the business advantages of supporting first-time or early career managers into new roles it is always worth asking and maybe building that into a development plan.


If you just stepped into a new management or leadership role or you are looking to support somebody who has and feel you would benefit from some support then please get in touch.

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