Essential Skills For First Time Managers

Robin Schwartz

Essential Skills For First Time Managers

Leading a team or department for the first time can be a daunting prospect for many people. You are responsible for the success of your own position. You are tasked with ensuring operations run smoothly within the team, goals are met, and staff excel and thrive under your supervision.

While managers should continue to grow their skills over time, there are essential skills every first-time manager should possess.

Expert Knowledge

Any team you lead will need to feel confident in your ability to lead. This includes your experience and value in the industry.

Even if you are a first time manager, bringing expert knowledge of your field to your direct reports will be respected and appreciated.

Employees want to feel confident that their manager can lead the team within the vision or mission of the organization.

Strong Communication

Communicating, both verbally and in writing, will be an important part of the job.

Managers will not only need to make sure that they are passing down necessary information to their staff, but they will need to ensure that the staff understands the information.

Strong communication lies in the ability to explain and disseminate information as well as the forethought to request regular feedback and interpret the responses.

First time managers will also need to be able to communicate with organizational leadership.

If the idea of recommending a process change or offering constructive organizational feedback to someone in a higher-level position worries you, it’s important to develop the ability to do so.

Professional communications courses or materials will help you navigate multi-directional communication styles you will need to master to be successful in your role.

Ability To Listen

Listening is one of the most important skills a manager can possess, no matter his/her years of experience. Employee engagement hangs heavily on whether or not direct reports feel heard and valued in the workplace.

New managers also face the challenge of picking up where someone left off. As you join your new team, asking the right questions and really listening to the answers will be an essential step in earning your employee’s trust.

New managers will be able to learn a lot about the challenges a team is facing by listening to the employees.

Active listening is also a skill new managers should develop.

Active listening is a communication technique, which requires the listener to provide feedback to the speaker and restate what they heard in their own words.

It allows for open dialog between the two parties in conflict and often results in the parties “feeling heard” as their issues and concerns are paraphrased back to them.

Active listening enforces how critical it is to pay attention to others when they are speaking or communicating with you to avoid misunderstandings.

This technique can be used by two colleagues or by a supervisor trying to address issues or conflict for employees. Active listening encourages employees to communicate:

  • Issues
  • Thoughts
  • Concerns and Feelings

Conflict Resolution

Managing employees comes with workplace conflicts. There will be a time when co-workers do not get along or when you are having a conflict.

Knowing how to handle workplace conflicts with basic mediation skills is a necessity. Managers who avoid conflict because it’s “uncomfortable” will continue to have friction within their team.

Part of being a good manager is understanding when to ask for help and who to ask.

Occasionally, workplace conflicts grow too big for one person to handle or for one person to approach unbiasedly.

New managers should be aware of the resources within their organization to assist staff in conflict. This may be a HR representative or even a formal mediation process staff can be recommended to.

Organizational Planning

Direct reports will look to the manager to make sure the long-term success of a team or department. This will require first time managers to focus on the strategic “big picture” of the team and develop plans to:

  • help staff grow
  • expand their roles
  • increase their profits
  • etc

Organizational planning involves the ability to put the right people in the right jobs to get the most out of the team. Sometimes this means making hard decisions like denying promotions or putting staff on performance improvement plans.

New managers should have the ability to visualize what the team needs to drive improvement and growth.

While not a skill, new managers need to remember how important equality is within a team and organization.

One of the ways to ensure you succeed as a new manager is by not showing bias or favoritism in the workplace. Remain as fair as possible when it comes to your staff. What you permit for one employee, you should be able to permit for all employees.

When it comes to salary and raises, equality and fairness plays a huge part. Monetary incentives should be based off performance rather than the person to avoid any unfairness.

No matter how fair you feel you are, managers will eventually face adversity or conflict. Having the skills to address the issues that arise will allow you to succeed.

About The Author

Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz has nearly a decade of experience providing HR expertise to employees and management in higher education. Her broad experience includes benefits, compensation, performance management, employee relations, payroll, talent acquisition and management. She received her masters degree from American Military University and maintains a PHR certification.

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