The Many Challenges of a First Time Manager and How to Address Them

The Many Challenges of a First Time Manager and How to Address Them

Check it out what you will find on this article about being a first time manager:

 

It’s an ordinary morning. You turn on your computer as you sip your coffee. As you scroll through your emails, one mail catches your eye. It should since it’s from a long time client and the title reads “Will you like to come on board full time?” The company is offering an attractive pay, great benefits and you can work from home, if you so choose. Your shock turns to disbelief which gives way to euphoria as you realize you won’t have to live paycheck to paycheck. But, as the reality sinks in, you realize you know nothing about being a first time manager. 

Suddenly, a myriad of questions start flooding your mind…

  • How do I manage a team? 
  • How will the deadlines work now?
  • Am I a tad too sarcastic to work with a team?
  • What happens if there’s a conflict?
  • Is this new position anything like my last job?
  • Will I need to give up on my other regular freelancing clients?
 
 

The challenges mentioned here are quite “timeless” and managers have been facing them for a while now. However, millennial leaders are going to face new issues that are triggered due to democratization of the workplace. Here are a few ideas to get you started…

Challenges You’re Likely to Face

It’s only natural for a first time manager to get cold feet when confronted with a big new step. That being said, there are ways you can prepare yourself for your new role and ease into it. The better you prepare yourself in the beginning, the easier you will find your day to day activities. Let’s start with a list of problems that first time managers are known to face.

Thinking everyone will just obey them

It’s easy to think that now you’re a manager (read Boss), everyone who reports to you will automatically respect you. Oh, if only that were true! People know better than to trust a label and respect capability, not rank. In other words, your first order of business will be to prove yourself which is why your first two weeks will be quite important. There are a few things you will need to gauge before moving forward. More on this later. 

Not understanding the change in relationship

If you have worked with the people you have suddenly become boss of, they will now look at you differently. Even if you were on friendly terms with them (and you definitely should), your new role requires you to direct them which puts you in a position of authority. 

Your once-coworkers will also wonder how this change in roles will affect their existence. For instance, some of them may wonder if they shared something with you that can jeopardise their position? Some of them may feel let down for having been passed on and so on. 

Freelancers becoming first time managers can no doubt go on being friendly with their coworkers. However, it’s best if they didn’t become friends with them as doing so can put them into a compromising position where they will be asked for favors that could potentially hurt team performance.

Thinking your personal management ways will suffice

Many freelancers love the idea of designing their own routines and experimenting with them. However, working with a team requires one to make compromises and adapt to other people’s schedules in asymmetrical ways. The good news is that you probably are already a master of doing this. Freelancers are experts at managing different projects and clients and sticking with different schedules. Becoming first time managers though, many of us start to look for new ways to do things, never realizing we already have the skills needed to make things work. 

Micromanaging

We’re all guilty of it at some point of time or another. Micromanaging stems from a deep seated fear of failure. Since this is your first shot at proving yourself, it would only be natural to make it go as perfectly as possible. The result is constantly looking into each and every person’s each and every task to make sure it fits your version of perfect. 

Says Ron Ashkenas in his article – “None of the senior managers found this process productive, and they knew that their people complained about being “micromanaged to death.” At the same time, none of them felt accountable for having created this problem. Somehow this burdensome, costly culture of micromanagement happened unintentionally.” 

One of the primary reasons why people micromanage is that they think their own idea of how the end product should look like is the only right one. Learning to add a little bit of diversity to your own views and accepting the fact that other people can just as easily have ideas just as if not better than you can help you avoid this dreaded trap that almost every first time manager falls for. 

Not communicating enough

Even as a freelancer, you’d have had clients that you wished were clearer with what they wanted. Becoming a first time manager puts you on the other side of the fence and letting assumptions going astray. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s also quite easy to have said a lot without really having said anything.

 

Managers really have to be masters of explaining things completely and should always be available to answer questions. Your team members will respond to how you exercise your authority. It’s best to present yourself as an approachable person who’s there to help, rather than an overbearing boss who’s trying to get as much out of his/her team as possible. 

How a First Time Manager Can Gauge their New Territory and Settle In

While the challenges facing a first time manager are no doubt daunting, they are not insurmountable. Taking one step at a time and understanding the lay of the land before taking decisions can help you navigate your new terrain. Here are a few things to look out for when starting out…

How is each team member’s attendance: Do all the team members come to office and are they available for team meetings? Identify the ones that don’t show up or are late. You will need to help the absentees up their game and find ways to improve their performance. You can measure your team’s absenteeism rate and how often certain members tend to miss out on work. More often than not, late to work also translates to poor general productivity. 

Understanding the drivers of what’s causing absenteeism can help you discover your team’s emotional quotient. Quite often, there will be cultural issues that are causing interpersonal clashes. If certain people are failing at a task or are known to come up with overarching theories, then it’s entirely possible they may be subjected to ridicule and bullying. The bottomline is, any lapses in productivity aren’t problems in themselves, but are usually symptoms of deeper issues. 

How satisfied are your clients: No amount of technical ingenuity and productivity gains can make up for a dissatisfied customer. Use surveys, questionnaires or just ring up your clients to gauge how happy they are with your team’s performance. There are a few things you should consider when designing feedback forms. The long and short of it is – keep it simple, to the point and go after information that you need to improve performance. 

 

How engaged is each team member: Communication is a great indicator of how engaged your team is. The best way to measure each team member’s engagement is to use an Employee Net Promoter Score, or, eNPS. An eNPS tries to ascertain how satisfied each employee is and how likely are they to recommend their own product/service to their friends and family. There are quite a few great templates that you can use here. But feel free to design your own. An NPS will segregate its respondents into promoters (employees that are actively engaged), passives (those who are neither for nor against) and detractors (employees that are dissatisfied). 

Playing the Balancing Game

A manager is essentially an interpreter between a client and a team. Not only do you have to understand what the client really wants, but also explain it to your team. But you also need to convey your team’s interpretations, findings, opinions and recommendations to your client such that the best possible outcome can be attained. 

Balancing client expectations with your team’s capacity is indeed quite like walking a tightrope and is a leadership soft skill that you will need to master. Oftentimes, your client(s) will place unrealistic expectations or your team may be apprehensive on delivery when they have no reason to worry. In such situations it’s always best to try and find the most efficient solution. 

The best managers also try and stay ahead of their problems instead of constantly trying to play catch up with them. Try and come up with as many what if scenarios that could potentially derail your team’s progress. Creating contingencies in the form of policies, procedures and processes against said scenarios will both help you add value to your organization and make your life as a first time manager a lot easier.

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