Career & Jobs

Tips For New Managers: Stick With The Basics

Are you a new manager?

Then you’ve already discovered that your new role is not just a pumped up version of individual contributor. You’re still expected to “produce,” but much of your performance will now be measured by the success of the people who report to you.

If your organization is like most, you didn’t receive much (if any) formal preparation for your new position. But you’re still expected to operate in ways that enable (and even inspire) your teammates to do their best work.

Peter Economy gets it. He works with business people around the world and he sees every kind of workplace situation you might imagine. He’s the author of Wait, I’m the Boss?!? The Essential Guide for New Managers to Succeed from Day One.

In the first part of this conversation (see “So You’re Suddenly A Manager? Here’s What To Do”), Peter talked about the common challenges (and opportunities) facing new managers. Here he addresses the issues of trust, meeting behaviors, and employee engagement.

Rodger Dean Duncan: What can a new manager do to enhance trust and collaboration among team members?

Peter Economy: Trust is one of the most important things that any manager—new or veteran—needs to build and nurture within their teams. Unfortunately, in a study cited a decade ago by Stephen M.R. Covey, only 49% of employees trust senior management and only 28% believe CEOs are a credible source of information. I don’t know that the situation is any better today. Managers build trust by consistently walking the talk, making sure their actions speak louder than their words, and delivering on their promises.

Duncan: Most people agree that meetings can be a significant time-waster. How can a manager ensure that meetings are both time- and purpose-effective?

Economy: The problem with many meetings is that they are unnecessary. So, the first thing any manager should do is be sure that there’s really a need for the meeting at all. If not, then cancel it. 

If there is a need, then there are a variety of techniques to ensure that you get the most out of it. Invite only the people who really need to be in the meeting and no more than that. Email an agenda for the meeting 24 hours in advance and start and end the meeting on time. Come prepared for the meeting and insist that other attendees are also prepared for it. Ban smartphones and stay on topic.

Duncan: You quote Simon Sinek as saying “A boss has the title, a leader has the people.” What specific behaviors and mindsets distinguish a leader from a boss?

Economy: In my experience, the very best leaders stand out from the crowd. They have the ability to inspire their people with a compelling vision of the future, they sincerely listen to employees—and respond sincerely and positively to their suggestions and input, adopting them whenever possible—they create a culture of experimentation and constant improvement where mistakes aren’t hidden and everyone learns from them, and they build the kind of company that people want to work for and do business with. 

As Sinek says, leaders really do have the people—the hearts of their people.

Duncan: What’s the key to delegating in a manner that builds two-way confidence and produces the best performance?

Economy: The classic definition of management is “getting things done through others.” When you delegate tasks to others in your organization—your employees—you multiply your own effectiveness, both as a manager and as a leader. Not only that, but your people have the opportunity to learn and master the skills they need to progress in their own careers. 

The secret to good delegation that builds two-way confidence and produces the best performance is delegate a small amount of authority and responsibility to start, then increase these as your people become more confident in their own abilities. Keep close tabs on performance and coach and support your employees as they improve.

Duncan: How can a manager be most effective in helping people feel significantly “engaged” in the organization’s mission and in their personal contribution to it?

Economy: I believe the best way for managers to help employees feel engaged in the organization’s mission is to regularly show them how their personal contributions move the needle. For example, if your company’s mission is to provide customers with the highest-quality products available anywhere, explain to your employees—in one-on-one and group meetings—how what they do in their job plays a role in providing customers with the highest-quality products. 

Everyone in an organization plays a role in the organization’s success, even if it’s an indirect one. For example, the receptionist or accounting clerk. But managers can help their people feel more engaged in the organization’s mission by enabling them to see and better understand how what they do plays a role in it.

Duncan: What’s the one thing managers should place most focus on today?

Economy: In these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever that managers have integrity. I personally believe that, in business, you’re only as good as your reputation. Having a good reputation is key to building trust with your people, and ultimately, creating the foundation for a successful, satisfying, and long-lasting career.

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