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Tips for First-Time Managers: How to Lead Effectively

Welcome to the world of management. It is a world unlike any you have experienced so far in your working life. And although your official job title may be “manager” or “supervisor,” your true title is “people leader.” My experience working with diverse teams, organizations, and people has taught me that people cannot really be managed, nor do they want to be. Work gets managed, processes get managed, systems get managed, but people need and want to be led.

Managers believe that personal and team results come from their individual efforts. Leaders, in contrast, understand that their personal results are achieved primarily because of their team members’ efforts.

Below are some tips that would have made me and my teams more effective had I known (or embraced) them at the start of my leadership journey:

1. Exude Confidence. I encourage you to exercise caution with this tip, depending where you are on the confidence scale. When I was assigned my first management role, I was a bit overconfident. I was sure I knew everything and was better than everyone on my team. But that attitude was not confidence, it was arrogance—and it was my way of covering up the insecurity I was feeling around my new role. Truly exuding confidence starts with recognizing those insecurities. As a first-time manager, you should have fear and doubt about leading people. It is not something that comes naturally. And as with all fears, the best way to get through them is to take action outside of your comfort zone. Exercise faith that you can be a fantastic leader, and be willing to learn and embrace new approaches.

2. Be adaptable and collaborate. You most likely have been promoted into the role of management for your stellar job performance—but you cannot rely solely on your own performance when you’re leading people. As a leader, in order to achieve the most effective results, you must be adaptable and collaborate with your team members. So you have to earn your team’s trust—and one of the quickest ways to do this is to be adaptable and collaborate. Let go of your agenda and learn from your team members. Adapt your style to meet their needs, not the other way around. Be interested in getting their ideas on what is working and what could be improved. And when you receive their feedback, implement their ideas.

3. Use your new power wisely. Even if you are a bit scared, your new title can trick you into feeling an inflated sense of power—but I encourage you to use the power you do have very wisely. In fact, I want to give you a new definition of power, borrowed from the world of fitness: strength plus speed equals power. This means that power really starts from a position of strength—and since you are leading a group of people now, you must make sure that your entire team moves from a position of strength. To do this, you must be very clear on the intentions you have and the outcomes you wish your team to achieve. It’s also important to examine and value-check your current processes and policies (people often get blamed for poor performance when in fact there is a policy or process in place that is preventing them from achieving great results). Lastly, assign the right work to the right people. Make sure your team members are in roles that will make the best use of their skill sets and talents.

These recommendations are just the “tips” of the iceberg of leading people. However, when mastered and embraced, they can set your journey on the right track!

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