New managers need all the help they can get, but what is the first thing they should master?
Carol Walker, president of Boston-based management consulting firm Prepared to Lead, writes in Harvard Business Review about how new managers need to build their own philosophy right from the get-go.
Chances are that they may become overwhelmed by "juggling conflicting demands, delivering difficult messages, and addressing performance problems" in the first week. But Walker says if they have a clear philosophy, it will help them have "a firm foundation from which to operate." Below, check out advice you can pass on to your company's new managers to help them feel comfortable in their role.
A philosophy isn't just for philosophers
If you think having a philosophy is only for the likes of Plato, Kant, and Nietzsche, you're thinking too hard. "With respect to your career, a philosophy is simply a cohesive way of thinking about your role," Walker writes. By taking time to build your own philosophy, you will save yourself time and energy in the long run. "Most managers live in a reactive mode, responding to issues on the basis of gut feelings, past experiences, and examples set by others," she says. But if you have your own "core philosophy," it will "help guide you through the day-to-day and the job's tougher moments."
Practice servant leadership to build influence
New managers might want to flex their muscles, but you should teach them the finer point of "servant leadership," Walker says. Coined by Robert Greenleaf, servant leadership is more powerful than the name reveals--it's a style that has "the potential to deliver far more of what most of us are really after: influence," she writes.
The idea behind servant leadership is to stop thinking it's all about you. This shift in perspective will be noticed by the employees. "Removing self-interest and personal glory from your motivation on the job is the single most important thing you can do to inspire trust," she says. "When you focus first on the success of your organization and your team, it comes through clearly. You ask more questions, listen more carefully, and actively value others' needs and contributions. The result is more thoughtful, balanced decisions."
Employees don't work for you
The first step in taking in this leadership style, Walker explains, is to "stop thinking that your employees work for you." Instead, realize that they work for the company and for themselves. "Your role as servant is to facilitate the relationship between each employee and the organization," she writes. "Ask yourself, 'What will it take for this employee to be successful in this relationship?' And 'What does the organization need to provide in order to hold up its end of the bargain?' When these questions drive your thinking, you advance both parties' interests."
Don't assign work haphazardly
When assigning work, you need to bear in mind how it will "facilitate an individual's success within the organization," Walker explains. Think about the company's goals and the employee's goals, talent, and skills. If employees are forced to do work that's a waste of their talent, they will either lose their motivation and resent you or leave the company.
"An employee who understands why she has been asked to do something is far more likely to assume true ownership for the assignment," Walker says. "When she owns it, you become more guide than director. You ask how you can support her and how she would like to report progress rather than tell her these things. An employee who believes her boss understands her strengths, values her input, and encourages her growth is likely to stick around for the long term."
You have only one true agenda
At its core, your role is very simple: Enable each employee to succeed. Not only will your employees trust you, but they will also accomplish a lot more if you get out of their way and assist them in getting things done. "When your only agenda is setting someone else up for success, your words tend to be received more openly," Walker writes. "True upset happens when either party's interests are allowed to suffer over time without intervention. It must be the manager's primary concern to balance those interests."