When you become a manager, you're suddenly navigating unfamiliar territory. The key to success in your new role is treating everything as a learning opportunity, especially any mistakes you may make along the way. Learning as you go is what allows you to hone your managerial skills and become an established leader who is respected by your team.
These five entrepreneurs remember how it feels to be a new manager. Below, they reflect on the biggest no-no's they made early on in their careers, and what you can learn to improve your own managerial style.
Never compromise on cultural fit for new hires.
Hiring is a fundamental managerial responsibility; after all, you wouldn't have any employees to manage if you didn't hire them first. When filling an open position, it's important to look beyond a candidate's skills, and rather at how they will mesh with your culture. Ryan Stoner, group strategy director at independent agency Phenomenon, explains why you need to consider more than just their resume.
"Many times as managers, we try to charge forward from day one: executing our goals as fast as possible with hires who we believe are best suited for the project at hand. But when someone is hired only for their skills and not for their cultural fit, you are sacrificing the future of the company," says Stoner. "It takes a system of people who love working together to produce great long-term results."
Document workflows to ease the onboarding process.
When it comes to onboarding your new hires, the process is simplified by having standard operating procedures and a set plan. That's why Nicole Munoz, founder and CEO of StartRankingNow, an SEO and marketing company, recommends documenting everything from day one.
"Employees come and go; it's a fact that needs to be managed. Having documented workflows in place can help mitigate the fallout when someone leaves a gap in your workforce," Munoz explains. "When there's a plan for others to follow, it helps ease the process of bringing new employees up to speed. That's why it's important to have standard operating procedures defined for every task and process in your business."
Appoint middle management to prioritize your time.
Managing your employees yourself can significantly cut into your time, especially as your company grows. Nicolas Gremion, CEO of free online book platform Free-Ebooks.net, learned the importance of hierarchy when he found that his responsibilities as sole manager were too time consuming.
"I failed to create a proper hierarchy when we launched, which meant that as we grew, I suddenly became the only manager responsible for dozens of employees. This quickly ate up all my time," says Gremion. "My advice: Create a clear-cut hierarchy from the get-go. It will avoid tensions between your team over time and it will allow you to focus on growing the business rather than maintaining it."
Remember that you're their boss, not their friend.
"As a young manager, I avoided confrontation because I wanted my team to like me," says Alexandra Levit, president and founder of consulting firm Inspiration at Work. This likeability element makes it tempting to be more of a friend than a boss, but Levit discovered that this isn't conducive to a productive work environment.
"When team members didn't achieve promised results, I failed to hold them accountable. And I spent so much time cleaning up others' messes that I wasn't able to accomplish my own strategic goals," she says. "New managers should remember why they were put in this role and always think about the organization over their own comfort."
Show your team members that you trust them.
Justin Blanchard, chief marketing officer and co-owner of server solutions company ServerMania, was hesitant to delegate work because he wanted to ensure that it was done right. But doing everything yourself is more than just time consuming; another consequence could be making your team feel as if you don't trust them.
"When I first became a manager, I had difficulty delegating and trusting that the work would get done. As a result, my time was not used well, and my team became frustrated that I wasn't able to trust them," Blanchard says. "In reality, they were perfectly capable and the fault was mine. The solution: Hire good people and give them the space they need to do their best work."