Early in my business career, I noticed an interesting phenomenon: quite often, the first time I would bump one of my individual contributors up to a manager level, they struggled in the area of managing their team. Of course, this is to be expected to some degree; they're now being asked to fill a role that requires a completely different skill set. It's easy to see how they might feel a little out of their element.
But after watching this happen with several new managers, I decided to take action. After each promotion, I talk to the individual about what the job truly entails. In our conversations, I explain a four-step process that I personally run through when delegating to my own teams.
Below, I've laid out the same four steps so you can have similar conversations with your own employees. Notice that each one includes both theory as well as the tools/systems that they can apply immediately. I've found this is massively helpful for newly-minted managers; it gives them a process to rely on as they learn to feel comfortable being a leader.
1. Be the Leader: Set Expectations
Great teams are born of great leaders. You're now the shining example for each of your team members. Your team will look to you for answers and direction as they carry out their work. To help steer them straight, set clear expectations in everything you do. Providing hard deadlines and specifications for project work will help your team focus on firm goals. The easier these expectations are to understand, the better. Don't leave any room for misinterpretation.
I've found a great way to ensure understanding is to ask someone to repeat what you've just said back to you in their own words. This is a perfect test of whether they truly understand what you need, or if you need to be clearer.
But you can't be everywhere at once. Outsource your leadership by having employees clearly document their work as they go, especially repetitive or recurring tasks. This makes it easier for the new manager to scale their efforts. Every time he or she adds a new member to their team, they can simply refer them to the documentation instead of overseeing the new hire's every move.
2. Be the Inspector: Ask for What You Expect
In your early months as a new manager, you may need to check in with your team quite frequently. They may not be used to setting and managing goals, and might need a little handholding. You're going to be busy in this new role, so set up a system for regular check-ins with each individual team member.
For example, try scheduling daily 10-minute standups. This way you can check on progress and make sure everyone is on track. Alternatively, you could simply request an end-of-day day email with a quick progress report. You could also (and this is one of my favorites) ask team members to share their results with you after completing the first 10 percent of a new project. This lets you double-check that they're moving in the right direction.
As with setting expectations, try to reduce the time investment here as much as possible. Set up your workflow so you can inspect progress unobtrusively. Shared Google Docs and Sheets are great ways to do this, as are group collaboration tools like JIRA. By having hands-off inspection options, you can keep tabs on your team without wasting too much of their time--or yours.
3. Be the Coach: Offer Feedback and Mentoring
Just checking in with your employees will only get you so far. To have the greatest effect, use the results of your inspections to put together actionable feedback. This helps you shape your employees' progress and growth.
As always, I suggest having established systems and routines in place. Try scheduling individual one-on-ones with your team members to give them your feedback. Or, if that feels too formal, take them out to lunch and let them know how they're doing so far.
4. Be the Judge: Give Rewards and Consequences
Ideally, each of your team members is at the top of their game, giving 110 percent. But that's often not the case. From time to time, you'll need to motivate employees to get back on track or apply themselves a little more seriously.
As a manager, it's up to you to dole out punishment when necessary. If you're conflict-averse, this may be one of the toughest components of the job. Bear in mind, though, that it's essential for keeping your team in line. Nobody wants to work with poor performers. One bad apple can quickly spoil the bunch. As soon as you notice an employee underperforming, take action. It's up to you to keep everyone on task, as you alone are responsible for every member on your team.
Being a manager doesn't have to mean hard-line discipline -- you'll see great results from offering rewards for great behavior. At MaxCDN, we encourage managers to take the team paintballing, go-karting, out to dinner, or even just offering a cash bonus. Incentives work great, and you should use them in combination with explaining the consequences if your team doesn't deliver.
Why Does This Work?
It's easy to forget that by promoting a new manager, you're asking someone to fill a role they may have no previous experience with. It's possible they have no idea what's expected of them, or how to even manage a group of human beings. These steps form a loop that your employee can fall back on if stuck.
Soon, they'll be putting their own systems in place -- their own checks and balances -- and even discover how and when to discipline an employee. It's a lot of responsibility, but by talking to them about the role in detail, you can help them understand what it takes to be a capable and effective leader much quicker.