Most first-time managers have specific tasks they need to get accomplished, and often their first job is to change their mindset from “How can I do this?” to “How can I help my team do this?” They must work to change their actions and attitude from that of an individual player to an effective coach and supervisor.
To succeed at this, focus on the three crucial “W’s”:
What – Explain every task to your team succinctly and clearly. Then get your people to play it back to you to ensure that they understand exactly what has to be done. If it’s a group task, lay out who does what and how the pieces and parts come together. Carefully discuss the sequence of actions and point out the dependencies and contingencies. Be sure your team understands each person’s role and how the pieces come together to form a cohesive whole.
Draw the project out, step by step. Don’t assume everyone gets it, because someone won’t. Try to leave hardly any room for interpretation, since there’s always someone willing to shirk or skimp. And as things move forward, keep everyone informed of timelines and the progress to date.
When – You will never succeed as a manager if you can’t meet deadlines and budgets. Finding ways to get more done in less time is a big part of your job. This means understanding your team’s abilities and handing off assignments to those best suited to handle them. It also means that you must know your people well enough to know which kind of motivation works for each person. Some workers thrive with deadlines. Others freak out. You must know who reacts each way and hand out the work to suit them.
Why – You also need to know why the timing is what it is — and be able to explain it to others. If it’s a rush, your people have the right to know why. If it’s complicated, your people need to know all the nuances. If there are serious consequences for good or bad, your team has to know what they are. And if the reason is bogus, it’s your job respond to those who decided on the timeline. You must manage your reports, keep them informed, find ways to motivate them, and keep them as happy as you can.
A vital component of team happiness is knowledge and context. Nobody wants to feel out of the loop or that they are doing the job of a robot. It’s your job as supervisor to clue the team in on what they are doing, where it fits into the bigger picture, why it matters, and how it contributes to the overall company mission.
Everybody craves information and context. It’s your job to create this information, even (or maybe especially) if you work in a close-lipped or dysfunctional firm. Most people work to help their teammates and to please their boss. Be the kind of boss that engenders good will and affection by letting your people know what you know.
Being a front-line, first-time manager is about transforming yourself and relating one-on-one to your team. What, When and Why are the fundamental building blocks of those relationships.