Some people are natural-born leaders while others find their groove after a few stumbling blocks – either way stepping up to a leadership position can be exciting, but daunting at the same time. Our top tips are here to help you make the transition to becoming a manager!

Tips for dealing with the added responsibility:

Going from being responsible for your own workload to being across others can take some adjustment and be hard to get right straight off the bat. Your performance and achievements are now contingent upon your team. This can require a bit of a mindset change to go from being the master of your own destiny to having your success tied into other people’s performance – other people that you are now responsible for!

You’re also under a bigger microscope as a leader – whereas before it may have only been your manager and a few colleagues keeping tabs on everything you say, write, do or don’t do, once you’re in a leadership position your visibility becomes greater and the stakes potentially higher.

Having increased responsibilities as a leader can be one of the biggest challenges of transitioning into a people management role. But thankfully there’re a few tips you can use to help deal with it:

  • Back yourself – you’re in this new position for a reason. It’s perfectly normal to feel a little overwhelmed to begin with, that’s the nature of doing something new. Just because you’re feeling this way doesn’t mean you can’t handle it!
  • Make sure you still take breaks – as a new manager it can be easy to fall into the trap of always being ‘on’ and available to your team, but that’s a fast track to burnout. Make sure you’re still taking your regular breaks and setting time aside to mentally decompress. Another positive is this sets a good example for your team!
  • Get organised – setting aside a small amount of time each day to give yourself a quick overview of what the current priorities are and where people are at with things will go a long way to helping you feel on top of the work programme.
  • Use your support network – you don’t have to deal with this alone. Talking to your own manager, a trusted colleague, friends or family can help you navigate the newness of being a leader.

It can all be a bit of a whirlwind as a first-time manager, especially as the BAU continues regardless of the added responsibility of managing your team’s outputs and the interpersonal dynamics. Make time to take care of your own wellbeing – you can’t be an effective leader when you’re struggling to cope.

Tips for adjusting to changing relationship dynamics:

If you’re transitioning into a leadership role within your current organisation, it can be a challenge to go from being a colleague to a manager. You don’t want to underestimate the changing dynamics if your position becomes elevated – people who previously saw you as an equal may now view you as a boss and won’t be so forthcoming with the social invites or general chit chat. On the other hand, you’ll now be in the know about the new changes, initiatives and team dynamics that are typically reserved for management alone.

Being a manager can be like parenting – as much as you want to be everyone’s friend, sometimes that simply isn’t possible or appropriate. Managers who only care about being liked by their team run the risk of being ineffectual when it comes to getting the best out of their people. Set boundaries, keep in mind that you can’t solve everyone’s personal problems, and while you can do your best to support them, it’s not your role to act as a therapist (unless you are in fact a therapist…).

Whether you’ve been promoted internally or moving into a new organisation, you don’t have to drastically change the way you interact with others, but it is vital that you take the position of leadership seriously. As a manager you may now be privy to information that you wouldn’t have been before, which is hard when it’s something you want to share but can’t. It might be tempting to get a quick win with the team by playing the “I’m just one of you” cards and divulging information that you shouldn’t, but that approach can have serious repercussions for your own career so it’s best to tread cautiously on that front.

It’s also really important to keep things consistent – playing favourites with your direct reports is a fast track to an unhappy team. You don’t have to like people on a personal level to be a good manager to them and respect is never a given, it’s earned. While it’s extremely common for first-time managers to experience imposter syndrome, the worst thing you can do is to try to overcompensate by coming in with all guns blazing. Set the tone from the get-go by clearly setting out what you expect of your team and what they in turn can expect from you. Be approachable, communicative and allow space and options for people to come to you if they need to discuss something in private.

Having regular catchups with your team, both individually and as a group is a great way to stay in the know and build up relationships. The frequency and structure can depend on what makes sense for your team, but having those moments to step away from your workspace and check-in with people are invaluable to being a successful manager.

Tips for upskilling as a manager

Just because you’ve made it to a leadership position doesn’t mean your own development stops here! While some organisations are happy to pay for staff to attend workshops and courses (so it’s definitely worthwhile asking if that’s an option for you), investing in your own development is never a bad thing. Leadership New Zealand have programmes designed around building leadership skills specifically for a New Zealand context and the New Zealand Institute of Management and Leadership has a range of options depending on what you want to work on. There’re lots of different courses and management training providers out there, so it’s worth a google!

Moving into a leadership position can be a scary proposition, but it’s not something that you have to go through alone. The rollercoaster of emotions that every new leader experiences is something all managers can relate to. We have resources to help you navigate hiring, difficult conversations and managing requests from your staff here.

We have more tips to share when it comes to taking the step up to leadership. Keep an eye out for part two next month!

Best wishes,
Kirsty and Nikki

Transitioning to Leadership (Part Two)
Putting candidates at ease during an interview