TEN TOP TIPS : First time managers

Becoming manager is cause for celebration – it shows that you’re good at your job and are recognised as leader. But it also means you now have to carefully consider what kind of manager you’re going to be. Managers, through their attitudes and behaviour, can dramatically affect staff motivation and morale. Global research into what affects employee performance has management behaviour consistently ranking high. In one survey 43 percent of respondents said employees’ relationship with their managers had the greatest impact on job satisfaction. Research has also identified key behaviours and attitudes that can help you become the kind of manager employees trust and respect, and who they will work hard for.

1) To gain trust, show trust
To earn your staff’s loyalty and high regard, you must show you trust them and are confident in their abilities. This means that when mistakes occur, don’t assign blame and immediately criticise those involved. Address serious blunders, but most missteps can also be learning experiences and an opportunity for employees to develop better, more efficient ways of working. Translate failures into lessons and focus on what might be done differently in the future. Get staff to come up with creative solutions and encourage the type of prudent risk-taking and innovative thinking that will lead to improvement.

2) Admit when you’re wrong
If you accept that others make mistakes and learn from them, you need to accept the same about yourself. You’ll be even more effective if staff see you can acknowledge your own mistakes and make necessary changes to correct them.

3) Lead by example
If you want your employees to push themselves to excel, you must be willing to do the same. Set high standards for performance and hold yourself to them. Be an example in terms of client service, work ethic, time management and professionalism. From senior executives to rank-and-file staff and from customers to vendors, treat everyone with respect. When your team is under extreme deadline pressure, pitch in to help get the job done.

4) Be available
To enable effective communication, establish an open-door policy and encourage your staff to come to you with concerns and problems. If you find that you must mediate disagreement among staff members, strive to remain impartial and stay focused on the end goal of acceptable resolution, rather than on who you feel is right.

5) Provide direction without micromanaging
Make sure everyone clearly understands his or her responsibilities and role in helping the department or the company achieve its goals. Explain the criteria that define success, as well as specific expectations, objectives and deadlines. Then step out of the way so everyone can do their job. Let your employees take the initiative and use their skills to complete tasks.

6) Be flexible
One of the keys to letting staff do their job is to be open to new approaches and techniques. The way you would do things might not be the best way – someone on your team may come up with something better. Your main focus should be results, not process, so avoid the trap of becoming overly involved in how the work is done.

7) Recognise and reward
Be liberal with sincere compliments when your employees do well. Publicly recognising your staff’s accomplishments is powerful motivator and hallmark of outstanding leadership. Praise is simple and highly effective, as are rewards such as gift certificates or spot bonuses. Acknowledge team successes as well as individual efforts.

8) Invest in your people
Effective managers are genuinely interested in their staff’s career development. Find out employees’ professional aspirations, and do what you can to help them achieve these by providing training and professional development. Mentor promising individuals so they can eventually move into leadership – this is one of the most effective steps you can take to motivate your team.

9) Delegate strategically
Good bosses share authority and responsibility because it gives staff the chance to develop new skills and prepare for more complex roles. Delegating tasks is the best way to do this, but do not do it randomly. When you delegate, make sure you give qualified staff members appropriate responsibilities, such as project management, budget development, team coordination or client relations. Use team members’ skills and experience as guide. Be sure to ask employees if they have the time and desire to take on new responsibilities. Giving them the chance to voluntarily accept an assignment prevents the perception that you’re ‘dumping’ unwanted, tedious jobs on them. And don’t delegate difficult or complex task if there’s not enough time for training – it will just set the stage for frustration and possible failure.

10) Keep improving
You were promoted to management because you are capable, competent and hard working. That’s an excellent foundation, but even the most seasoned managers know there’s always room for improvement. Your leadership has direct bearing on your employees’ performances, so you should continually refine your skills to become the best manager you can possibly be. M

Megan Alexander is division director with Robert Half Finance & Accounting. www.roberthalf.co.nz

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