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Focus on these things to succeed in First Time Manager or Supervisor

What First Time Managers Need to Know


You got promoted to manager…do you know what to do?


Gain the respect of your employees by knowing how to do their jobs well.

Managing an employee is not only about delegating, but guiding, supporting and helping them to get better at their job. There is no better way to achieve this than by showing them that you bring value through your own knowledge of what they do. The more they see you as an expert, the more respect they will have for you. This does not mean you should do their job for them; it is about sharing your knowledge, teaching what you know and helping your employee grow to a higher level. The discussion will also give your employee a chance to teach you what they know and provide an opportunity for you to encourage them further.


Get to know your employees one-on-one to build a mutual respect.

You are now responsible for the livelihood of your employees.  They have families to provide for, bills to pay and professional aspirations that they are trying to achieve.  You need to take your role seriously and the results of your team seriously.  By spending time with each of your employees and having discussions about their goals, your expectations and what you can do together to achieve both, you will be able to develop a new kind of relationship with each individual.  Your focus should be to create a mutual respect where they do their best for you because they believe that you will do your best for them.


Separate your friendships from work relationships.

It is difficult to manage your friends. If you want to gain the respect of your employees you need to create a respectful separation so you can give constructive criticism and make unbiased decisions. This means you don’t go out after work with your old co-workers anymore, unless it is a company event. You are their boss now; you need to take that role seriously. It will make performance and salary decisions easier for all of you. Seek out a new social group of people at the same working level as you.


Learn to delegate.

You have employees now, you should not be doing their work for them, but instead get them to do their jobs better and more efficiently. Your workload will increase with new tasks such as performance reviews, setting goals, reporting results, solving problems, etc. The more you delegate the day-to-day to your employees, the more management work you will be able to accomplish. Be sure to hold your employees accountable for the work you delegate to them.


Understand the process flow of your team.

No matter what activity or department you are now supervising, you should define who your internal or external customer is, as well as what your inputs and outputs are. Once you define those items, you can map out the process that takes place within your team to manage the inputs, process them and transition them to outputs. As you map this out, look at who does what on your team and what each of their strengths and weakness are. Make sure the flow of the team makes sense and if not, change it. Your new employees may have some good ideas on how to make things better so include them in the process. Ensure that you develop good relationships with your internal and/or external customers, as well as whomever you transition your work to after your team is finished doing what they do. By developing relationships you will be able to work within your company to solve problems faster for your employees. Your team will become more flexible and you will prove yourself to be their resourceful leader.


Develop your ability to prioritize.

You are no longer responsible for one piece of the puzzle any more, now you have to others to manage and it is your role to put it all together cohesively. You need to be organized, determine what is important, what can be delegated and what simply does not make sense to do. This decision-making will impact the success of your entire team so take it seriously. Utilize organizational skills such as time management, project management, setting milestones and timelines, writing things down and using an action item checklist. There are many other tools to consider that can be learned by taking a seminar or reading a book on the subject.


Be prepared to manage differences.

Some of the most controversial things you be exposed to when becoming a first time manager or supervisor are personnel files and salaries of your new employees.  Brace yourself and be professional.  You may find that some of your employees make more money than you.  You may also find things in their files that could surprise you.  Do Not take this information lightly and never share it with anyone.  Your role as their new boss means that you are entrusted with confidential information.  You are not there to judge them, nor are you there to use this information for your own gain.  Everyone has different levels of education and experience.  People are rarely paid the same wage so get used to it and move on.  Focus on the results of your department, developing your employees and getting the most out of your team.  If the pay discrepancies are overwhelming, you can work with your human resource leader to start a gradual process of addressing the issue during annual review periods.  Do not talk with your employees about discrepancies, just lead the change with the support of human resources.


Find a mentor or coach.

Every time you get promoted you move farther away from your group and your ability to confide in others is limited.  At the same time, your need for support and advice grows.  You should take the time to seek out mentors in your company and outside of your company.  These are people you can talk to about your issues in a confidential setting.  Someone you can ask questions of and get constructive feedback from.  You can find out more about mentors and how to seek them out by reading the following link: Three Steps to Creating Great Mentor/Mentee Relationships


Communicate up, down and sideways.

Share what you know, learn from others, champion good ideas and give credit where credit is due. Go out of your way to promote good ideas and people. Make a concerted effort to learn about and from your organization, your marketplace, your customers, your peers and your superiors. Share what you know and incorporate it into your work and the work of those around you. Promote your successes, and those of your employees. You can do this in the form of a weekly or monthly report that you share up, down and sideways. The more you communicate, the more you will be heard, seen and followed. Keep in mind that you don’t just share good news, if there are problem areas, share what you identified and what you are doing to fix it. Maintain a progress report on these issues.


Keep up with your own professional development.

You will be very busy in your new job but don’t forget that it is important to continue your education by utilizing self-study materials, reading books are articles on new concepts, taking seminars, or continuing your formal education.  ManagingAmericans.com is a great source for this professional development.


Understand the company’s strategy and create your own action plan.

Running the day-to-day activity is a big job.  Often times we get caught up in what we have been doing for years and due to poor communication from our own boss, we don’t verify if what we are doing is still in line with the company’s current strategy.  It is your responsibility as a manager to get informed on the company’s strategy.  Push your boss for this information and verify if the way you are running things enhances the success of that strategy.  You should put an action plan in place along with goals for your team that are supportive of the corporate strategy and share both the strategy and action plans with your employees and your boss.


Set clear priorities and goals for yourself and your employees.

Your team should all be able to understand and communicate the priorities within your department.  They should understand the goals you set for each of them and be expected to support each other in achieving both individual and group goals.  You will achieve better success if you have all goals in writing, you meet with your employees regularly to review their status and make changes in your team if needed.  Before you make changes in your team, look to yourself to help your employees succeed.  Maybe you were not clear; maybe you could be doing something additional to support their success.  Maybe training is necessary for your employees.  Self-awareness is an important aspect of a great manager.  Do not wait for annual reviews.  Take the time on a regular basis to set and review goals and results.  Hint…one performance goal you can give to each employee is how well they support the goals of others on the team.  If it is expected of all employees it should not improve their overall rating, but if they earn a negative result on teamwork it can reduce that employee’s overall rating during his or her performance review.


Establish close relationships with other managers throughout your organization.

There is sometimes a natural tendency to rule your own empire, set your own pace for your team and keep the rest of the organization out of your way.  That may help with some short-term gains but it will not set you or your team up for success in the long run.  As you lead your department, show them that you have allies throughout the organization so that support does not only come from you, but from others as well.  If you can network with other managers, they can ensure that their teams support your efforts.  Share your strategies and action plans with them and encourage them to do the same.


The list of tips and tools for first time managers and supervisors can go on and on.  We will continue to add content to our management communities so you can continue to grow your knowledge base and your career.  Here are some community pages that may be of interest to you. 

First Time Manager or Supervisor

Middle Manager

Senior Manager

Executive Leadership / General Management



Written by Lisa WoodsPresident ManagingAmericans.com

Lisa is a successful entrepreneur, world-class marketing strategist, and dynamic business leader with more than 20 years experience leading, managing and driving growth. Throughout her career, Lisa has been influential in integration techniques, organizational and cultural overhauls, financial turnarounds and developing employees into exceptional leaders, results driven managers and passionate team contributors.


Do you have a question for Lisa?  Post it in our Executive Leadership Community, she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert


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What part of your transition to management has been the most difficult?