Management Matters
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Management Matters

5 tips for new or first-time managers

This article was co-written with , Business Advisor & Chief Integration Officer at The Interdependent Training Group.

For many professionals, getting to a management position for the first time is a meaningful and important part of their careers. Becoming a manager is often the realization of a life-long goal — a sign that you’ve “made it.”

But, as the old saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. Indeed, some people realize once they’ve become a manager that the role is not quite what they’ve imagined it to be. Succeeding in a managerial position requires adjusting your expectations and mindset around what the role entails and what you need to do to succeed at it.

Ideally, before you become a manager, you’ve already done the work to determine if the role aligns with your strengths and purpose to begin with. In the business world, there is that the natural path for top performers is into a managerial position. Unfortunately, this assumption is dangerous as it takes high-performing people away from the tasks that they enjoy — from roles that allow them to bring more value to the organization.

Assuming you’ve already done the work in clarifying the right path for you, here are a few principles for success to consider when you become a manager for the first time.

1. Seek to understand before seeking to change.

Many new managers are eager to make a huge impact immediately. As a result, they want to make big, sweeping changes in processes as soon as they land the role.

While these changes likely come from good intentions, they rarely work. Why? For one, because implementing big changes before you understand the context is a sure fire way of burning bridges.

Take the first six months in your new role to learn about the team and uncover core issues. Rather than making big changes, take the opportunity to be curious and assess what’s really going on in the company. This time is also critical to building trust with your colleagues and listening to as many people as possible to get a deep understanding of the “why’s” behind the “how’s” of the company. In this exploration, you may find that there are things that don’t make sense at first blush but actually make a ton of sense once you have more context.

Implementing big changes before you understand the context is a sure fire way of burning bridges.

Of course, after six months, you may find that there are processes that are costing your company money and resources — habits that need to be changed. At this point, you can make the argument for transformation. You’ll have a better shot of making the right decisions and convincing people to make the change after six months because by then, you would have already taken the time to step back, get context, and build credibility and trust with leadership, your team and internal and external business partners. Resisting the temptation to be a reactive firefighter will create long term value in developing a proactive, outcome-based culture.

2. Embrace the word “no.”

More likely than not, stepping into a management position will automatically add your name to meeting invitations and requests for information and decisions. It is very easy to “let the tail wag the dog” and allow your superiors, colleagues and even your team to dictate your priorities. It is up to you to determine how you spend your time. If you are not able to say “no,” in 6 months you will find yourself very frustrated as your time will be spent reacting to the issues of the day. Your goal is to implement a proactive, outcome-based work environment — doing so requires unapologetic discretion of your time and focus.

As a new manager, you are in a position to set your priorities in achieving what you and your boss have agreed as your objectives. This means determining which meetings you attend. If a meeting invitation does not have a clear agenda, request one. Any meeting without an agenda is a recipe for a waste of time, and you do not have time to waste, especially now — you are on a mission. This is not an easy thing to do and it requires confidence in yourself and in your superiors that they will have your back.

As far as “urgent” requests, ask questions and be curious in understanding what is being requested, why and whether it is on the critical path to achieving objectives. This exchange of information is an opportunity to understand and have colleagues understand what qualifies as urgent and why.

Ask questions and be curious in understanding what is being requested, why and whether it is on the critical path to achieving objectives.

Resisting the pressure to oblige every invitation and prioritize every stated “urgent” request allows you to utilize your time and resources efficiently in creating value. If you are consistent, professional and curious, your colleagues will respect you, and you will respect yourself. The word “No” is not a negative word; it is a necessary word in managing expectations and being an effective manager.

3. Connect deeply.

The most important skill managers need to have is the ability to coach their teams. The job of managers, after all, is to get things done through others. In today’s business world where many teams are moving to remote or hybrid models, building trust is more important and transactional management will .

That’s why as a new manager, you need to make a very concerted effort to really connect with people reporting to you. Learn about your team, and if your memory isn’t very reliable, consider starting a file for them. Where did they go to school? What are their interests, and if they have spouses, what are their names? Do they have pets? What are their past careers like?

Don’t stop there. Understanding each person’s behaviour profile (how they get things done) and what they value is incredibly valuable in communicating effectively and understanding how to motivate each person. If you, as their manager, are vulnerable in sharing these details about yourself, it will inspire your team to do the same.

Anything you can learn and record shows that you care when you bring it up and enquire in the future. This knowledge is valuable in determining how you communicate with and motivate each individual. It’s so easy to converse and build trust relationships with people when you are curious about them without judgement.

4. Delegate and elevate.

As a manager, you cannot do everything. In fact, not doing everything is exactly the point of being a manager. Creating a space where each team member contributes their strengths and shines is key to maximizing overall team success. It’s your job to constantly evaluate if each person’s purpose aligns with their passion and their objectives.

As an implementer of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), I work with entrepreneurs and managers to use a tool called . It’s a simple but very valuable tool that forces you to do a hard audit of all of your current responsibilities (both big and small), and identify the ones that you are good at, not good at, like or love. This allows you to pinpoint visually what should be delegated to your team in order to elevate your team.

Not doing everything is exactly the point of being a manager.

The point isn’t to give leftover tasks to your team; rather, the purpose of this exercise is to have a hard look at the responsibilities that would give you, as a manager or entrepreneur, the best chance of being effective and happier in your job. Many clients find this exercise valuable not only for themselves but also for their team, helping create alignment and clarity on who’s doing what and why.

5. Implement processes with rigour.

Perhaps one of the more difficult responsibilities of being a manager is correcting bad behaviors — specifically when people on your team don’t follow processes in place. Your job entails ensuring that processes are followed — with being those that are outlined in the process.

Of course, there needs to be a clear link between a process and how it supports positive business outcomes. Make sure everyone from your team is aware of this linkage. If you see people deviating from the rules, talk to them as soon as you notice the behavior.

Remember that all it takes is for one person’s negative attitude to bring down the energy of your team. When you tolerate bad behavior, it won’t go away; in fact, it will grow at an exponential rate. As a manager, you need to very quickly hone your skills in facilitating difficult conversations — entering the “danger zone.” This requires being diligent and direct in summarizing what you have observed, the impact, and the required change. Ideally, these conversations are in person. If you do this right, you will .


In today’s very dynamic and unpredictable landscape, managers will continue to have a critical role in creating successful business outcomes. Being a manager can be a rewarding role for you if you enjoy coaching others and making sure that people are working towards goals set by the business. In your first few months, bring a sense of curiosity — not just towards processes in place, but, perhaps more importantly, towards people. That’s how you’ll succeed in your new role and for the rest of your career.



There's plenty out there for the C-suite. What about the rest of us-the high potential managers & up-and-comers. The future C-suite. Real leadership & management advice for front- and middle-management. A publication focused on management matters, because great management matters

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Kevin G. Armstrong

Author of “The Miracle Manager”. Speaker. contributor. EOS implementer. Helping people get more out of their business.