9 experienced leads share their best tips for first-time managers

May 3, 2017 · 4 min read

Taking on a new role can feel simultaneously exciting and overwhelming. And when you’re assuming the role of manager for the first time, these feelings are easily magnified. You may be wondering: Will I be a good manager and mentor? How do I establish trust with my team? And how can I continue to make individual contributions while enabling others to do their best work?

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to someone who is becoming a manager for the first time?

To help first-time managers ease the transition, we turned to a group of seasoned leaders at Asana for advice. We asked: What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to someone who is becoming a manager for the first time? Here are their responses.

1. Create a shared sense of purpose

“Transparency helps to expedite trust. When you let your team know what is happening and what you are thinking you are simultaneously building credibility in your relationships. When you then ask what they think and incorporate those thoughts into your plans, you are building a shared sense of purpose.”

— Brian Boroff, Customer Operations Lead

2. Embrace feedback — good and bad

“It’s so important to build relationships with your reports. Ask them questions. Listen. Don’t shy away from feedback opportunities. Remember that positive and constructive feedback go a long way.”

— Rotem Lenchner, User Operations Manager

3. Use 1–1 meetings to build rapport

“Treat 1–1 meetings as an investment. Some of my 1–1s are easy, but I’ve had others where I felt like I added no value, and couldn’t even keep a conversation going with my report. Looking back, I realize that it just took longer for us to build a relationship and trust. And now, our 1:1s are so much more useful.”

— Bella Kazwell, Web Engineering Lead

4. Learn to let go

“Being a manager, you can often feel like you’re being pulled in lots of different directions. One of these is often difficult IC work. After all, you are probably a very capable individual contributor.

“Be aggressive about handing off these responsibilities, even though it may be hard to let go of some work you think you’re uniquely suited for. It will give you more time to focus on your new responsibilities, and your new reports will appreciate that you trust them with difficult, important problems.”

— Cliff Chang, Engineering Manager

5. Strike a balance

“Be careful not to spread yourself too thin, especially if you’re a manager who might be continuing to do hands-on work. You can easily become overextended. Then you’re doing a disservice to yourself, your team, and your reports.”

— Tyson Kallberg, Design Manager

6. Adopt a coach mentality

“I wish I had known how much time it takes to mentor and coach people, and how much less execution work you can do when you become a manager. There’s a real shift in thinking you have to go through — from a worldview where you see a need come up and you think, ‘I can do that! Let me help!’ to ‘I know the right person to do that! Let me connect you with them and coach them to do it.’”

— Devon Watts, Product and Content Marketing Lead

7. Seek out mentors

“Learn what it means to be a manager before trying to act like one. In other words, don’t assume you’ll know what you’re doing [right away]… it’s your first time. Embrace the strengths that got you to this position and actively seek mentorship for the management part.”

— Beth Toland, Experience Research Manager

8. Manage your time and energy

“Make sure you’re ready for it. It takes a lot of time and energy, and reduces the amount of time you get to spend on other things (like coding). It can be a lot of fun if you’re ready for it though!”

— Marco Gallotta, Engineering Manager

9. Always be recruiting

“Recruit! Build your team so your team or function is set up for success. Spend a large amount of your time thinking about who you need on your team today, but also 6–12 months from now. Being proactive about recruiting will help you, your team, and the people relying on you to succeed.”

— Andy Stoe, Recruiting Lead (P.S. Asana’s hiring!)

What advice would you give?

If you’re a first-time manager, what are you most excited (or nervous) about? And for all the experienced managers out there, what other advice would you give to a newly minted manager? Let us know!


A publication for teams who aspire to do great things together.


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Move work forward. // https://asana.com


A publication for teams who aspire to do great things together.

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