3 Challenges Of Every First Time Manager

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3 Challenges Of Every First Time Manager

Fun fact, did you know that divorce is considered by managers to be the most stressful thing to happen and 60% of them agree that being a first time boss or manager is the second most stressful thing? Does this statistic speak to you too? In more ways than one, most people who are promoted to management excel at doing what they do best, executing with excellence. As such we often feel confident in our abilities and skills when we are promoted, thinking we are ready. However, being a manager is a start of something completely different that requires a vastly different set of skills. This comes as a shock to many where the skills we have before may not be relevant to our roles now.


It’s not all gloom and doom however, becoming an excellent manager is definitely achievable and attainable! So if you are a first time manager or aspiring to be one, don’t worry, it is a passing phase and you too would eventually adapt and become a successful manager too. In order to speed up that process and to save you the time of falling unnecessarily into pitfalls to learn matters the hard way, here are 3 challenges of every first time manager!


3 Challenges Of Every First Time Manager

  • Transitioning from “I” To “We”
  • From “Peer-peer” to “Manager-team member”
  • From “You do this” to “How can you do this?”


Transitioning from “I” To “We”


Before being promoted, the way we measure our capability and performance comes from our own individual work contribution. In other words, our performance is in our own hands. However, as a manager, it’s essential for us to begin monitoring and managing the whole team’s performance instead! My manager once shared with me an analogy, the company and the team are like cogs in a machine. As an individual contributor, we are focused on performing to the best of our functions within our department. A manager on the other hand needs to make sure that the whole team is functioning smoothly as a whole and everyone is performing. Beyond that, a manager needs to understand what their team members are focusing on too.

As such, many of us may start out focusing on our own tasks at hand only without taking note of what other team members are doing. I remember a time when I had to oversee part of a project and the only thing I focused on was preparing materials that I was in charge of previously. Was it done excellently? Yes. Did the project go smoothly, no. That was because I have overlooked what other team members have been contributing. This is one of the challenges that many first time managers face and it helps to be aware that we need to begin transitioning from what “I” am doing to what “we” are doing.


From “Peer-peer” to “Manager-team member”


Most first time managers would feel a little bit of awkwardness as they are required to lead their peers now with a different authority. Some feel the need to cut off ties as friends for fear of preferential treatment while others feel the need to remain friends for fear of insubordination. The actual fact is, from the moment we are promoted as first time managers, this awkwardness will definitely exist. It is how we acknowledge this awkwardness and stop giving it power over us that helps us to excel and become a better manager.

In my previous company, a close friend of mine came in much earlier than me and became my area supervisor. All was well as both of us understood and didn’t push each other. However, there was a time where my direct manager was being unreasonable and assumed I disobeyed procedures. I was furious at the thought of being misunderstood so I confronted him and there was an argument. My friend stepped in and told me this “As your area supervisor, it is out of line for you to directly confront your direct manager publicly. Secondly, do you have proof that you are following procedure?” When I heard those words I was shocked and that was when I felt his authority. I provided proof from the CCTV footage and my direct manager was sent into question. However, at that point in time I admittedly expected my friend to be there to support me instead of using his authority.

It was awkward when I bumped into him after that incident but we managed to sit down and discuss the incident when he was finally free. We talked about it and I remembered the words that melted the awkwardness away “I may be your area supervisor but I am also your friend too. I do understand how awkward it is but I want you to know I am treating you professionally because I trust you as a friend to understand I mean no superiority in terms of our friendship. I hope you can trust me as a friend too”. After that we had a few more incidents but we often laughed over it after the incident. The key as first time managers is not to exercise your authority to the max or to not hold your team members accountable, it is to treat them with respect, talk to them and trust that they are professional and capable of understanding the reasoning behind your decisions.

From “You do this” to “How can you do this?”

Transitioning from an executive to a manager, one of the key skills that needs to be acquired is coaching skills.  Usually, an executive just focuses on completing work in the shortest amount of time while making sure the work is of the best possible quality. However, in order to be a good manager, you have to develop your team members to achieve the same level of performance as you. It means that, beyond completing the task given to your team, you have to identify your team members’ skills gaps and find ways to close them, helping them to improve and to get closer to where you are. This is because the main focus of a manager is no longer about individual productivity but more about team productivity.
For instance, you should delegate your team task wisely based on the current capabilities of your team members and their current skill gaps that you are assisting them to close. When it comes to task assignment, instead of just assigning tasks to every team member randomly, one question you have to consider is “how would the task help the team member to develop?”.  Moreover, you should also ask more questions that could elicit learning from them instead of just giving out answers and instructions whenever they ask you questions. As such, your team members can only then grow together with you and bring your whole team to greater heights.

In short, there are indeed a lot of challenges a first time manager has to face when they transition from an executive who has an entirely different focus. Of course there are a lot more skills that first time managers have to equip themselves with. Interested to know what else it takes for you to smoothly transition to a manager role? Wondering how you could upskill yourself to be a better manager? Fret not! You can check out our Leadership For New Managers training program. If you’d like to check out our other programs, feel free to click here. Feel free to drop us a message if you have questions through this link.

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