Being a first time boss

Despite a working life spanning more than a decade, I only recently became a manager for the very first time. This is a relatively late step up compared to careers in other industries such hospitality or retail, where one can be a supervisor or store manager managing a small team in half the time. Nevertheless, I’m keenly embracing the opportunity to develop my career, and to impart some of my knowledge and skills to an enthusiastic go-getter who is at my beck and call!

It’s a daunting prospect, being the shining beacon for direct reports. Undoubtedly, we all start off with the same intentions of being an inspiring manager who can successfully engage and motivate their team, coaching and providing feedback effectively to them, as well as developing their career along with your own. The difficulty is learning how you can do these things without inadvertently disengaging them, or having them hate you so much that they fantasize about keying your car.

There’s no shortage of management advice and literature out there, but seriously, who has time to read all those tomes of wisdom? All I know is that I don’t want to be the type of manager that I hated having – one that is controlling and micro-manages, one that takes credit for your hard work, and one that motivates their team through fear and humiliation.

boss employee office space

Then there is the fear that I won’t actually live up to my own expectations. I’m scared that they will hate me or bitch about me, even though I normally don’t give a crap about what other people think. In a way, I want to be their mentor – someone that they can come to when they’re seeking guidance or support. And I want to be that fun person that they will like. But how do I balance that with getting good results, so that they won’t think that they can get away with stuff or undermine me.

After all, just because you get along with people doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be a good manager. I will need to be firm with providing feedback as required, and there will be times when tough calls will need to be made and I can’t be the “nice guy”.

I guess with anything in life, it’s probably not very useful overanalysing the situation. It’s a matter of taking things as they come and placing a bit of trust in myself and what my gut instincts tell me. One thing that I’m looking forward to is making a difference to someone’s career by being given an opportunity to be that manager that they will hopefully look back on in their career as one of the best managers that they’ve had.

So, any tips and advice would be appreciated!

* Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

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4 thoughts on “Being a first time boss

  1. At some point I’m going to put together something about what nobody tells you about going into management.

    Of what I’ve written so far I’d recommend this piece for starting out –

    http://midmgrconfess.wordpress.com/2013/06/13/how-to-be-a-leader-be-humble/

    There is way too much to cover about being a first time boss, but just some general tips

    Listen, don’t just speak.

    Set an example. If you expect people to be on-time, be on-time yourself. If you expect people to put in a little extra, don’t be the first out the door.

    Be confident and calm. No matter how hard the circumstances, people will look to you for direction. Even if your inner self is screaming and freaking out, you have to be a duck. Calm on the surface, and paddling like crazy underneath.

    Don’t let others challenge your authority. That firmness you talked about? Expect it to be challenged. You don’t have to smack anyone down, but deal with situations sooner rather than later.

    • Some really fabulous advice, Rob, and a great blog too!

      I love your analogy of the duck. I’ve admired leaders that are calm under pressure but this will be a difficult thing for me to develop. I work well under pressure, just getting on with the job and can be very focused, but at the same time, I wear my heart on my sleeve, so people mostly know how I’m feeling! It’s definitely a worthwhile development area for me.

  2. Ev, first of all congratulations. Second of all, if you start off not wanting to be like shit bosses you’ve had in the past – You’ve already learnt a great lesson. On the flip side, think of all the amazing leaders and bosses you’ve respected and think about why you respected them. I really enjoyed Rob’s post too; being humble is important.

    Some things I can share:

    – Watch what you say and how you say it. Jokes and quick comments that don’t mean anything as a staff member, suddenly become much bigger as a leader. People look at you as their role model.

    – Respect is earnt, not given. Don’t expect that just because you have a title people will respect you. You have to do your share and make people think you are a good and fair boss.

    – Be fair, approach everyone equally. If you give someone 3 days leave, expect others to ask for that or mention it when they want leave.

    – Make sure your boss has your back. Work hard to make sure you understand one another and support each others decisions.

    – Communicate. Everything. Nothing is worse than being the last person to know something – and doubly so when it involves your work/job.

    I’ve gone from minion > low-level supervisor > junior manager > senior manager and I’m still learning things.

    …oh… and lastly, Get everything in writing (email), confirm discussions and talks with staff with emails… trust me, when you need evidence its worth the effort!!!

  3. Pingback: Friday Round-Up: Blogtastic Edition | Confessions of a Middle Manager

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