Managing PeopleBack in the 1990s, Warren Bennis authored a book about managing people in the 21st century titled Managing People is Like Herding Cats. It’s a great title because of the image it invokes—people running around like cats, refusing to be herded. Every manager has most likely felt that their team behaved this way at some point.

When you’re newly promoted to management, you probably feel excited about your new role, ready to jump in and get things done, and—let’s be honest—happy to daydream about how you’ll spend that extra income. And while we’re being honest, you likely feel a little apprehensive, if not downright terrified. Even if you’re confident and ready to take on the challenge of managing other people, these questions may occur to you:

  • Can I make hard decisions about goals and priorities?
  • Can I say “no” to projects that don’t advance these goals?
  • Can I represent the company even if you disagree with a decision?
  • Can I effectively exercise authority over others, especially people older or more experienced than me?

As scary as it may be, there are steps you can take to get more comfortable with your new role managing people. Here’s a list of suggestions to help you hit the ground running and do your best from the very beginning.

1. Learn Everything You Can

Look for all the management tools, resources, and classes your company offers. Some companies have extensive training materials. Nearly all have manuals and HR policies. Read and learn from them. Keep a copy on your computer or bookshelf.

Also, take the time to learn about the people you’ll be managing. Review their personnel files, resumes, and past performance reviews. Then make the time to get to know them through face-to-face interaction.

2. Change Your Perspective

“Before you were a manager, your number one job was to accomplish tasks,” says Penelope Trunk in 4 Worst Mistakes of a First Time Manager. “Now, your number one job is to help other people accomplish the tasks in an outstanding way.”

As a manager, your performance is tied to your team’s performance. If they fail, you fail. Your job is to help them succeed by providing motivation and removing obstacles.

3. Listen First, Act Second

Often, new managers are eager to big changes right away to show that they’re competent and in charge. However, this can backfire if you don’t take the time to completely understand your organization and team.

Set up individual get-acquainted meetings with your new staff members. Ask what they like about their jobs, what their biggest challenges are, and what ideas they have for improving the organization. You won’t be able to use everyone’s ideas and make everybody happy. However, saying something as simple as, “I’d like your input while I consider plans for the future,” will go a long way toward building positive relationships.

4. Manage Relationship Changes

You got a promotion and now you’re supervising someone who used to be your work BFF. No more one-on-one happy hours and lunches that would cause distrust and resentment from the rest of the team. Remember that your former peer may be happy for you but also feel jealous or left behind.

As awkward as it may be, the best course of action is to address the changes in your relationship head-on. Try starting the conversation with, “You know that I value our friendship, but as a manager, I need to make sure that everyone on the team views me as being fair and consistent, so our work relationship is going to change,” suggests Adrian Granzella Larssen, editor-in-chief of The Daily Muse.

5. Make Your Boss Look Good

Now that you’re reporting for a group, it’s important to make sure the goals you set for your team align with your supervisor’s priorities. Set up regular meetings to discuss your team’s goals, progress, and issues.

Consistent communication also helps establish a positive relationship with your boss. You’ll need to learn how to handle sticky employee challenges that aren’t covered by a manual. What if you have someone who is a great performer, but you can’t promote him because there isn’t a position available? A coach or mentor can help you figure out a way to reward and keep the employee. If your boss can’t or won’t fill this role, find someone else in the company who will.

Being a good manager is an ongoing process. Even after the initial learning curve, you’ll continue to find new challenges along the way. Do your homework, focus on your new role, and form good relationships, and you’ll be a successful manager.

Want to know more about the skills required to be a good manager? Email me at to discuss how you can find out about the traits you need to succeed.

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