If You Were a First Time Manager Again, What Would You Do Differently?

As we grow and learn as human beings we come across things in life which make us wonder how different things could have been if we knew then, what we know now. Working for a leadership company now, I often think about my first time manager role and how I really wasn’t as good of a manager as I could/should have been.  I wasn’t equipped with the right skills that I needed.

I want to share with you my experience about becoming a first time manager, here goes…..

I was 21 years old and worked for a very well known UK bank insurance call center,  I managed a team of 10-15 employees. I had previously worked as part of this team before I went to university and during  my holidays, so the team were my friends. I climbed up the ranks from individual contributor to team lead. When I became a manager of the team, needless to say things changed.  I was still everyone’s friend and I still went out with my close friends on the team Saturday nights, but at work there was a bit of “them versus me.” When people were performing I thought things were great, but when they weren’t being a first time manager was really tough. I remember many a night, going home and crying wondering what I had done to deserve people being so horrible to me, and thinking I never want to be a manager again.

Looking back, I brought some of it on myself. Below are some of the mistakes I made…..

  • I thought I needed to have all of the answers
  • I thought I needed to be authoritative and hard otherwise people wouldn’t respect me
  • I followed all of the rules & guidelines the company set to the T, 100% of the time
  • I never really listened or was open to be persuaded
  • I shied away from conflict, until it blew up in my face
  • The company set the goals which were very day-to-day focused, e.g., call handling times, etc. I never as a manager set any long term goals for my team or development goals, I simply followed the script, mainly because I didn’t know any different.
  • We didn’t celebrate achievements enough.

Knowing what I know now, there are lots of things I would have done differently in my first time manager role. I won’t write them all, because I could be here for days but I’ve noted just a few a below.

  • Breathe – You don’t have to answer everybody’s questions straight away. Take five minutes to reflect and stay calm even when stressed.
  • Listen – Not just for the sake of letting others talk, but really listen to what people are saying. Be open to being persuaded.
  • I wouldn’t have pretended to be something I wasn’t. I am not hard faced and authoritative, quite the opposite. People see through masks, I would have told my truth about who I am, and what I expect from the team.
  • I would have set clear expectations and goals for my team, to help them grow and develop. Worked hard to create growth opportunities for my team.
  • I would have told myself – Don’t take things so personally! I know that’s easier said than done but I used to beat myself up about not being everything to everyone. Remember you are only human.
  • When things weren’t going to plan with the team or team member, I would’ve dealt with the situation there and then and thought about my words very carefully. Asked them about what went wrong, ensure no judgement or blame.
  • Asked for help. Quite often in life, we are ashamed to ask for help. I don’t know why, because everyone in life at some point needs direction and or support.

My experience of being a first time manager, and feeling completely overwhelmed happens all of the time. People are promoted because they are good at what they do, many forget that a manager’s role requires a completely different skill set to that of an individual contributor.

What would you have done differently in your first time manager role?  Or if you haven’t been a manager yet, but looking to become one, what is your greatest concern about being a first time manager?

Sarah-Jane Kenny – EMEA Channel Solutions Consultant at the Ken Blanchard Companies

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