First-Time Manager? Here's How to Be a Supervisor Everyone Wants to Work For
Become the manager you've always wanted.
Your first time in a management position can be overwhelming, whether you’re in charge of one summer intern or a team of 15 seasoned employees. Actually, the truth is, your eighth management position can be overwhelming—because managing direct reports is a serious challenge. There are a lot of moving parts, personalities, and work styles; a lot of demands from above and expectations from below; and then, all the while, you’re juggling your own work responsibilities and aspirations.
Leading a team comes more naturally to some people, but they're a pretty rare breed. If you wouldn't consider yourself one of them, know that management and leadership are professional skills that can be learned and improved upon, both through concrete practice and more gradual experience. Brendan Browne, vice president of global talent acquisition at LinkedIn, breaks down the fundamentals of good management that every first-time supervisor should know, the biggest mistakes to avoid, and the best management tips he’s learned over his career.
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Adopt the most-valued leadership traits.
Recent LinkedIn Learning insights found that the top five qualities people want in a boss are problem solving, time management skills, decisiveness, empathy, and compassion. “Anytime you start a new job there’s an adjustment period, and this is especially true as a first-time manager,” Browne says. “Keep these traits in mind as you’re easing into your role.”
Emulate past managers that you’ve loved.
“It’s not an easy job, but it’s important to remember you’re not alone (and that there are so many people who’ve been in your shoes before). Think about the people who’ve been the best manager for you and what made them special,” Browne says. “Better yet, reach out to them and ask for help.”
Or find an inspiring mentor.
If you’re finding something like time management or giving constructive feedback a challenge, Browne recommends seeking out a mentor for advice. They can talk you through what to do, how they might handle things, how they’ve seen others handle them in the past—as well as what to avoid.
Be the example.
Point blank: “The best leaders inspire,” Browne says. Remember that you’re in a position to set a good example for those looking to you for support, guidance, and answers. “Your workplace values, passion, and integrity will carry over in how others around you act.”
Learn and avoid the most common management mistakes.
Haven’t yet had good luck with managers of your own? Think about the leaders you’ve disliked—what was it that didn’t work for you? Maybe they played favorites, maybe they were poor communicators, maybe their negative attitude bummed you out. Then try to sidestep their mistakes or do the opposite. Browne lists some of the most important mistakes and failings of leaders, especially as a first-time manager.
1. Not being able to give proper feedback, either at all or in the right manner. “Provide clear feedback (both positive and constructive) to people on your team regularly,” he says. “This way, any feedback can be put in place immediately, and there are no surprises to your team when a more formal review takes place.”
2. Being unreceptive to feedback. “As a leader, you need to know what you do well, as well as where your weaknesses lie, so you can improve on them. While constructive feedback can be difficult, it’s crucial to ensuring you grow as a professional and a manager,” Browne says.
3. Micromanaging. No surprise here. It’s tough to let go, and to trust someone other than yourself, but delegating is absolutely essential for the team’s growth and success. Giving up some control also sends a reassuring message to your reports: “It’s important that the team feels you trust them and have their support as needed,” Browne says.
Pick up a management book.
Don’t shy away from helpful reading, since there are so many life-changing career guides out there—you just need to know where to look. “One of the books I love and recommend to all new managers, and that helped me through my management career is The One Minute Manager, by Kenneth Blanchard,” Browne says.
Treat your team like people.
Because they are people. Set consistent, overarching standards, but then remember that each is an individual. Get to know the people you work with, be curious about the way they work and what their interests are inside and outside the office. Remember to mix it up. “A few times a year, I turn my normal 1:1s with each of my team members into new activities—grabbing lunch off campus, doing walking meetings at nearby trails.”
Own your vulnerability.
You aren’t perfect (especially if this is your first leadership role), and the best thing you can do is be aware of it and even use it to your advantage. Browne admits this is something he’s been working on lately, and throughout his career, in order to become an even better manager.
“I’ve been going on my own journey of becoming more vulnerable as a leader,” he says. “I share more about my own failures (and what I’ve learned from them), talk more about my passions and what I do when I’m not thinking about recruiting (like making music), and asking for more feedback (not only from my own team members but also from my organization as a whole).”
Our weaknesses are often how we relate to others, and acknowledging them and working on them is how they turn into strengths.