Starting as a manager

manager at workWhen you are first appointed as a manager many things will come your way. New impressions, new relations, new responsibilities and new issues that you need to ponder and find solutions for. It makes a huge difference if you were already in the company and got promoted or that you were hired from outside. Both have their pros and cons. When you were internal you’ll have an easier time negotiating the company politics, when you come from outside it will be easier to be seen as a manager and not as “Joe who got a new position”. Much more can be said about this but my main point, as usual, is that you need goal clarity. The assignment needs to be crystal clear for you as manager, in order to be able to effectively lead your group.

The other important immediate issue is to find out what the social composition of the department or group is. Who hangs out with who, who has been here forever, who is the smartest person in the group, who has most experience. You need to know your resources.

Next you’ll have to find an effective way to communicate with the people; do they need meetings, are memos a thing, will emails be effective, is there a reporting system that helps the flow of work.

All great things to think about. The Fast company has a nice article about someone starting as a manager and the lessons learned in their first 30 days.

For me the goal clarity, getting to know the resources and finding an effective way to communicate would be the first focal points. You can read more about this in my book where I highlight the importance of many other points also.

Let me know what you struggled with in your first days as a manager. We’ll follow up over time with a summary.

Don’t go on a diet; change your life style

As you grow older you probably have experienced that the pounds have a tendency to stick around and your condition slowly but surely deteriorates. Where are the years that you were trim and fit and watched every calorie that you ate? You probably have a growing awareness of the problem but as it slowly progresses you do not have an urgent need to do something about it.

It is sometimes difficult to make sudden and radical changes. Radical changes, like a diet, also have a tendency not to stick but slowly but surely change back to the old familiar ways. When you talk to health experts they will tell you that well planned slow changes in the right direction are the better way to go. When you want to go and run a marathon, do not start with half a marathon but build it up and start going around the block for the first period until you get some more endurance and muscle. | Stuart Miles | Stuart Miles

Why this piece about health and diet? Well there is a analogy with your management of your company. Over the years you have become used to the maybe less than stellar performance from some team members, you may not have cut back expenses and staff as the business got tougher and you may not have maintained enough focus on the core processes but allowed some shortcuts and individual heroic bypasses.

So with that, now is as good a time as any to start and change it all back into the right direction. Review your goals, are they clear? Clear for everyone? Review your resources; are they tight and what you need? Can you grow this way? What changes would you make in an ideal world? Review your communication; is it targeted, does it actually cause the behavior change you intended for it to create?

Instead of announcing a major shift in direction and immediate changes in policies or staffing, map out a plan to, over time, get to where you would like to be. Change by evolution, not revolution. Adjust and look for opportunities to move in the right direction. Change of life style is the way to go, crash diets are only good to fit into a wedding dress within a week, but will regrettably later cause some health problems or binge eating. Be clear about your vision though, but also be clear about the path forward and the gradual change you intend to make. Manage the expectations of your stakeholders and your process will be smooth.


If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to Connect with your environment.


Image courtesy of hywards at

Connecting is communicating in such a way that you test if the message that you are sending has been received at the other end. I’m tired of people who start listing all the activities they have performed to get a message out to their audience but forget to tell me what measure they had to see if the message was received.

For some of my projects I use mailchimp, the mailing program, but it works with all major communication applications; you can create a message, send it and then track how many people open it and click on something. Well maybe I write boring stuff but it is very rare or actually non existent that I get 100% of the audience to read my message. This simple example tells you that you can’t just send an email and think that you have adequately communicated. Likewise with sending a phone message, it is not seldom that I come home and then suddenly receive messages that my son has sent hours before. Again unreliable communication and only one way, no connection.

Many presentations that I sit through are also one way traffic but at least you can see who pays attention and who is not playing with their smartphone. In the meeting room you have a captive audience but still you may not connect if you do not take advantage of the proximity of the target group.

Even all the social media won’t help you enough to connect; Twitter messages are like leaves floating in the river that passes by, when you are not there, chances are you won’t see it. Facebook is hardly better as you need to compete with the LOL cats and other distractions. Webinars don’t show you who is attending and mailing information the classic way does not give you guarantees that it has been received or has not been tossed with the massive amount of spam mail and advertisements. Forget RoBoCalls (that should be illegal!).

So how do you connect? How do you ensure there is Goal Clarity in your organization? Yes you need to do all of the above and yes you need to tell them three times in three different ways what the information is, but you need to take the extra step and Connect! Personal communication is my favorite. Talk to a group of  well connected leaders in your organization. Ask them to be your sounding board when developing the communication and then go on and arm them with all the information they need to, in turn, go out and bring your message to the larger audience.

Realize you are NOT in a vacuum and your audience gets many pieces of information about other things in life that are important for them, pace your communication and bear in mind the obvious hurdles like vacation time, or holidays and even Super Bowl Sunday. Make sure as you send information out through this process to also follow up and have your immediate audience circle back with feedback they got through their communication.

This process may look to be lengthy and cumbersome but you would only use it for important messages, like the Goals!