Effective First-time Management

Becoming a manager for the first time is exciting for the initial few moments you learn the news, but then the reality that you don’t have a clue what you are doing sinks in. Becoming a great manager requires a lot of humility and patience. While there are many aspects of your new role that you can only become great at with practice, there are a few common mistakes seen repetitively with first-time managers. Here are those mistakes as well as some core keys to being an effective leader.

Thinking you have to have all the answers immediately

Becoming a first-time manager puts a lot of pressure on you. You feel that if you take too long to answer someone or aren’t sure of the best course of action, then you are now not worthy of your new role. Thinking that way is the bigger mistake in my book.

Not listening or leveraging your team effectively

You’re a manager now; you have tons of new priorities. Your team, your department, individuals, clients, etc., everything is important. The problem with this thinking this way is that your team often gets left behind because they are “stuck” with you. This is where managers often lose their way; their team is in fact not “stuck” with them. They will leave managers who do not respect or prioritize their people.

I love this quote about from What Great Managers Do:

I’ve found that while there are as many styles of management as there are managers, there is one quality that sets truly great managers apart from the rest: They discover what is unique about each person and then capitalize on it.

Trying to do too much, too quickly

Often new managers are put in place because of previous ineffective leadership. The failure of previous manager forces the new manager to feel a sense of urgency about their new role. If there aren’t genuine fundamental business issues that need to be turned around quickly, then overreacting can create poor outcomes within the new team. Taking the time to understand what the root causes of any issues were and why previous leadership did not work out are critical to building trust with your new group.

Here are some keys to being an effective first-team leader:

Be Present and Listen

This is an obvious one, and you will hear it over and over when discussing leadership topics, but it is likely being repeated because you were too busy looking at your phone when it was said the first twenty times. 🙂 Your conversations with your team require your full attention. When you are a manager, there are hundreds of new signals that will hit you regularly. There is an inherent feeling of letting others down because you did not respond quickly enough… this is flawed thinking. By answering someone else, you are taking away from the people within the room.


Your team will rally behind you if you are clear and transparent with your goals. Be upfront with what you are looking to achieve and seek buy-in from your team. If they share and understand your goals, you will find no bigger source of support. While if can feel like you are the only one who wants to see yourself succeed, then you will find teams that do not understand what they are working towards or why they should be happy to champion your successes as well.

Move fast and slow

When making critical decisions within your team take the time to work with them to understand the root causes of the issues. When you know, the changes you and the team have decided upon can be quickly implemented. New managers sometimes rush to judgment or are slow to implement corrections. Work to understand the problem but then move toward implementing the fixes.


One of the first things you should do as a new manager is set a consistent cadence with your team. When does the entire team meet and when will you meet with them individually? When are meetings tactical vs. strategic? When do you create goals and review progress? Having a team that understands when these questions will be answered and the frequency that they will be revisited is core to having a bought-in team.

Feedback Loops

Seek feedback from your team. In your meetings ask “What should we have talked about?”, “What can I help with?”, Or “What should we adjust?” Asking these questions will build trust within your team. They will also be a source of the new great ideas that they will be passionate about seeing fulfilled.

So, what do you think I missed? Or what management tips have you picked up over the years?