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Are You a New Manager?

Estimated reading time: 4 mins

That ‘New Manager’ handbook that HR passed onto you when you took the job is incomplete. There’s stuff these books just don’t tell you, and what’s more, they miss out the most important elements of leading and managing teams. Want to know more?

When I first became a junior manager, I was given a management handbook. It talked about managing performance, goal-setting, assigning tasks, delegation – all the management speak we hear about day-to-day that gives us reason to draw boxes and arrows. It gave me education, and confidence.

I thought I was ‘da man’. Puffed out chest, cufflinked shirts.

But what I discovered is that management isn’t just about numbers, or tasks, or goals, or individual performance.

I’ve written about these times before (see 5 Major Gaffes I’ve Made as an IT Manager) and they still embarrass me today, but they were a great lesson. Or so I thought. I look back on my ascendancy through managerial ranks and still see goofy things I did. Mistakes that I wasn’t warned about in the management handbooks. Things I could have done, if I had known.

Let me give you an example. I took a role where budgets were tight, timeframes were short, and delivery was king. No room for pussyfooting. So I thought that being a no-nonsense, no-excuse leader that got things done meant walking around like a bad-ass. Yeah, I got things done. Things happened, for sure. But I found that as soon as I took the pressure off, things stopped happening. Because I hadn’t brought the people with me. And worse still, a revolt began to brew within the very cohesive department underneath me.

I learned that management can be tough.

So I look back on those days and think about what I would have done differently to be a better manager, and here’s what I’ve concluded. Leadership is a critical element of management. Management, without leadership, is like being a selfish lover. The business gets done but the people under us don’t get anything from it, if you pardon the pun, and it leads to despondency and eventually revolt.

Leadership is the ‘suring up’ of our management practice, and leaves our environment in a better state for continuous success.

I’ll just use another example.

In my recent post Why Projects Fail, I commented that setting people to stack bricks is one thing, but telling them that they are building a hospital is another. We can manage brick-laying, and set standards, targets and manage performance of bricklayers – they never need to know that they are building a hospital. But I’d bet that when they knew what they were building, productivity increases would be observed, and if you took your eye off their toil, it would continue without your presence.

Management handbooks don’t really show us how to lead. That’s how to create the environment and impetus for our people to flourish, under their own steam. Instead they show us how to inspect stuff.

The Management Handbook I Would Use

42 Rules for Your New Leadership Role: The Manual They Didn’t Hand You When You Made VP, Director, or Manager describes practical and effective actions for us to make a strong start in our new manager job. It draws from extensive interviews with corporate leaders plus the author’s twenty years as a strategy consultant and executive coach. These ‘rules’ form the manual they forgot to hand us when we got that promotion or offer letter.

Subjects include:

  • how to gain cooperation from our team,
  • read the business culture at our new level,
  • tee up smart “quick wins”,
  • show others how to work with us,
  • assess the business risks in our new role,
  • make the most of our strengths without overdoing it,
  • work around our weaknesses,
  • use team screw-ups to our advantage,
  • redesign our undoable job,
  • and stay focused on our plan when everyone wants us to fight fires and solve the problems on their desks.

Pam gives us specific guidance for each step of those first few critical months. Her recommendations are shaped by current and classic leadership research, as well as fresh insight from her interviews with executives and surveys of leaders at all levels. With her background as executive coach to top Silicon Valley companies, corporate strategist with Bain and Accenture, and Guest Fellow at Stanford GSB’s Center for Leadership Development and Research, Pam translates the experiences of thousands of leaders into easy-to-read guidance.

Let this book remind us what we did right before, help us avoid common missteps that cause leaders to stumble, and give us new strategies for acing those critical first months. Adjust what we find here to serve team needs, market condition, cultural context, our goals and our personal leadership style.

Buy this book when making a step up, moving to a new organization, or for our friends as they move up. This book is also an ideal reference for executive coaches, HR business partners, management trainers, executive assistants, and others who help new leaders be successful.

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This post is part 2 of 6 in the series New Managers
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About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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