12 Best Tips for First Time Managers 

Home » Resources » First Time Manager TipsUpdated: August 23, 2021

You found our list of top tips for first time managers.

Tips for first time managers are pieces of advice for new leaders about overseeing teams. For example, stand up for your staff and make friends with other managers. The purpose of these best practices is to help new leaders conquer the learning curve and manage employees more effectively.

These tactics help new leaders develop effective team management skills and grow into good managers. New bosses can also boost skills fast by reading books on management.

This article includes:

  • advice for first time managers
  • new manager tips
  • tips for first time HR managers
  • first time supervisor mistakes
  • tools for first time managers

Here is everything you need to know.

List of tips for first time managers

The following list is the ultimate guide on how to succeed as a new manager.

1. Listen More Than You Talk

New managers often have the instinct to talk constantly to prove their expertise. However, monologuing can mask departmental problems and create barriers that prevent leaders from getting to know their teams. New bosses should resist the urge to tell and instead invest energy into listening.

Teammates may be hesitant to open up at first, especially when feeling out a new leader. Yet the more a manager shows that they are open to ideas, the more the team will share. This two-way communication can help managers diagnose problems and get to the root of issues more quickly. Managers can keep a better pulse on individual and team health and detect changes immediately. Not to mention, listening will earn employees’ trust, especially when managers respond with understanding and act on suggestions.

Active listening is one of the best tips for first time HR managers especially. Here is a list of more skills for HR leaders.

2. Delegate Low-Level Functions

Internally promoted managers are especially prone to reverting to the responsibilities of older roles. These leaders may want to prove that they remember their roots, or may feel more confident performing familiar tasks as opposed to the as-of-yet-unmastered demands of their new positions. If the team is short staffed, then the boss may feel morally obligated to fill in. Or, a new manager may be afraid to give teammates orders and instructions.

Leadership comes with new duties and focus areas. When managers neglect their own jobs and spend a majority of the time on work that subordinates could and should do, higher-level functions go undone and the whole team suffers.

While working alongside staff can promote teamwork, earn employee gratitude, and give leaders a better understanding of the experiences and challenges of their workers, it can also cause bottlenecks and frustration. This behavior should be an occasional occurrence rather than a regular routine. Leaders should delegate lower-level functions to team members when possible so that managers can focus on making necessary big-picture decisions and guiding the team.

3. Be an Advisor, Not a Savior

Determined to prove themselves helpful and dependable, overzealous young leaders often fall into the trap of becoming chronic fixers. When team members ask for help, these managers take over the task or problem rather than guiding teammates towards a solution.

While it may be faster in the short term for the manager to solve the problem, in the long run this method is highly inefficient because the employee never develops needed skills and becomes dependent on the boss. The leader will not be around to remedy every situation, and team members need to feel empowered and capable enough to take action in non-critical situations. Not to mention, a manager who spends the majority of the time putting out fires is susceptible to burnout, as well as less likely to make a meaningful impact.

Instead of automatically jumping into savior or martyr mode, managers should take on a coaching role, talk through the issue, observe the employee’s approach, and make suggestions instead of taking immediate action.

4. Ask For Help When You Need It

One of the most valuable pieces of advice for first time managers is to ask for help when needed. In an effort to appear competent and capable or to hide vulnerability, many new managers try to hide feeling overwhelmed or unsure. Instead of reaching out for guidance or assistance, these young managers struggle in silence and try to power through their problems.

Few leaders expect brand new managers to automatically excel at the role. Occasional failure, floundering, and feeling overwhelmed is part of the learning process. There is no shame in asking for help, and needing assistance or guidance is not a sign of weakness. Tapping colleagues for advice or aid is not a sign of being unfit for the job, but rather, a sign that the manager cares about the job and wants to do well. Plus, seeing the boss ask for a hand destigmatizes asking for help and promotes teamwork.

5. Set Boundaries Between Management and Friendship

One of the most common first time supervisor mistakes is being too chummy with the staff. Wanting to be liked is human nature, and having friendly relationships with employees does make the workplace more pleasant. At the same time, getting along with staff should not get in the way of managerial duties. Problems arise when managers care more about the approval of employees than the quality of the work.

Inexperienced managers put personal relationships before professional relationships. It is essential to remember that you are a boss first, and a friend second. Employees may not always like or agree with your decisions. You may need to give critical feedback, or confront a team member about a performance issue.

Growing too close to subordinates can cloud your judgment and influence your behavior. The obligations of being a boss often clash with the duties of being a friend. You may be afraid to confront your staff for fear of damaging the positive regard. Prioritizing the company’s objectives before your employees’ emotions may inspire feelings of betrayal. Or, you may be ineffective at giving orders and instructions because employees see you on their level instead of seeing you as an authority figure.

There does need to be some level of hierarchy and distance between management and employees. While you can and should aim to be cordial and supportive of staff, remember that it is more important to gain respect than friendship from your employees.

6. Manage Your Time Wisely

Many new managers underestimate their workloads and overestimate their time. Hours can add up quickly, especially since inexperienced bosses tend to be slower at managerial tasks than seasoned leaders. Not to mention, since many of a manager’s responsibilities involve overseeing and advising a team, days can be unpredictable. A team member may ask for help, draw attention to an urgent issue, or present a conflict and rearrange a manager’s plan for the day. Or, executive leadership may change direction and cause managers to scramble to pivot the team.

Good time management is critical for managers. Otherwise, your time can balloon, can fall behind on time-sensitive tasks, or wind up working extra hours to get everything done before the deadline.

Effective leaders fill their arsenals with useful tools and talented team members. The most time-savvy managers automate routine procedures and delegate non-critical tasks. These bosses are masters at drawing boundaries. For instance, when conversations with teammates draw long, these supervisors know how to halt the discussion and suggest revisiting the topic later. Smart bosses tap on the team’s expertise and send employees to coworkers for help instead of running point on every problem. These managers can draw boundaries and withdraw from work, for instance, by designating an on-call contact for after hours or a stand-in manager during PTO.

Here is a list of time tracking apps that can help managers monitor their hours, and a list of project management tools to streamline workflows.

7. Seek Out a Mentor

Mentors are one of the most underused tools for first time managers. Many novice managers falsely believe that they have to guess or reinvent the supervisory process, yet this idea is far from the truth. While responsibilities and situations may feel brand new to first time bosses, seasoned leaders have experienced many of these circumstances and can offer words of wisdom. By seeking the counsel of a more experienced leader, up-in-coming managers can avoid common missteps and save themselves time and stress. Often, veteran leaders have ideas and solutions that may not have occurred to fresher managers, as well as additional resources. Not to mention, a mentor can offer much-needed encouragement and reinforcement when self-doubt creeps in.

There can be great benefits in managers seeking out multiple mentors instead of a single mentor. Having a network of advisors makes for a more robust support system, and means that bosses have backup options if the usual confidant is busy during a time of need. Managers may want to seek out mentors both within and outside of the organizations. There may be topics that young managers are uncomfortable bringing up to their own bosses, and conferencing with leaders from outside companies can broaden a young boss’ perspective.

8. Avoid Micromanaging

Micromanaging is one of the most common first time supervisor mistakes. Many first time leaders have trouble coping with the fact that their reputations hinge so heavily on the actions of others. Insecure leaders respond to the uncertainty by trying to control as many facets of the team’s performance as possible.

However, this behavior often breeds frustration among the team, decreases morale and productivity, and can lead to employee turnover.

A better approach is to create a system of routine check-ins instead of monitoring employees’ every move. The fear of underperformance and lack of control can cause bosses anxiety, however leaders need to learn how to handle these feelings and have faith in the team. Exhibiting trust and granting autonomy often leads to employees exceeding expectations. Not to mention, strategizing for the long term, coaching employees, and collaborating with other leaders tend to be better uses of managers’ time and abilities than babysitting. If employees do make a misjudgment, then managers can handle the issue and course correct as needed.

9. Stand Up For Your Staff

Many new managers are scared to challenge higher-ups or other department leaders for fear of causing conflict or jeopardizing their own position. However, there are times when colleagues may have incomplete information or unrealistic expectations, and managers should push back against unreasonable demands to protect the team. While cooperating with other departments is important, it is also critical for managers to protect their teams’ wellbeing and best interests. Standing up for staff can earn leaders their teams’ trust and respect, and can avoid instances of departmental overload and employee frustration.

Knowing when to acquiesce and when to advocate for your people can be a tricky judgment call to make, especially for inexperienced leaders. One tip worth considering is to raise concerns rather than outright refuse to act. You can also ask other managers for advice to ensure that you are not viewing the situation in a biased way. You should not make excuses for your team, however, it is your job to understand your team’s capabilities and limitations and utilize your employees in optimal ways. Being set up to succeed is not only in your team’s best interests, but also in the best interests of the organization.

10. Make Friends With Other Managers

Connecting with peers is typically a good idea. By befriending other managers, you build a support system that you can bounce ideas off of, approach for advice, and commiserate with. Associating with other young managers means that you can learn together and have company in the leadership development process, and networking with more seasoned managers helps with mentorship. Plus, your department is not your only work team. As a manager, you also become part of the leadership team. Chances are, you will have to collaborate with other department heads at some point in your career, and having a pre-existing congenial relationship will make the process that much easier.

Here is a list of tips on forming work friendships.

11. Do Not Be Intimidated By Age

In most cases, managers oversee younger employees. However, occasionally a supervisor will have older subordinates. Young, first time managers may be intimidated or unsure of how to handle older employees, especially if those team members are resistant to having a younger boss.

Age does not necessarily correlate with capability, especially in terms of management. Older employees may have more years on the job experience, yet often have no leadership background. Management requires different attitudes and skill sets than non-managerial roles, and employees do not automatically gain those abilities with time. Older team members do not necessarily make better bosses, and long-term employees still need guidance and direction from leaders.

Many long-term workers are well aware of this fact. Newbie managers should not assume that older subordinates will not respect younger bosses. Even if employees do express doubts, managers should project confidence and try not to let these opinions hinder their performance.

12. Nurture and Grow Management Skills

One of the best new manager tips is to consciously work on developing management skills. Many first time managers make the mistake of assuming that the knowledge and prowess that helped land the promotion are the only qualifications needed to be a good leader. However, while it is important for managers to be technically proficient, it is equally important, if not more important, to have soft skills and a leadership mindset.

Management requires a different approach and perspective than solo work. To thrive in supervisory roles, managers need skills like communication, conflict resolution, persuasion, decision-making, and delegation. Unfortunately, many organizations fail to provide new leaders with comprehensive management training. Many first-time managers learn on the job and are responsible for their own development.

By viewing management as a separate skill to learn and practice, first time supervisors can level up and meet the demands of the new role more effectively. The most dedicated new managers take steps to expand their leadership skills by reading, taking courses and continuing education, and seeking feedback.

Final Thoughts

Very few first time managers complete a formal training course, and much of the learning process consists of a trial by fire approach. Management requires a different mindset and set of skills than general employment, and very few first time leaders are made aware of this fact, nevermind trained in management competencies. While experience and experimentation can be valuable teaching methods, there is no need for new managers to reinvent the process of leading teams.

By reading tips, learning from experts, and taking a mindful approach to the management process, new leaders can position themselves to be better bosses. Following new manager advice helps first time bosses make stronger first impressions and gain the respect of subordinates and superiors more quickly. Not to mention, taking tips from a playbook makes the job much less intimidating and much more rewarding upfront.

Next, check out this guide to managing remotely.

FAQ: Tips for first time managers 

Here are answers to questions about tips for first time managers.

What are some good tips for first time managers?

Some good tips for first time managers include seeking out mentors, listening more than you talk, and asking for help when you need it.

How do you succeed as a new manager?

To succeed as a new manager, draw boundaries between management and friendship, manage your time wisely, and delegate responsibilities.

What are common mistakes that new managers make?

Common mistakes that new managers make include micromanaging, being too friendly with staff, and acting as a savior instead of a coach.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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