5 things you should do as a first-time manager

Promoted to manager? Here’s how to make the transition as smooth as possible.

5 things you should do as a first-time manager

Congrats! You’ve finally taken the step from “contributor” to manager. This is big news for your career—more responsibility, more exposure, and probably proof that your higher-ups think you can handle the challenge. But in addition to the career boost, being a first-time manager can also be scary.

For the first time, you’re tasked with overseeing someone else’s work. Their success or failure at the company is, in part, in your hands. And along with learning a new job, you also have to teach them theirs.

With so much sudden responsibility, you might feel overwhelmed. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make the transition in management as smooth as possible. And one day when you become a director, you might even laugh at how easy manager life was. But for now, here are a few moves that will make you seem like a seasoned management pro.

Great manager move 1: Set recurring meetings to give feedback

The sign of a great manager is one who gives great feedback—and has time for his or her direct reports. You’ll likely be working closely with your new report on various projects, but it’s also good to have time to talk openly about how he or she is managing the workload, the position, and monitor their stress level.

One way to do this is to set aside regular time for feedback, recommends Scott Woodley, co-founder of Tutora, an online tutoring platform. For Woodley, that means a weekly catch-up with his direct report over coffee. “I think this makes us both more honest in our conversation and more comfortable in our roles during the rest of the week,” says Woodley.

Great manager move 2: Recognize good work

From your time in junior positions, you probably know how good it feels to have your hard work recognized by your manager. Taking that insight to your new position and making sure you reward success could be the best thing you do as a new manager.

“Not taking the time to recognize outstanding work efforts and results that your employees deliver decreases morale which undermines the team’s collective desire to want to over-deliver on expectations,” says Keith Johnstone, marketing manager at Peak Sales Recruiting. “Something as small as a gift card, lunch, or a bottle of wine can go a long way in making your employees feel valued.”

Great manager move 3: Keep track of what everyone’s working on

There’s a difference between being a micromanager and being a great manager—one who knows what his or her reports are working on so it’s easy to jump in and help out when needed. If you have more than a few people on your team, it’s helpful to use a project management tool, like Trello. This is how Kate Hofmann, marketing manager at scooter manufacturer Amigo Mobility, keeps projects in order.

Project management software allows you to add projects with instructions and assign tasks to the entire team to help minimize confusion on new or repeat projects. “It has been especially useful when training new people, as I can pull up instructions I’ve already written. It provides a resource base employees can refer to throughout a project,” says Hofmann.

Great manager move 4: Encourage teamwork

Yes, you’re the fearless leader, but by helping your employees feel comfortable reaching out to other teammates and departments, you’ll benefit them and your team in the long run. From the get-go, encourage your employees to start making connections with the people he or she will work with every day. Facilitate this by making the introduction, which is especially important if they’re new to the company or if they’re shy.

“One thing I like is getting one employee to teach another a new skill, app, or run through a project, and vice-versa so they feel they can learn from each other,” says Gina Hutchings, an account manager at Receptional, a London-based digital marketing consultancy.

Great manager move 5: Let them screw up

It might seem counterintuitive, but one of the things you have to do as a manager is foster an environment in which people are able to fail. That way, you’ll create a space where they won’t feel micromanaged, and will be comfortable taking chances and feeling some autonomy in their work.  

“Encourage accountability, and give people room to not only grow, but make mistakes,” says Karen Schneider, office manager at The Winebow Group, a Virginia-based wine importer. “They only become better employees and grow their careers by doing so.”