How to avoid the first-time manager predicament

Last week I wrote about the predicament of the first time manager. For some of you I'm sure it seemed a little bleak. The truth of the matter is that even those of us, who may not have all the innate skills necessary to be perfect first-time managers, can be successful by doing 6 things well as I outline in “How to keep your Rockstar status as First-time Manager.” I’ll share a couple of those things here.

How fast should you start?

The genesis of first-time manager’s syndrome comes from the fact that the new managers feel a sense of responsibility to the promotion itself.  They want to step up to it, cleanly, and fully, at 100% right out of the gate. Most first-time managers feel the need to launch themselves from 0 km/hr to 140 km/hr, as soon as the lights go out, day one of their promotion.  Starting this quickly can end in a crash.

You may recognize this analogy as being the start of a Formula 1 where the drivers launch themselves and their cars from a standing start to incredible speeds at the beginning of a race - 5 lights go on one at a time and when they go out, the race is on! However the first corner, which represents your first challenge as a first-time manager, comes up really quickly and is often the first scene where drivers are put out of the race.  You want to avoid that happening at your “first corner” as a first-time manager.

The first corner analogy describes a headlong rush down the opening straight part of a track and serves to visualize one possible view of a first-time managers rush to success.  It is very important to note however, that your work is not a race!  No matter what the short-term pressures are.  You need to be successful in the early days and set yourself up for the long run!

What if some things go wrong?

Another analogy to consider is that you’re set up as a Falcon Heavy rocket - two boosters and one main rocket engine. You get that promotion and the rocket (you) lifts off and sores toward space. The first test is getting the booster rockets back to earth.  As we saw, that happened perfectly last week in a side by side landing of both boosters - analogous to your first two challenges that are likely to happen, one right after the other, handled successfully. The third part of the event was to get the main rocket to land safely at sea on a drone ship. As we know in this last flight, the main rocket missed the drone. It splashed down in the ocean. Not perfect, however, the main goal was attained - the payload got into outer space.  So, for you, something may go right and some things may not go so right.  Your focus remains on moving forward toward your ultimate goal.

When you arrive

Like anything else being successful as a first-time manager is about setting goals, being focused and having a plan.  Take a look at your job, your role (which can be different from your job), the people around you and the needs they have, then chunk these things into small enough pieces that they all become manageable.  Without doing this, you are likely to experience “first-time manager’s syndrome”.

Start by understanding that you have to take care of your people and the business at the same time. This is a big change from doing your own thing before your promotion.

Being successful as a first-time manager is an awesome accomplishment. Dive happily into your role, be intentional about how you deal with “your first corner”. Enjoy your first successes and notice them all, even the small ones - they add up!