How to Navigate the Challenges of Being a First-Time Manager


Making the transition to management can be exciting, but it is also fraught with challenges you may not have encountered before. Typically, the skills and experience that allowed you to advance to this level aren’t the ones you will rely on going forward as you won’t be participating in the daily activities that were once the focus on your day.

Instead, you are now tasked with building and leading effective teams, and that means other core competencies become crucial to your success. To help you navigate the challenges of being a first-time manager, here are some tips to get you started.

Let Go of Your Individual Contributor Persona

When you’ve built a career as an individual contributor, the tendency is to hold on to that identity, including the technical expertise that led to your success. While having knowledge of your field is important, the ability of your team to deliver solid results needs to take center stage if you want to succeed. This means you will need to adjust to your new priorities and let go of some of what helped you rise to the rank of manager.

Don’t Focus on Being Seen as a Subject-Matter Expert

Similarly, some new managers struggle to stop being seen as a subject-matter expert, particularly when it means allowing someone else to step into that role. While maintaining a level of understanding can help you lead, you need to trust your team to get the job done, pursue new ideas, and even find their own answers.

Asserting yourself as a subject-matter expert can be detrimental to your team, especially if it involves shooting down their ideas at every turn. Always giving your team the answers or forcing them in a specific direction can kill personal initiative, leading your staff to simply do your bidding and not innovate on their own.

Instead of trying to maintain this role, step back and let your employees do what they do best. When they do need help, step into the position of teacher instead of dictator, as this allows them to grow professionally, making them a more effective team. Generally, they’ll quickly fill the subject-matter expert position and begin producing at remarkable levels.

Give Feedback Regularly

First-time managers aren’t often used to being on the giving end of the feedback paradigm, with many forgetting that this is part of their new role. For those that do remember, the tendency is to focus on the negative, doling out corrections over anything else.

While stepping in to address a problem is important, providing positive feedback is also crucial. This shows your team that you recognize and appreciate their efforts, a move that can significantly boost morale.

There is no preset schedule for positive feedback, so feel free to offer some whenever something recognition worthy occurs, even if it seems small.

In the end, your success as a first-time manager is based more on your ability to craft and support an effective team than your personal technical expertise. So, let go of your individual contributor persona and work to embrace your new role. The results will make it worth the effort.

If you are interested in learning more, the knowledgeable staff at Bayside Solutions can help. Contact us to speak with one of our experienced team members today.