This article outlines two important concepts, which overlay the day-to-day task responsibilities, skill requirements and working practices that any new manager must address:  The importance of ‘putting down roots’ and that it’s actually OK to be a ‘selfish manager’.  The first few weeks are full of things to learn; people to get to know and tasks to complete. The ‘newbie’ quickly realises the pressure on their personal resources can be very demanding.

The First Line: A Manager's Handbook

The First Line: A Manager's Handbook

‘Putting down roots’ is about effectively establishing yourself and starting as you intend to go on.  If it is true that it doesn't matter who you are, it’s how you’re perceived, then communicating your style and standards from ‘day one’ will have a big impact on how easily you make the transition. There’s no ‘golden formula’ for achieving, as it is very dependent on your personal style.  However, amongst the things you might consider are to:

  • Communicate your standards and what is acceptable to you, explicitly or by example making it clear what performance you expect and will deliver
  • Deal appropriately with challenges to your authority, don’t ignore them
  • Decide if you want to be everyone’s friend, or maintain a friendly approach – being the former may lead to difficulties when dealing with tests or challenges
  • Decide your communication style and avoid mixed messages

Perhaps the most important trait to adopt and reputation to acquire is that of consistency.  Regardless of the style you choose to employ as a manager, those around you will not be comfortable with frequent shifts in approach or style and the uncertainty of not knowing which ‘you’ has come to work today.

My second point is that in a very specific way it’s actually OK to be selfish.  Looking after yourself and your own wellbeing is not the same as putting yourself first to the detriment of others.  Indeed, not being selfish to some degree can be detrimental to your health, your performance as a manager, and can spill out into your non-work life with unfortunate consequences for all involved.  Being selfish involves recognising that:

  • Responsibility for your welfare lies with you first and foremost – others can’t/wont help if you don’t help yourself too
  • Taking ownership of a problem – dealing with it – does not make it your problem – failing to do so will!
  • Make time for yourself (to assess, recharge, refresh) in the same way that you do for others.  This is time AWAY from all things ‘work’ and may take conscious effort.  It is too easy to blame ‘pressure of work’ for missing out on the things you love.  If you have to do that, was the promotion worth it?
  • Get a punch bag!  Which is my metaphor for establishing and maintaining a mechanism for dealing with anything that might increase the pressure – an outlet for your concerns, frustrations or worries
  • Learn to recognise the signs indicating that you need to use the punch bag.  Work at not letting things build and build until the cork pops

As a new manager there will always be a lot to take in.  It can be easy to prioritise the acquisition of knowledge and (management) skills, whilst putting non-task personal needs to one side.  My argument is that properly taking care of oneself is equally – if not more important to get right from ‘day one’.

Rob Burlace is author of ‘The First Line, a Manager’s Handbook (2017).