Help! I’m a First Time Manager, Now What?

Kat, a bubbly 27 year old came to me as a participant in one of my leadership programs. She told me that her director, whom she looked up to and hoped to impress, had met her at the coffee machine that morning and with this one sentence, cut her down to pieces, : “Ok so you’re a manager now, so what?” She added that even when she enthusiastically shared her new promotion with her team , their killer remarks were like,  “Well I hope it doesn’t go to your head?!”

For Kat panic was beginning to settle in. What does a big-headed manager look like anyway? As a new manager you may find yourself checking in the bathroom mirror to see if your head has not increased in size since you last looked! Now you worry about what are you supposed to do?

I used to be a manager and remember the feeling well. I wondered constantly if I was adequate for the role. I would make a decision and doubt myself 100 times over if it was the right choice.

If someone in my team asked me for advice, I would rack my brains until I found the right solution, too afraid to ask anyone in case they discovered that after all I was too stupid to have been promoted in the first place.

You see, after fumbling for many days on my own I started to read every book under the sun about managing! Believe me there are thousands! And every new one reinvents the wheels until you head begins to spin!

I used to joke about doing “shelf management” instead of “self management” as I had run out of space to put all those books! I was determined to find the essentials that are necessary to get the job done.

I even tried to ask my Marketing Director for help. My new hire was brilliant at what he did but had a bad attitude problem. People were beginning to complain about how how he didn’t fit in with the team. I thought it was a good idea to check with my director. After all, she had sponsored my promotion and I thought she thought highly of me. Right?


I remembered sitting in front of her with a nervous smile and blurted: “Margaret, I have  a problem.”

As I took a breath to explain, she peered at me over her glasses, gave me a hard look and said:

“Come back when you have a solution!”

Then she adjusted her glasses, put her head down and carried on with her work. It took me days to recover from that.

I came to realise that she was right. My new role consisted in finding  solutions to problems! This is the one thing I changed in my approach:

Steer away from Micromanaging Differences, Embrace Diversity

“How do you deal with so many diverse team members? Especially when they are when they are diverse in everything, Personality, Work Style, Communication, Culture … Everything!” 

It can get overwhelming when one drowns in the personal differences of each individual team member. People, fortunately come in different shapes and sizes, so a one-for-all approach does not work at all.

Managers usually think that the C word will work. Right? Wrong!

Micromanaging happens when a manager is doing her or his best to control all the parts to make sure that the whole works.

The C word here is Control.

It may seem to a micro-manager that they have everything under control because they have a finger in every pie and roving eyes that don’t miss a beat, however to their chagrin they will soon realise that they overlooked a fundamental truth, Control does not equal Performance.

You can have great customers. You can have all the processes you want. You can have all the products you want. You can have all the best content you want. But if you don’t have talented people nothing happens.

Talented people within a company are not a “nice to have” or a luxury, they are a necessity. Without every single one of them, idiosyncrasies and all, everything else fails.

Managing diversity is an essential skill. Some people are great to manage, some are difficult,  some, most days, leave you perplexed about their motives, but they are all part of the experience of managing. Without each of them you would not be able to learn your trade.

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