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6 Lessons for a First Time Manager

Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff  ::  Leader Development

Congratulations, you’re a manager!   Your performance, hard work, and commitment made you great at your job, but now your job is managing a team.   Rather than relying on yourself, you’ll need to work with and through your team coordinating, prioritizing and delegating work to achieve results.   You will need to articulate strategic and team goals as well as ensure your team completes its deliverables.  

If you’re like most first-time managers, you’ll need to do these things while you continue to drive your own deliverables!   These six tips can help you quickly transition to a great manager of a high velocity team:

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Communicate Goals

Communicate the goals and put them in company and team context.   Develop 3-5 strategic goals for each quarter of the year; all the work your team does should align around achieving these goals and the goals should align to your manager’s goals.   Consider making a deck or flyer with the goals.   Repeat or post them when the team comes together to discuss work progress so there is clear linkage between goal and effort.   If there are significant constraints in achieving goals, communicate those as well.

Motivate People

Provide the team with a sense of purpose and passion (consider how much of an impact this has for you personally).   Your job isn’t counselor, but it is to create a high functioning team that is inspired and committed to the company and its goals.   Teams produce the best results and work through challenges with resilience when they share a sense of mission – a big part of your job is to define and sustain that mission.   Create a short list of what you will do in the next 100 days to motivate your team and then assess what works best for them.

Delegate Work

Your new role is facilitator and team leader so rather than doing everything yourself, enable yourself and others to succeed by delegating work.   Clearly communicate what work you’d like people to do, the quality or approach you expect, the goal it supports, and when it should be completed.   Keep track of what you delegated to whom when so you can follow through.   When you know the task will be a challenge, make sure to ask what support is needed from you and check in more often than you otherwise would.

Track Status

One of the areas new managers struggle with most is driving accountability.   Some are too timid to ask or fail to track the status of their team’s work; others micromanage and undermine their teams.   Ask your team to provide a simple weekly report with the work line items they’ve done, applicable goals, the actions they are now doing, and will do next; they should include any issues blocking progress.   You’ll see what’s getting done or stalled and can ensure the right focus; they’ll pause to think through their list, accomplishments, and issues.  These reports are invaluable as a fact base on your team’s performance over time, so file them.

Measure Results

As your team completes work, candidly and constructively assess it.   Give great feedback as often as you can and don’t hesitate to provide fact-based, unemotional feedback where improvements are needed.   Always discuss work and expectations rather than person or personality, but consider personality and the degree of improvement required (especially before sending negative feedback in email).   Tie the improvements requested to the goal, mission, and work delegated.

Pivot Quickly

You will inevitably need to pivot in response to changing competitive, market, resource and organization conditions.   Use the weekly reports to redirect and reprioritize what individuals plan to work on next to adjust course as facts and priorities change.   When overall goals change, pull the team together to communicate which facts and circumstances changed, root cause if it is important to the goal shift, and the specific goals that have changed.

Most managers don't just manage, so managing efficiently can help you thrive in your new role.   More importantly, focus on your effectiveness as a manager now that your success is firmly linked to your team.   While it’s a default, email isn’t the best way to communicate goals, status and progress.    Check out Workboard — a cool free app for managers to keep team goals top of mind, improve delegation, simplify status reports and amplify your effectiveness and efficiency.   It comes with status tracking and report templates and most of what you’ll need to better manage the team’s work and results.

Leading a team and mission can be very exciting and a very rewarding career experiences – grow with it!

Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff

About the Author
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff @rebeccakw
Group Manager for Social Media Marketing & Advertising Solutions, Adobe

Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff is a group manager overseeing social media marketing initiatives and advertising solutions at Adobe.  She regularly meets with industry leaders, customers, and partners to assess the value of social media within an organization and how to drive ROI via social media marketing – from customer acquisition to revenue.  Rebecca has more than 15 years of experience in digital marketing and online communications, including paid, earned and owned social media.  She has held senior management roles at companies including T-Mobile, Safeco/Liberty Mutual, Microsoft Corporation, and HL2.  Rebecca resides in San Francisco, California with her family.



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