The First-time Manager's Guide to Success

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By Margaret Steen

You worked hard, became the go-to person on your team and finally were promoted to manager. You feel that you've arrived. And you may have already made your first mistake.

"A lot of people think there's some glory in getting this title of manager" and take the job because of the success it implies, not because they really want to manage other people, said Gerard H. Gaynor, author of What Every New Manager Needs to Know.

But never fear. Gaynor and other experts have tips on five common mistakes new managers make -- and how you can avoid them.

Take Time to Learn

You naturally want to show the people who promoted you that they made the right decision, so it's tempting to try to make big changes right away. "There's always pressure to do something soon to get some visibility," said Libby Pannwitt, a career counselor and principal of Work Life Design Group in San Carlos, California.

But it's better to take it slow. "There's an awful lot to learn," Pannwitt said. "Who are the other players? What is your place in the hierarchy? What is the contribution that's expected of you?" And if you spend some time listening and learning, when you do take on a big project you'll be more likely to succeed.

Share the Work

If you're feeling overwhelmed with all the work you have to do, take a careful look to be sure you're not still trying to do your old job as well. It's a common mistake of new managers, said Carol W. Ellis, a business and career management consultant and in Placitas, New Mexico, and author of Management Skills for New Managers.

"In many cases they've been rewarded for doing work," Ellis said. "Therefore they're afraid to give it up." Remember, though, that your old job is now someone else's responsibility -- and yours is to make sure your team succeeds, not to do all the work yourself.

Listen to Your Staff

Making decisions without getting your staff's input can cause two problems. First, you won't benefit from the insights they may have had about how best to go about your project. Second, your staff will not have any investment in making sure the project is successful.

"If employees don't feel that they were involved in the decision, then they can have all kinds of excuses for why this program or project is not going to work," said Carole C. Edman, a human resources consultant and coach in San Jose.

Share Good News

If someone compliments you on your team's work, tell your team. Some new managers "don't think people need to know when they do a good job," Ellis said. But that's not true. Sharing praise helps build trust.

Expand Your Perspective

As a manager, you have to expand your thinking to know what other groups are doing and how their work and your group's affect each other.

"Your scope of interest must go beyond the scope of interest of your group," Gaynor said. "You just can't sit back and say, 'I've got my own little shop over here.'"

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