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This is the fourth in a continuing series investigating the dynamics of supervisory relationships in the changing workplace by best-selling author Bruce Tulgan, founder and chairman of RainmakerThinking, Inc.
You are the new leader. Congratulations! On day one, you have two critical missions:
- Establish yourself as a strong, highly engaged leader.
- Learn who’s who and what’s what.
If you are going to be my new manager, the first thing I want to know is: What kind of manager are you going to be?
That’s one of the great things about being a manager who is committed to the fundamentals. How can anyone object to a manager who says, “I’m going to be strong and highly engaged?" Would you rather your manager be “weak and hands-off?”
One would think that it would be safe for a manager to say:
“I’m your new manager and I consider that a sacred responsibility. I’m going to make sure that everything goes well around here. I’m going to help you get a bunch of work done very well, very fast, all day long. I’m going to set you up for success every step of the way. I’m going to spell out expectations for you and help you plan. I’m going to work with you to clarify goals, guidelines, and specifications. I’m going to help you break big deadlines into smaller time frames with concrete performance benchmarks. I’m going to go over standard operating procedures. I’m going to offer reminders. I’m going to provide checklists and other tools. I’m going to help you keep track of what you are doing and how you are doing it every step of the way. I’m going to help you monitor and measure and document your success every step of the way. I’m going to help you solve problems as soon as they occur, so they don’t fester and grow into bigger problems. I’m going to help you find the shortcuts, avoid the pitfalls, and follow the best practices. Count on me. When you need something, I’m going to help you find it. When you want something, I’m going to help you earn it.”
That’s what I call the “Good news!” management speech. That’s a very good message to deliver in your inaugural team meeting.
Stand out as the manager who is serious about the work and managing. If being strong makes you stand out, then stand out. You might find out that the culture supports good management after all. There may be more hands-on managers in your midst than you realize, doing their thing beneath the radar. Or you may find that your example is an inspiration to others.
Start by introducing yourself and establishing yourself as a leader. You need to assume command: “This is who I am as a manager. This is how I operate. This is how I’m going to manage. “
The big challenge as a brand new leader—no matter how much experience you may bring to the table—is that you are brand new to this particular role. You have a huge learning curve to climb. When you are new, you have such awareness of all that you have to learn. This is not a position of weakness. It is a position of strength.
Come in on day one and say to the team: "This is who I am. This is how I’m going to manage. My first mission is to learn everything inside out and that is how we are going to become acquainted. Each of you is going to teach me.”
Learning is your position of strength. From day one, stake it out and use it: The first order of business is you need to get introduced to everyone and everything. You need to get on-board and up-to-speed with everyone and everything by learning the nuts and bolts of their jobs from day one. You don’t learn first and take charge later.
You take charge by learning
In every one-on-one conversation with every employee, ask pointed questions. Then follow up, follow up, follow up.
Watch employees work. You learn a lot from actually watching someone performing his tasks and responsibilities in action that you cannot learn any other way.
Ask employees to help you keep track of their actions by using self-monitoring tools like project plans, checklists and activity logs. Employees can monitor whether they are meeting goals and deadlines laid out in a project plan, make notations within checklists, and report to you at regular intervals.
Check your employees’ work carefully in process. You can’t actually keep track of everything every employee does, but you can check random samples on a regular basis.
Gather intelligence. Ask customers, vendors, coworkers and other managers about their interactions with specific employees. Always ask question about the employee’s work, never about the person.
One person at a time, one day at a time, you will become the person who knows the most about who is doing what, why, where, when and how, every step of the way. The more knowledge you acquire the more power you’ll have. When do you finish learning, and start running the show? Never! Managing is always one part learning and one part teaching. If you ever stop learning, you should not be running the show anymore.