Good Manager Guide: The Way to Success In The First 100 Days & Beyond

  • Brace
  • November 21, 2018
  • 27 min

You’re finally there. The next step of your career: The manager’s chair. But now the challenge really begins. Whether you clawed your way up from team to top or were employed from outside, the first 100 days can make or break your tenure as manager. We’ll discuss the manager’s role in the office, which expectations need to be met, and provide tips and key takeaways to excel in your first 100 days and be a good manager.

Qualities of a Good Leader

In today’s world, managers aren’t asked as much for incredible subject knowledge, as they are responsible for orchestrating a team of experts. Although knowing what your team does is important, for leaders, the so-called soft skills play a much larger role.

Good managers have the ability to:

  • set clear goals and achieve them
  • delegate tasks
  • build trust in their team
  • give the right amount of freedom for employees to be efficient and effective

Important, however, is not to fall into the “likeability” trap. Earning respect and recognition is integral to building a well-structured workplace, but you can’t achieve this through beers with the team. Rather than being best friends with employees, managers need to maintain the right amount of distance, while impressing with their leadership. Being fair, transparent, and honest encourages this, while building a team that likes working for you and gives you the respect and authority you need to be successful.

First Steps of a New Manager

#Recommended StepsFunction and Value
1.Focus on the social side of the office.Take the time to get know your team and let them connect to each other. Employees with friends at work are 7x more engaged and productive, while integrating yourself into the circle helps establish your role as manager, and positions you to give and receive effective feedback.
2.Show your stripes.Whether in a new team or an established one, your employees will want to know who you are and what you stand for. Use this opportunity to express your values and views, which will ultimately guide the how and why of the workplace. If you haven’t established these values yet, make sure to do your homework and plan your approach before you start with your team.
3.Define work and workplace processes.In a new team or old, it is up to the manager to explain the workflow and office expectations to employees. Have a plan and a structure regarding tasks, reviews, meetings, and feedback, and take the reins in implementing and explaining it to new employees or a new team.
4.Set clear and achievable goals.Make sure that your team knows what exactly you want to achieve, and what you believe they are capable of. Don’t dumb down your ambitions for your team, but make sure the milestones are realistic. With these in place, your employees will know to what ends they are working, and also be motivated by fulfilling those expectations.
5.Value employee opinions.Employees want to feel valued and appreciated by their supervisors. A full 50% of employees who don’t feel valued by their boss plan to leave within the next year. Even if not all suggestions are great ones, addressing your employees ideas and opinions will help them be more connected to the workplace and give you a chance to explain why you’ve made your decisions.
6.Keep an open door.All the efforts to connect with your team at the beginning will be for naught if you shut yourself off immediately afterward. Too much communication is always better than too little. Your employees should see you as an advisor and mentor, as well as a boss, and for this, you need open channels of communication and a good rapport.

The Many Hats of a Better Boss

So you’ve finally made the big leap and have a new team of your own. But, now faced with the daunting task of leadership, you may be asking yourself: What exactly does it mean to be a manager and how can I do it best? All the many tasks of a leader are of course diverse and wouldn’t fit in the space of a blog article. There are, however, a few roles that all good bosses will fill:

The Trainer:

The work world is always growing and changing, and, to stay ahead, this means skills and processes must grow along with it. It’s up to a manager to make sure their team is up to speed, whether it’s a new team member just learning the ropes or a long time employee picking up a new technique. Employees and companies need their leaders to help them develop, and the better bosses deliver on this promise with passion and knowledge in the field, respect, and clever methods.

Tips and Techniques

  • Remember all employees learn differently. Use diverse methods, from one on one help to simple lectures, in order to help each individual in your team learn and grow.
  • Keep training standardized. No matter how employees learn a skill, they should be learning the same information so that the team stays on the same page.
  • Know the reason for training. Onboarding takes a different strategy than you’ll need for employee growth and development. Team training sessions and on the job methods can help department veterans pick up something new, whereas formal training may be better suited to coaching a new team member.

The Organizer:

Teams have many moving parts and resources that all have to work together. A clear division of tasks helps keep a department working flawlessly and efficiently. Leaders need to clearly assign tasks to their team, and clarify the desired results. This ensures a common understanding among team members, aligns everyone to a common goal, and avoids misunderstandings, conflicts, and work being done twice.

Tips and Techniques

  • Know your challenge and react. Are you leading a new team or taking over an existing one? For new teams, you can research best practices and digital tools, while existing teams often need fresh eyes to revolutionize their old habits.
  • Use clear planning. Structured calendars and recurring daily stand-ups or weekly meetings bring order to the office and provide time for team members to get coordinated and for you to catch any misunderstandings early.
  • Welcome the digital revolution. Project management software, as well as feedback and communication tools,  make organizing the workplace much easier by automating many processes and providing simple unified platforms for feedback and communication.

The Communicator:

Inside of a team there are many types of communication, ranging from personal to professional and individual to company-wide. A manager must be able to decide what information is important for their team, as well as know which voice to use to best relay a message. The wrong tone can cause at best misunderstanding, and at worst, conflict and loss of respect and productivity.

Tips and Techniques

  • Know what level you’re addressing. Is it just one employee, the whole team, or maybe the whole company? This factor can change the words you use and the purpose and topics of your address.
  • Have different reasons for communicating. Company updates can help connect team members to the workplace, while small personal conversations can set the tone for your relationship to your team. If you only communicate when there is something to criticize, it endangers your employee’s willingness to trust you and your advice.
  • Maintain clarity and records. Not every conversation can be positive, but with standard structures, they can all be productive. Regular one on ones and performance reviews provide written record of agreements and expectations, while clear processes for feedback make sure everyone knows what they need to do (or, perhaps, should have done).

The Motivator:

Few managers know the things that motivate their team, and this has negative consequences for the workplace. Employee motivation is a driving factor in employee engagement, which is necessary for a team to run at maximum capacity. A leader needs to learn the things that push their team forward and make use of these to optimize their workplace, regardless of whether it’s personal growth, appreciation, or rewards.

Tips and Techniques

  • Harness feedback insights. Employee feedback offers a glimpse into what employees need and desire, which correlates to what motivates them. Using digital feedback software, you can turn these employee perspectives into effective motivation methods and solutions to office problems.
  • Learn where your employees want to develop. Through weekly one on ones and performance reviews, you can find out what team members want to learn, and what this says about their motivations. By giving them the chance to grow in the direction they desire, you can significantly boost their willingness to go above and beyond.
  • Appreciate their efforts. Knowing that colleagues and leaders recognize their work can remind employees of its importance. By showing team members that they, and their efforts, are a valued, integral part of something bigger, you can inspire and motivate.
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The first 100 days are about getting to know your team and workplace rhythms. Don’t focus too much on revolutionizing the workplace just yet.

Starting On the Right Foot

Setting the right tone from the very beginning is integral in building a successful team and establishing your role as manager. People are quick to judge, and first impressions have a tendency to stick. In the first few weeks, you establish not just what will be achieved, but also how it will be approached, what kind of manager you will be, and the atmosphere and culture of the workplace. No pressure.

But even if this seems daunting, there are concrete steps you can take to secure a successful start and facilitate a great working team.

Introducing Yourself

We all know the importance of first impressions, and it’s no different for you with your new team. How you introduce yourself has big consequences for the influence and respect that you receive. There’s no need for a long, grand speech, rather your introduction should be personal, clear, concrete, and include these elements:

  • Communicate who you are. Where are you from and what have you accomplished? What are your hobbies and interests? Why did you take the position and what do you expect from it? A little personal information is helpful, as long as you don’t come across as boastful and don’t recount your whole life story.
  • Be natural. Marketing lines out of the “Handbook for New Managers” are easy to spot and hinder an organic relationship with your team. Speak with your new employees as you would amongst friends while making your goals and plans clear.
  • Stay positive. Negative stats and comments about the team, strategies, or your predecessor do nothing to build your relationship and reputation. Focus on your plans and what can be achieved going forward.
  • Clarify your expectations. Let your team know your direction and expectations from day one. This ensures that you and your staff start on the same page and that they know what to expect and won’t be caught off guard or have a negative response to your actions.
  • Save some for later. Your introduction is only for the purpose of letting your team quickly get to know you, but there is of course much more to say than fits in this space. Rather than extend your talk, promise and plan personal meetings and a more in-depth exchange in the following days.

Going Beyond the Small Talk

“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom,” and what Socrates didn’t add, it’s also an integral trait of being a better boss and mentoring your team. Be consistent in your direction and message, and aware of your strengths and weaknesses. With this knowledge, you can establish your role as a leader by offering your team competent advice on your areas of expertise, while showing personal strength through acknowledging your shortcomings and working to improve them.

Like any human, great leaders don’t know everything, but they have the ability to confront and learn from what they lack, and organize the necessary team to address the issue. These qualities provide a respectable and relatable role model for your employees and reinforce the productive values of the workplace that you want to establish: transparency, responsibility, personal growth, trust, appreciation, and respect.

Steps to Be a Better Boss

  1. Share your knowledge — Use what you know to help your team grow and achieve. This builds respect for you as a manager and promotes a healthy company culture.
  2. Promote and practice transparency — Keep employees in the loop about managerial decisions with emails or meetings. If leadership is open and honest, team members are more likely to be supportive and to share their own valuable feedback and perspectives.
  3. Have regular one on ones — These short, weekly or monthly meetings keep you in touch with your employees personally, and with the workplace generally. You can find out and address team issues before they get bigger while shoring up your role as mentor-in-chief.
  4. Appreciate and recognize employee efforts — Being appreciated is a great motivator and promotes Employee Engagement. Keep your workplace positive and help employees learn by telling them what they are doing well, even if it’s just a quick thank you.
  5. Delegate tasks — The workplace is like an orchestra and every team member has special talents. Find out who is the best fit and distribute accordingly. A manager shouldn’t do everything and giving employees ownership and agency in a project shows great productivity and engagement results.

Transparent Leadership Through Orientation

After you’ve made your goals and plans clear in your introduction, it’s time to follow up with the details. What exactly can your employees expect from you? When is the right time to get feedback, address big concerns, and how should goals be approached? It’s your responsibility to make clear to everyone’s what their role is, as well as to communicate the advancements and shortcomings of the workplace, and thus make a climate of trust and transparency.

Respect and Trust

As the saying goes, respect isn’t given, it’s earned. Especially as a manager, you have to build and maintain your status with your team. After all, as leader, your team needs to follow your directions, which can’t happen if there is no foundation of mutual admiration and trust.

To build a groundwork of respect, consider the following steps:

  1. Build mutual respect. If you expect respect, then you have to give it. Treat your team as equals, be transparent, and take their concerns and ideas seriously.
  2. Be reliable and honest. Communicate about problems or success in the company and never promise something you can’t deliver. Being open with your employees from team meetings to quarterly projections builds a stronger workplace and team.
  3. Be open to feedback and criticism. Nobody’s perfect and feedback and criticism help growth and improvement. Don’t be afraid to solicit feedback from your team about your performance, but make sure to show your appreciation by engaging with and acting upon their comments.

Manager Mistakes to Avoid

Learning from your mistakes can only happen if you recognize what they are. We’ve listed things to avoid so you can spot if your management style is causing more problems than its solving. If your style fits these criteria too well, then take another look at the improvement ideas above.

  1. Don’t be manager almighty. If you speak down to your employees and assume you can do everything better, then you can only look forward to a frustrated, unmotivated team with no reason to give you respect.
  2. Avoid avoiding responsibility.
    Pushing negative results of your decisions on to higher-ups or employees themselves gives the impression that you can’t be trusted, can’t adapt to what the situation needs, and does the opposite of earning respect.
  3. Neutralize your negativity. Always complaining, saying what is done wrong, or what wasn’t accomplished gives employees the feeling that nothing can ever be right and drives their motivation and mutual respect into the ground.

Think Before You Act

Bold actions are rarely useful without understanding and research. The first 100 days aren’t designed for enacting sweeping change, but are rather for learning and observing the workplace, its culture, and its rhythms. Regardless if you are new to the workplace, or rose up from within, its worth taking the time and asking questions to truly understand internal processes and structures, orient yourself in the office, and for the veteran-employee-now-manager, to see things from a new perspective.

Meeting Expectations from Above

Even at the manager level, there is typically at least one person above, and they most likely have certain ideas about your performance and direction. Of course, since you made it through the interviews and were chosen for the role, your company wants you and your skills. But do you know exactly what you should accomplish and what drives your new company?

These questions can help you clarify your role with your own boss:

  • In what direction does the company want to go? Is it clear what the short, middle, and long term goals are and which absolutely needs to be achieved?
  • What sets the company apart? Are there unique qualities that make your new organization different and individual?
  • What are the values of the organization? You can only enact and embody these values when you know what they are.
  • How does the company handle mistakes? Ask for examples of previous strategies and products that didn’t work out as planned.
  • How is the company organized? Which departments work together and who is responsible for which results?
  • Who are your employees? This doesn’t mean going through everyone’s files in detail, but rather finding out what unique talents employees may have, as well as special considerations such as whether someone is especially motivated, or had been aiming for the role you are taking on.
  • What should you focus on first? What are your boss’ priorities, and what are good approaches? It’s important to ask for regular feedback from your boss in the first 100 days, to make sure you stay the right course.

Understanding Your Team

Whether you are taking over an existing team or building your own, observation plays a critical role. It takes time to recognize which employee has what skill set, as well as spotting what other elements they contribute to the workplace and team. Watching and learning lets you recognize these roles and improve on them, rather than cramping the workflow with rushed decisions, and causing irritation for your employees and your own boss. Only after observing and understanding your team can you place employees in the right roles for the most effective workplace constellation.

Factors of an Efficient Team

In a study of 180 companies over 2 years, Google’s Project Aristotle found that teams work best when they have:

 

  • “Psychological safety,” meaning that questions are encouraged and even incomplete ideas are welcome.
  • “Dependability,” meaning that the team reliably completes work with quality and punctuality.
  • “Structure and clarity,” meaning that teams have clear directions, roles, goals, and expectations.
  • “Meaning,” referring to the purpose and importance employees attribute to their work, whether personal or social.
  • “Impact,” meaning that employees work best when they know their efforts contribute to accomplishing goals and driving company success.

How to Define and Achieve Goals

If you’ve used them well, your first weeks have been busy: You’ve got yourself oriented, put your team together, had your first meetings and one on ones, learned the expectations of your boss, and studied the company values and mission. Now you’re finally ready to start forming a strategy and setting clear goals. These can be focused on employees and effort, or on the larger project level, but the first rule is to always stay grounded. Goals can be ambitious, but they need to be realistically achievable, and since you’ve taken time to get to know your team, you should be able to accurately judge their abilities.

Effective goals need to:

  • be clearly defined
  • be measurable
  • address current topics

Even with the clearest plan and best team, goals can be complicated to achieve. Appointments fall through and customers change their minds. Staying flexible and adaptable is the best way to stay on top of these challenges. This means leaving room in your strategies for change and adaptation as the situation evolves and the unexpected becomes reality.

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Even if you’ve been steering office ship for a while, new strategies can open up new possibilities.

New Management Strategies for Old Salts

Even if you’ve been in the driver’s seat before, there are always ways to improve. Sometimes old tactics can even be a hindrance in the rapidly changing business world. Today’s employees expect different things from their employer, such as development opportunities and flexibility. To pep up your old structure for the new generation of workers, you can…

  • …Create a complementary work environment.
    This doesn’t just mean in attitude, but in physical terms, as well. Offices that are designed for their purpose increase productivity. Make a creative space for ideas, a quiet room for research, or simply a more open office to encourage teamwork among employees.
  • …Encourage focus and clarity.
    Life can be overwhelming, but the office shouldn’t add more to this stress. Make sure your team knows what they need to do and that their daily needs are met. If employees can focus on their task without distractions and concerns, they will be more productive and motivated.
  • …Offer great development opportunities.
    Employees are motivated by learning and growing, and giving them this chance isn’t too difficult. Use one on ones and feedback to find out where your team members want to develop and search out webinars, workshops, or classes that will fill this need. Your team will be more inspired, and you’ll have more talents at your disposal for future projects.
  • …Ask for feedback.
    Knowing where you stand with your team is the first step to building relationships. Solicit feedback about your performance and consider elements of bottom-up management. Criticism can be hard to accept, but it can offer insight into ways you can improve and grow as a manager, and ways to optimize your team.
  • …Lighten up a bit.
    The workplace is, of course, primarily about production. But all work and no play can make your team a very dull place. Your employees will enjoy the occasional team lunch or activity, and rewarding and appreciating hard work will make employees more willing to keep giving their all.

Common Challenges for Managers

The entrance into the world of management has a steep learning curve and comes rife with pitfalls and problems. These can be even harder depending on if you’re advancing in the same company or starting fresh. To help you prepare for a new challenge, here are some common concerns and ways you can overcome them.

Question: How should a coworker transition to a leader?

Suggestions: First elicit support from your new supervisor. Next, have honest discussions with your former coworkers and define the new relationship. Set up meetings shortly thereafter to agree on expectations and start off with transparency and clarity about your plans.

Question: How do managers find the best people?

Suggestions: First, know your company culture and the culture you want to have. Next, plan and structure the interview and choose applicants that fit not only the skill set, but the team and values. Complete this process with a comprehensive onboarding program to make sure your great new hire integrates well and wants to stay.

Question: When and how should managers let employees go?

Suggestions: Always first try to find what may be driving poor performance. But once this has failed, be decisive in your choice to let someone go, as keeping poor performers isn’t fair to good workers or the mood of the team. We all make mistakes and sometimes a person was hired that doesn’t fit, but it’s better for both sides to part ways than to let the problem persist. Next, schedule a meeting with the employee and prepare your reasons. Backup your decision with performance records, stay respectful and sympathetic, and always wish them the best.

Rating the First 100 Days: Feedback and Reflection

As the first 100 days come to an end, you can take stock of what you’ve accomplished, and what still needs work. Did you accomplish your goals and put changes in motion? Have you earned the respect of your team and boss? Getting feedback from your higher up will help you confirm that you are on the right track while analyzing what worked, what didn’t, and why can help you refine your management style.

Of course, it’s not all about the boss. Employee feedback is integral in becoming the best manager you can be. Your team can tell you best how effective your strategies were and how your actions came across to the workplace. It’s not about rating your leadership style, as much as it is about adapting your plans to the realities and sensibilities of your team. By being open, listening, and learning you can integrate your team and make the most out of your experiences in the first 100 days.

Key Takeaways

  • A concise, personal introduction helps you and your team start off on the right foot.
  • The first 100 days are better for planning, orientation, observing, and learning, than they are for large changes.
  • Respect is earned and should be nourished through mutual appreciation and trust.
  • Goals should always be clear, measurable, and above all, achievable.
  • Feedback from above and below are integral in shaping a great leadership style that is motivating and effective.

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