7 tips for first-time people managers
Updated: Aug 30
Congratulations! If you are reading this, you have most likely been promoted into a people manager role for the first time – give yourself a pat on the back! This is an exciting next step in your career, but you may be thinking, “what now?” It’s normal to feel this way, so don’t fret.
Here are 7 tips to help you succeed as a first-time people manager
1. Get to know your team (professionally and personally)
Whether your team is made up of former peers, or people you haven’t yet worked with, it’s important to get to know them both professionally and personally. Schedule time with each individual to understand their current roles, their strengths and weaknesses, their current challenges, and their professional goals. This will help you understand what they are working on, where they succeed, areas to focus on and how to help them grow in their career. Consider using a questionnaire to get to know them personally and to have some fun. At Stryker, we use an ‘All About Me’ form which is a fun way to get to know each other’s interests, preferences, hobbies and work style.
2. Change your mindset
As an individual contributor, you’re used to focusing on checking off items from your to-do list. As a manager, your focus is no longer on individual tasks, but on helping your team accomplish their tasks successfully. After all, their success will be your success. While it’s important to assist your team with their tasks, be sure to give them enough space – you don’t want to become a micromanager. Lastly, be sure to have a weekly one-on-one meeting with each of your team members to ensure they are getting the support they need from you.
3. Understand your leadership style
Your leadership style may come naturally and be a combination of style’s you’ve experienced (both good and bad) from your previous managers or from things you’ve read. Consider taking a quiz, like this one, to understand your approach and to help you become a better manager.
4. Understand your teams learning preferences
According to The Index of Learning Styles, there are four different learning styles: sensory or intuitive; visual or verbal; active or reflective; and sequential or global. Encourage your team members to take the Learning Styles Questionnaire to create a rounded learning experience for them and maximize their talents.
5. Cast the right leadership shadow
Have you ever worked for someone who worked hard, and it motivated you to work harder, or alternatively, someone who slacked off and caused you to become frustrated and resentful? This “shadow” behavior occurs because people naturally take on the characteristics of those who have influence over them, such as a boss or a parent. Therefore, the “do as I say, not as I do” mindset will not be impactful as a manager and you need to be mindful of ensuring your actions are matching your message. If you expect your team to put in long hours, then you need to put in long hours as well. Put a reminder in your calendar to check in with yourself every so often to make sure you are leading by example and are aware of the shadow you are casting.
6. Learn to give feedback effectively and frequently
Having difficult conversations is part of your new role as a manager. Giving feedback to your team is essential to their individual development and the success of your team. Get comfortable with providing constructive feedback so that each person on your team has a good understanding of their performance at all times. This is critical as you do not want them to be blind-sided at their year-end review.
7. Leverage your organization's resources
Many high-performing organizations offer leadership development resources. At Stryker, we offer articles, courses, e-learnings, and many other resources that allow our employees to successfully thrive in their leadership positions. We encourage you to contact your manager or HRBP to find out what your organization offers.