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Self-Management for the New Manager


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Self-Management for the New Manager

This is one of the hardest articles I have had to write. I have written many articles on how to manage – others, but managing oneself is a bit different. To start with, each one of us is a different and unique individual who will approach life in our own individual manner. So, are there any general principles that perhaps apply to everyone of us?

Yes, fortunately there are. More of that in a moment. But first, let me explain the reason for this article. I was asked by Colin, who was shortly to become a new manager, about what he should do when taking over his new role. Having watched many new managers over the years and trained quite a few, I know that the new manager’s role is challenging. Suddenly, you have moved from being a technical or professional expert where you knew most of the answers and how to really problem-solve, to being an “expert” people manager. Well, that’s what most of the people around you expect you to be – and generally straight away! Colin was concerned because the previous person in the role had not been very successful as a manager and as one of the brightest technical people in the organisation, big things were expected of Colin.

Here’s the advice I gave to Colin. If you are a new manager, it may also be useful for you . . .

1. Monitor your work hours.

Set a limit and stick to it. It’s very easy to get sucked into working longer and longer hours just because you are new to the role and have so much to learn. The law of diminishing returns will start to kick in after a certain period of time at work, i.e. the longer you work, the less you may achieve. Far better to work more effectively in less hours. Be particularly careful if you hear yourself saying things like “Well, I’m only new to the role, so it’s probably expected that I should take longer”.

You should also plan out the order in which you do things every day. For example, most people think that doing their emails first thing in the morning is a good use of time – get them out of the way so that you can get on with the job. Wrong! Research suggests that for two thirds of the population, the morning is their most creative time. If you are amongst this group, then wasting good creative time on a mundane task such as emails, means you will be less effective over the long term. When you finally get through all those emails each morning, your creativity for problem solving and decision making has evaporated. It’s also a well known fact, that for most people immediately after lunch is the least productive time of the day. This is the best time to tackle the emails.

2. Recognise and manager your signs of stress.

Each of us has different reactions to stress. Unfortunately, when we are stressed, we often don’t realize it until it becomes too late and we get ill or it severely affects our performance.

There are four factors that will help you identify when you are stressed; your thoughts, actions, physical symptoms and emotions.

• Are your thoughts more negative than usual? e.g. “I can’t cope” or “I always get this wrong”.

• Are your actions somewhat different? e.g. Avoiding things you should be doing, or lack of coordination.

• Is your body responding differently to pressure? e.g. A racing heart, rapid breathing or sweating more than usual.

• Have your feelings changed lately? e.g. Do you feel panic, anger, irritable, scared more easily?

To help recognize some of these factors, it may be useful to get some help. Find someone who knows you and ask them to give you feedback at least every two weeks on how you seem to be coping. If you are starting to show some of these signs of stress, then you need to take some action (look for finding a balance between intellectual, physical and emotional activities later in this article).

3. Learn to delegate.

Failure to delegate is the most common failing of new managers. For managers, there are two key aspects to successful delegation:

• Having people to whom one can delegate, and

• Selecting the most appropriate tasks to delegate

The key to delegation is to develop within your people, the “initiative to take action” so that they learn to develop their skills and knowledge to their full potential. When your people have a problem that they want some help with, encourage them to come to you with their recommended solutions, not just the problem. If they do not have any solutions, make sure that they at least come to you with a plan of action for finding a solution (which by the way, should not be based around asking you).

Secondly, draw up a list of things that you could delegate, then decide who best to delegate them to. Who’s ready? Who’s needs further development?

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

This means regular meetings with: • your team members • your boss.

It also means talking over work issues with a partner, friend or trusted colleague (from another area) on a regular basis to give you some feedback on how well you are communicating.

At a very basic level, this also means responding to emails on the same day. If you can’t answer an email fully, then send a response to say that it has been received. One of the criteria on which every manager is judged, is their ability and willingness to communicate.

5. Give praise and recognition regularly.

Even “Thank You’s” are important. Look for the things people are doing well and praise them. If appropriate for the person, also give public recognition. Of all the motivational tools you have at your disposal, this is by far the easiest and cheapest, yet brings the biggest payoffs.

6. Focus on what is important, not what is urgent.

In particular, talk with your manager about the three most important priorities he/she has for you in your role. Make sure you focus on these at all times.

7. Ensure you have a balance between intellectual, physical and emotional activities.

Whilst people differ markedly in their biorhythms (the way we manage our mental, physical and emotional makeup), each of us needs to manage these three. Of all the points raised, this is probably the most important. From my work in sports psychology, I know that athletes who are successful are particularly good at maintaining a balance between these three. The same is true for effective managers.

What does this mean for the new manager? Implementing action in relation to the previous six steps is a good start. In addition, I would suggest:

• Intellectual. Regularly undertake a mind activity such as reading a good book, seeing a movie, learning a new language or starting a creative hobby such as painting.

• Physical: Ensure that you have an exercise regime that keeps you physically fit. This doesn’t have to be strenuous, but it does have to challenge you. Also watch your diet.

• Emotional: Take care to interact regularly with the special people in your life – make time for them. Also think about building new relationships with people outside of work.

Finally, find yourself a mentor. This should be someone who has been or is a successful people manager. Without exception, the most successful managers I have met tell me that they have someone that they often confide in or whose help they seek when faced with a new challenge. Meet regularly with him or her to discuss your issues, challenges and ways that you can learn and develop. Don’t expect a mentor to have all the answers, but they can be very useful to bounce ideas off. Speaking from personal experience as a manager and consultant for over 30 years, I still call on my mentor Dennis from time to time for his advice. Do you have some questions for me or someone that could be your mentor?

I’m now really pleased that Collin asked his question of me which led to me struggling over writing this article and in the process, stretching my intellectual capacity. For me, I’m off to do some physical exercise and then later this evening to have a relaxing dinner with my wife.

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