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You might have impressed your manager and been offered the chance to take the next step up in your career by becoming a manager in your own rite. 

You might have completed a dedicated CMI qualification and you’re about to start your first dedicated management role.

You might have found yourself in your first management role completely by accident: placed there by forces beyond your control. 

However you came upon being a manager, it’s likely that you’re going to be experiencing excitement, curiosity and well, nervousness, about how to manage a team in the field, for real.

We’ve created this blog to help you out. In this article, we’ll explore 5 tips that we think are essential for first time managers. 

1. Earn your team’s trust

Trust is one of the things that solid team performance is built on. It has to be earned – it isn’t something that is automatically given. Developing trust between you and your new team is crucial to the long-term performance of your management practice and to the general cohesion of the group you’re responsible for managing. 

There’s clear evidence that supports this idea. Teams that have trust in their managers have been proven to be more creative, more effective and more collaborative overall. A study by Brower et al. in the Journal of Management, Vol. 35 No. 2, April 2009, for instance, suggested that mutual trust between a manager and their team members has the benefit of enhancing performance, employee retention and overall company culture. 

Trust is reciprocal. By trusting your employees, you’ll help them to trust you. Ultimately, one of the best ways that you can build trust with your new team is by proving that you’re consistent, measured and fair in the way that you act. Here are a few strategies to build trust within your team:

  • Be friendly, approachable and empathetic
  • Be fair and demonstrate integrity
  • Be consistent in how you treat your team and what you expect from them (more on this below)
  • Support your team
  • Have patience – trust isn’t built overnight

2. Set realistic, mutual expectations

Many short and long term challenges that you’re likely to experience when you’re managing a team can be traced back to a failure to set realistic, mutual expectations between your team and yourself when you first start managing. In other words, you could be storing up future problems by failing to make it clear what you expect from your team and what they can expect from you in return, at the outset of managing them. 

Again, this is a reciprocal relationship. Expectations and responsibilities go both ways, and whilst all managers expect a particular level of performance and productivity from their team members, only the good managers realise that their team members have expectations of them, likewise. This is the key to building great levels of trust between you and your team (directly related to what we were talking about above). If your team members see that you are living up to their expectations of you, they’re more likely to trust you. 

This article by Forbes, featuring the insights of a range of business leaders and managers, provides some useful guidance about the specifics of setting expectations in a team if you’re looking for some more practical advice. 

A woman showing a tablet to workers in a boardroom meeting


3. Communicate clearly 

Communication is the foundation of every good management practice. 

Good communication aids everything from inclusivity through to productivity. Fundamentally it allows you to significantly reduce the risk of mistakes and crossed-wires occurring when your team is working on projects. Taking a more strategic, big picture view, good communication practices can also provide a whole host of benefits to your team and wider organisation. 

For instance, creating a culture of open communication in your team can have similar positive effects to that of building trust. Good communication practices in teams have been shown to improve employee satisfaction, build a culture of trust and also one of collaboration in the workplace, helping you manage teams more effectively and get more work done, to a higher standard. If you’re planning on managing a team well, it’s clear that getting your communication practices sorted is essential to success. 

Here are a few tips to improve your communication if you’re looking to improve your practice:

  • Communicate clearly and often
  • Establish a range of communication channels and formats to make communicating together as easy as possible
  • Develop your oral and your written communication skills
  • Always be receptive, ready to listen and empathetic 

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback

All of us need feedback and constructive criticism to improve our performance – managers are no exception. 

When you’re a first-time manager, responsible for teams in the field for the first time, you’re likely to be feeling nervous, overwhelmed and a bit flummoxed about what you should be doing and how. Asking for dedicated feedback about how you have been doing in your position will help you to identify the areas that are working well and the areas in which you need to improve. 

The obvious place to go for feedback is your own line manager. They will be able to give you a thorough understanding of your performance so far. 

You don’t have to ask just your own manager for feedback though. You can also ask it from members of your team – this can be a good way to show a degree of vulnerability that can be useful in building trust and connection. Asking your team for feedback about your performance demonstrates that you’re looking to improve your skills at work, as you probably expect they should be, building integrity and honesty in the process.

A woman of colour pointing at a whiteboard

5. Find a mentor

One of the best ways that we learn is through talking through our experiences with others who have been in a similar position to us in the past, and benefiting from their guidance and expertise – a mentor.

Mentors are experienced professionals who have an informal, one-to-one professional relationship with you, where they provide ongoing support and guidance to help you improve your management practice.

Many professionals who have led distinguished careers in their field will be happy to act as a mentor to you if you approach them and ask them. Of course, not everyone will have the time, so factor that in when you start asking people, but eventually you’ll find the right person for your needs if you stick at it. 

Here’s some more advice about how to find the right mentor: 

  • Research! Identify potential mentors that you already know, and ones that you want to know.
  • Network! Make new professional contacts and leverage existing ones to find a mentor who can develop your skills
  • Be aware of your short term and long term goals and how they align with what you need from a mentor
  • Mindmap what you would like in your ideal mentor: use this to guide your approach when finding one
  • Prepare proposals to send to potential mentors. 

Build your management skills today

How are you feeling about your management practice at the moment? If you’re starting out, in one of your very first roles, it’s likely that you’re feeling some degree of nerves. That’s natural though and it’s how you get to grips with them that matters. We hope that the tips we’ve given in this article have helped you to think about the best ways to make your time in your first management role go smoothly.

Develop your management career with a professional qualification that you can complete 100% online. Download your free CMI course guide and improve your skills today.