How to prepare yourself for taking on your first management role

Discover the four main management styles and get some advice on how you can have an impact on your organisation, in this guide to stepping up to management-level roles from Sarah-Jane McQueen, General Manager at CoursesOnline

Taking that first leap into management can be daunting, especially if you will be managing others for the first time in tour career. However, with the right preparation, it needn’t be. Often, the worry we have when taking a step up in our career is largely down to not knowing what to expect, or being afraid that we won’t know what to do. That’s why taking these preparatory steps before you begin your management job are vitally important.

Consider the manager you want to be

Before you plan your course of action as a new manager, take some time to think about what type of manager you want to be. There are four main management styles, and which one you are depends on the team you manage, the organisation you work for, and most importantly, your personality and values. The four management styles are:

  • Autocratic: These managers take charge of their team, making decisions and offering a clear structure for the plan of action. With little input from the team, autocratic managers take charge of the team’s objectives and responsibility for how they achieve them.

  • Democratic: Democratic managers, as the name suggests, work on a more democratic basis. Although guidance is provided by the manager, everyone in the team has a say and is encouraged to put forward ideas during the decision-making process.

  • Laissez-faire: The laissez-faire leadership style is also known as the ‘leave alone’ approach and is a very hands-off management style. These managers delegate work to each member of their team, and it is up to each member to decide how to approach their tasks and meet their objectives.

  • Persuasive: Persuasive managers make the ultimate decisions for the team, but use persuasion to get the rest of the team on board. Persuasive managers have excellent communication skills and encourage the team to ask questions and understand the reason for decisions being made.

Each of these styles has its advantages or disadvantages, so consider which style appeals to you. Consider managers you have had and what style you responded to best. Which style appeals to you? How do you think your team would respond to each of these methods? Note down the pros and cons of each and see which one (or elements of each) would be the best approach for you to take and apply best to your management skills.

Recognise that your objective has changed

For roles not in management, the focus is always on the job that you as an individual are doing. Are you hitting your targets? What is your workload like? What is your output However, managers’ targets are for the team they manage. First-time managers need to be aware of how your focus shifts in your new role from simply being about your own work to overseeing what others are doing. Supporting your team means being able to manage the workload and output of each member and seeing how every team member affects the work of the team overall.

Think about what impact you want to have

Next, consider what kind of impact you want to have on your team and the organisation as a whole. Are there any areas where you think things could be improved? Is there anything lacking that you could bring to the table? One of the great things about moving into management is that you have more of an ability to enact positive change within the company.

If you are initially unsure about what you want to change or improve, then note down the key achievements and challenges within your team (or organisation) in the previous year. If you are changing companies, note down any challenges you came across at your previous company. Then discuss with current employees what improvements they would want to see and if they have any ideas of how to implement changes. Finally, think about your objectives as manager, not project-based aims but broader goals, such as ensuring you have a happy team or streamlining administration, and jot down the steps you want to take to make these improvements.

Don’t put pressure on yourself

Although it is a big step to go into management, you are not expected to get it right away. While preparing for your first management role, make sure you don’t get overwhelmed and bear in mind that it will be a learning process.

Plan and prepare, but also allow for flexibility. You can do this by being open to different management styles, being aware that changes can take a while to come into effect and understanding that teams might interact differently than you had planned. You can’t foresee everything, and being aware of the hurdles, surprises and learning curves that come with every new job is vital.

Many people forget that learning and developing your skill as a manager takes time and practice, and assume that because you were hired for the job you need to know everything straight away. However, there are many advantages to being open to the unexpected. For example, you can find new ways of working, refine your leadership skills and learn to adapt to new challenges. Being prepared to adapt your plans and build trust with the members of your team are key to not just being a good manager, but also a great manager. 

Main image credit: Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash

Sarah-Jane McQueen is General Manager at the online learning marketplace website CoursesOnline, which offers online management courses.

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