Becoming A Manager In 2021
Are you—or someone you know—moving into a manager role this year? I’ve got your back!
Before we dive into lots of resources to read and use, I want to call out that my best workshop for new managers is called Mentoring, Coaching and Sponsoring. I cover the differences between these three skills, how to use them effectively and when you might choose one over the other. My upcoming workshop sold out so I’ve just added a new date—grab your ticket ASAP!
And if you can’t make it to the workshop, you can pick up the same immediately-actionable skills in my video course or book Resilient Management.
And for a comprehensive list of all the tools I mention in this email (plus many more), check out resources-for-new-managers.com.
Let’s dive in.
If you’re stepping into a new management role this year, you’re probably going to have to get to know your team—and begin managing—remotely. Here are resources and tools for supporting your teammates as individuals, and as a unit!
Choose your own adventure: pick out 1-2 tools you want to try right now from the below list, and save this email for later when you want to revisit it.
1:1s and supporting your individual teammates
First you need to get to know your teammates—particularly what makes them tick in the workplace. Try this:
I built a (little bit cheesy!) First 1:1 Questions tool for just this purpose. Leverage the awkwardness of these questions! Acknowledge the cheesiness, you’ll all have a laugh. You can totally blame me in your 1:1 if it makes it feel easier to ask these questions!
Reflect back what you hear in their answers to make sure you fully understand. Don’t be afraid to do this reflection out loud—the magic is making your teammates feel heard and seen!
It might take longer to get to know your teammates remotely than it would in person; it takes extra work to read and respond to nonverbal cues. There also might be awkward silences as your teammate thinks about their answers to your questions. That’s okay, and to be expected!
Budget more time for these first few 1:1s—or at least make sure you don’t have a meeting immediately after, in case you need to go over. You don’t want to cut this important relationship-building off early.
As you get into a flow with your new management role and issues arise, remember that there are even more impactful ways to support your teammates beyond teaching them: coaching, sponsorship, and feedback.
Should you notice someone struggling, or they come to you looking for help, you’ll need to decide what skill set to use. The First 1:1 questions can help you know what kind of support they might find useful, but I’ve also made this handy How to Help flowchart for exactly this purpose.
Coaching is magical. You don’t need to know everything (or even very much at all) about someone’s work to be useful to them as a coach! Here are 20 open questions you can use to get started.
Everyone who knows me well knows that “what are you optimizing for?” is my favorite open question. It unlocks someone’s individual motivation, and their solution is often a bit more clear as a result.
At some point as a manager, a team member is going to come to you and share that they’re dealing with really hard stuff. It’s all around us right now: pandemic stress, AAPI hate crime news. Before you are surprised by these topics and say something you shouldn’t, read the post Managing in Terrible Times for some best practices.
If someone knows how they want to grow, or they’re doing a great job and you want to help them advance in their role or career, sponsorship is your best bet.
Recommend your teammate for a visible growth opportunity! Identify a new project for them to flex on and let them run with it. Having your vote of confidence (and coaching and feedback behind the scenes) is the ticket that will unlock new opportunities for them.
Giving feedback might seem nerve wracking, but it’s one of the most beneficial things you can do for your direct reports. Everyone wants to understand whether or not they’re doing what’s expected of them, and most folks will want your insights around how they can progress in their role and career.
Feedback is how we get there. I’ve created a formula for you both to relieve some pressure and ensure your feedback is delivered in a way that can be heard and acted upon.
Familiarize yourself with the feedback equation, and then check out all my other tools on how to deliver feedback effectively.
In addition to your new 1:1 responsibilities, you’re responsible for ensuring the entire team is working effectively together. This can be challenging to do remotely, but even if you’re colocated, you’ll need to take initiative rather than hoping to passively achieve a productive, healthy team dynamic!
Processes for getting things done and keeping each other informed is an important aspect of effective teamwork. Consider creating these processes as a collaborative team at the outset, and review them periodically to refresh anything that’s outdated or no longer working.
You’ll also need to figure out what your team needs as a whole unit to feel healthy. There’s more to the team than completing projects and checking things off!
As you generate ideas for and plan team building activities, one thing to keep in mind is that everyone has different schedules and lifestyles. While alcohol-focused, happy-hour timed hangouts might be your favorite way to get to know people, other team members might not drink alcohol, or they might be caregivers with crucial responsibilities at home during this time.
There are countless ideas for activities that aren’t centered around happy hour and alcohol. My friend Camille and her team took a flower arrangement class!
But one of my favorite ways to foster connections and learn more about each other is to host a routine show-and-tell.
On Friday afternoons at Etsy we would bring everyone on our team, including interns and rotating staff, into a big room where everyone had an opportunity to share one thing they learned or did that week. We clapped after every single share, and it was delightfully upbeat and relationship-building. Whether it was that someone fixed a gnarly bug, or ran a marathon, it was low pressure, celebratory, and best of all: fun.
What YOU need
While taking care of and supporting those around you is a major part of management, you’re only going to be able to do that effectively if you are supported, too.
Becoming a new manager is exciting in so many ways, but you’ll quickly notice that your work looks different than it did before. As you embrace this new role, my wish for you is that you build up your crew of support.
I call this crew a Manager Voltron. It’s your giant superhero made up of all different kinds of support you might need at a given moment, and it’s especially useful to have before you need to lean on anyone. The bingo card will help you identify any holes in your network and areas you might need to build out.
You’ll also need to think about who you are as a leader and manager. Defining your management philosophy will help codify your belief system and help your teammates understand why you do what you do. You can also refer back to your philosophy as you define new solutions to problems that arise or ways you might accomplish a new project. How can you apply your philosophy to the issue at hand?
There will be new experiences, questions, celebratory moments and hurdles as you step into management. I find being a manager can be a tremendously rewarding role.
If you get stuck along the way, I created an entire website full of resources whether you want to read, watch, listen, introspect, or simply practice some new management skills. There’s a tool to track compensation and promotion inequity, an article about managing up effectively, a video about what humans need at work, and lots more.
Above all else, remember that you’ve got this.