In so many fields, real career growth means taking on direct reports. For some, leadership comes easy and brings joy. For others, the sudden shift in responsibilities (wait, I have to approve everyone’s vacation time?) can fluster.

Whatever your ultimate goal, the key to being a first-time manager is, well, managing — and making your employees feel secure, valued and heard. Be prepared to take managing — and the responsibilities that come with it, i.e. people issues, both good and bad — seriously. And know that managing people will take up a lot of your time, so don’t expect to get as much of your job done as you did before. Taking these tips to heart, however, can ease the transition.

You’re going to wear a lot of hats: a confidante, a mentor and the bearer of good and bad news. A good manager knows which hat to wear when.


    As you take on a new team, you may be tempted to enact sweeping reform to make your mark. Always remember there are humans on the other end of your decisions, and that their livelihoods are in your hands. You’re going to wear a lot of hats: a confidante, a mentor and the bearer of good and bad news. A good manager knows which hat to wear when.


    The word “communicate” is used so often that it’s easy to forget that it means talking as well as listening. Make sure that your direct reports know that the door is always open, and do your best to keep your word. Conduct 1:1 meetings with as much frequency as you can, check in on team morale often and take concerns seriously. What might sound small can be a major problem to someone who’s looking to you for guidance or resolution.


    Every once in a while, bonuses take a hit or promotions don’t come through. You can’t do anything to prevent the decisions happening above your pay grade, but you can make sure your employees feel in-the-know and prepared. As much as you can, and as soon as you can, keep your directs informed about major events that affect them — without revealing confidential information, of course. Your employees’ expectations should match reality more often than not.


    Whether it’s positive or negative, make sure that it’s out there. For many new managers, giving positive feedback is easy. Everyone’s happy! The negative can be more difficult to deliver. But the truth is, avoiding criticism can perpetuate bad habits and inefficiencies. Once you get through what could be a tough conversation, your directs will have the tools they need to improve. Don’t sugar-coat your messaging to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, but do be sure to keep your critiques business-related.


    Lay out a clear path for success that includes small, achievable goals and a timeline for completing them. Be organized and transparent. And when goals are met, give recognition. A simple note to say “nicely done” can go far toward boosting your directs’ confidence in the company, in you — and in themselves.

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