First time manager

“Leadership is a journey from execution to empowerment” Carla Harris

As we advance in our careers, the transition from specialist to manager seems to become a natural step for most of us. But the transition can be a difficult process.

The challenges facing a manager are many.

He or she may find it difficult to manage relationships with colleagues or communicate effectively with the team. He or she may have difficulty managing time, tasks or delegating.

These are common challenges and, especially for managers at the beginning of their career, can be a major stress factor. Every senior manager has, at some point, been at the beginning. We have all faced all of these and more.

Effectively managing the new role is important for personal success, as well as for the team and even the entire organization.

The good news is that as we manage various situations it gets easier and easier and we start to get used to it. The less good news is that just the passage of time is not enough.

This transition to a management role doesn’t just mean a change in work tasks. It involves a fundamental change of identity.

It requires constant and consistent development of competencies, skills and mindset to build this new identity.

Working with managers in various companies I have most frequently encountered these three challenges of managers at the beginning of their careers.

  1. Leadership mindset
  2. Relationship management with former colleagues
  3. Relationship management with superiors


  1. Leadership mentality

You are now the star of the team, delivering excellent results and brimming with confidence in your own strengths. The next second you’re expected to coordinate an entire team, hold difficult conversations and give constructive feedback, coach specialists, innovate and inspire and …and this transition can be very stressful.

Just because you’ve been a high-performing contributor doesn’t automatically mean you have the skills and mindset of a leader.

To start thinking like a leader reevaluate your motivation and competencies. Identify what skills, which made you successful in your previous role, can help you become a good leader for your team.

Bring your skills to the job level and learn about performance management, team building, leadership styles and organisational culture.

This is just the foundation on which you can then build performance in a leadership role. Step by step, competency by competency.

  1. Relationship management with former colleagues

Junior managers often find it difficult to transition from colleague, perhaps even friend, to the role of manager while maintaining good quality relationships and gaining the respect of those they manage.

Skills such as the ability to influence and persuade, decisiveness, creating a positive working environment and maintaining relationships based on trust are required.

Make sure you set clear expectations and create an environment that encourages innovation and collaboration, treat all team members fairly and don’t be afraid to give feedback whenever appropriate.

  1. Relationship management with superiors

The role of a manager requires the ability to hold your own opinions in front of superiors. Even more – to speak on behalf of the team you represent.

This requires an understanding of how the management structure, culture and company policy works, the ability to adapt quickly to organisational change, and the ability to gain visibility for yourself and your team.

If you are a first time manager accept that facing the challenges of being a manager can be difficult for anyone, even more so when you are a first time manager. Transitioning into a management role is a major change and requires time and continuous learning. Be patient, with yourself and others, and stay focused on progress rather than the image of success you have created for yourself.

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