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Guide 101 for New Managers

You may have earned the official title of “manager” along with a few new direct reports. But how do you make the transition out of your identity as an employee, and start to establish authority in your newfound role as leader?

Here are a few simple tactics all rookie managers can use to establish authority among their teams and organizations.

Don’t babysit

Managers inspire others to be accountable, innovative and engaged. Workplace babysitters hound employees to perform tasks, meet deadlines and manage priorities. Yet, finding this sensitive balance can be difficult for new managers, particularly those who may have been promoted from a non-managerial role within a company.

Executive coach Joan Lloyd recommends new managers to overcome the challenge by setting clear expectations with the staff they’ll lead. Resist the temptation to tell people how to do their jobs. Instead, invest your energy in how to create an internal culture of ownership. Set clear expectations for everyone on your team; hold them accountable when they succeed and when they fail to perform. The more you give employees the space to own their work, the more trusting they’ll become in your ability to offer support when they need it, without being a micromanager.

Use powerful language

The language you use impacts your perceived authority. Avoid phrases like “I think,” “I feel” and “I believe,” all of which inherently dilute the level of certainty your statement conveys. Instead, choose alternatives like “I’m confident” or “I’m optimistic.”

Further, be mindful of how much of your speech is peppered with verbal fillers like “um,” “like,” “you know” and “honestly.” Practice removing them from your daily speech patterns; you’ll become more articulate at confidently communicating your ideas in casual conversation, employee one-on-ones and meetings.

Build relationships beyond your team

Harvard professor and author Linda Hill has studied and written about the experiences of new managers for more than two decades. In a Harvard Business Review article she penned about her findings, Hill explains that many new managers struggle to establish authority in their roles because they focus on building relationships with the wrong people.

While most new managers instinctively focus on their relationships with subordinates, writes Hill, it’s their connection with the many players in and outside of the organization—including other managers, executives, suppliers and vendors—who ultimately impact the level of influence they can build throughout the organization and on behalf of their team.

Listen more than you talk

Hill’s studies of new managers indicates that the strengths that empower a person to achieve a managerial role often work in direct contradiction to their ability to succeed as leaders. While your technical competence may have gotten you the job of manager, your success moving forward is no longer about your skill set; it’s your ability to make others want to be the star performer that earned you the title of “manager.”

Hill further explains that competence in the managerial sense has a very different meaning than it does when you’re an individual performer. Though you may be tempted to coach your subordinates to approach their work in the same manner that made you successful, Hill says that staff perceive managerial authority (and whether they’ll allow you to establish it) based on your ability to do the right thing—not how much you know about technical details.

Establish authority among your teams by listening more than you talk. Ask your subordinates questions about their jobs and how they do them; listen genuinely to their responses. You may know more about a problem or task than those you lead, but your individual knowledge is irrelevant if you’re going to be a manager who allows employees to be autonomous and accountable.

When you listen to the realities your team faces, you build respect as a leader focused on being educated about the pressing issues the department faces. Authority ultimately belongs to leaders who view their sole purpose as inspiring their group to succeed.

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