A Primer for New Managers


You’ve newly been promoted to ‘manager’ due to your track record of outstanding performance and you can’t wait to get started on your new challenge. Before you’re off to the racetracks, here are some things I’ve learned that can help guide your way….

10 Simple Rules for New Managers

  1. Always, Start from the Beginning
  2. Manage by Objectives
  3. Elicit Peak Performance
  4. Provide Frequent Feedback
  5. Focus On Leverage
  6. Foster Continuous Learning
  7. Understand Reality
  8. Build Trust with Radical Candor
  9. Sustain Mastery
  10. Manage Yourself

1. Always, Start from the Beginning

Start with why you and your team exist. Outline your core values, your principles, and your company’s long-term vision of the future. (BHAG or MTP) Communicate what you and your team are going to do to achieve the company vision; i.e. mission. Finish off by stating the strategy, goals and objectives your team will deliver to achieve the mission. 

2. Manage by Objectives

Now that your team understands the high-level goals of the organization; connect the high-level strategy to the ground efforts you and your team will live out in your daily operations. Provide individuals with ‘areas of ownership’ and make them in charge of delivering against key business results. Give people objectives and the creative ownership to achieve their objectives to the best of their abilities. 

3. Elicit Peak Performance

Bridge the gap between actual vs. desired performance by providing either the instruction (Skill) or motivation (Will) necessary for individuals to achieve their objectives. Understand the task-relevant maturity (TRM) that each individual possesses on their key results and tasks. Ensure every individual has a set of key performance indicators against which they can self-assess and regulate their own performance.

4. Provide Frequent Feedback

Continuously provide feedback that lets your team know where they and their performance stands. Understand each individual’s perspectives and the context in which the feedback is exchanged. Tailor the feedback to deliver on the receiver’s needs and not those of the giver. Finally, employ the right mix of appreciation, reprimand, coaching and evaluation based in order to  to achieve and sustain high performance. 

5. Focus On Leverage

According to Andy Grove: 

a manager’s output = the output of his organization + the output of neighbouring organizations under his influence

Based on this, invest 80% of your time in high-leverage activities; activities that enhance or increase the output of your organization. Such activities include:

  • delegating projects and opportunities to your team
  • training and expanding the capabilities of your team
  • information gathering and sharing
  • guiding effective decision making.

Avoid low-leverage activities; activities that decrease or reduce your team’s ability to deliver great work. These include:

  • micro-managing and not delegating enough
  • waffling and decision paralysis
  • withholding or creating an information vacuum
  • negativity and aggressive behaviours.

6. Foster a Culture of Continuous Learning

Celebrate failures as opportunities for improvement and personal-growth. Use post-mortems to capture incident based learning. Use sprints and retrospectives to build continuous reflection and introspection into your team’s work cycles. Create a ‘learning budget’ for participating in learning activities such as reading, training, show n’ tells, and industry workshops. Most importantly, create an environment where people feel comfortable experimenting, trying new things, making mistakes and learning along their way to greatness. 

7. Understand Reality

Reality refers to what’s really going on at the office and in people’s day to day lives. First, understand the specific nature of the work being done; enough so that you can help troubleshoot, guide and remove roadblocks. Second, understand the reality of the people on your team. Stay in touch with what’s going on in their personal lives, understand their personality types and how they work. Adapt your approach to best suit their needs. Be compassionate, tolerant and fair in your interactions. 

8. Build Trust with Radical Candor

People only trust you when they believe you have their best intentions at heart. That said, most managers don’t have the courage or strength to do what it takes to earn their team’s trust. In order to build trust with your teams: actively encourage their input, ask for their opinions and include them on decisions that affect them.

Additionally, encourage radical candor between the members on your team.  Make it easy for individuals to speak what’s on their mind and be brutally honest with their peers. Radical Candor is necessary to empower individuals to know where they stand and to allow for the meaningful discussion and collaboration.

If people don’t feel comfortable telling each other what they think; they won’t be able to work together effectively to achieve the organization’s goals.

9. Sustain Mastery

Part of what got you into your role as a manager in the first place, was being an outstanding individual contributor. It really came down to knowing how to get the work done. As you move further away from the day-to-day tasks, it’s important to continuously invest in developing your ‘technical fluency’.

Internally, leverage 1-1’s and staff meetings as opportunities to dig deep into the mechanics of how your team builds stuff. Externally, be up-to-date with new developments in your industry through newsletters, blogs, conferences, and professional workshops.

Always be learning. This attitude ensures your continued ability to empower your team to achieve their objectives in the future. 

10. Manage Yourself

Managing others is definitely not an easy endeavour as you deal with the pressures and stresses of upper management and the individuals on your team. In order to sustain your own levels of high-performance…

First, take stock. Take the time to reflect and appreciate everything you’ve accomplished. Take notice of the professional, personal, big and little things that have been achieved.

Second, get out of ‘react’ mode. Periodically audit your calendar and allocate time to think about the future of your team and organization.

Finally, be mindful of your own attitudes and behaviours and how they influence those of your team. Be someone people like to work with and a catalyst for a optimistic and positive work attitude.

Take care of your own well-being first, so that you can take of the well-being of others later. 

Main Takeaways

Managing a team is about creating an environment where individuals can thrive, flourish and produce their best work. 

  1. Communicate the high-level goals of your organization and connect these with  your team’s ground efforts.
  2. Empower individuals with appropriate instruction, feedback and guidance.
  3. Foster a culture of continuous learning, deep honesty, and meaningful collaboration.
  4. Stay in touch with the realities of your team, your industry, your craft,  and most importantly yourself.

Your success depends on the collective success of the individuals on your team. Good luck helping others be the best they can be!

That’s it for now! Cheers ‘till next time!


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