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5 Key Priorities In Your First Month As a First Time Manager


oct 8th blog imageKeith was excited of his promotion. He could not wait to start his new role as a manager. He started listing down all his to-do lists and realized that he had just too much in his plate. Remembering his father’s valuable advice – “you have only about 16 to 18 hours (minus your sleeping time) in a day, so be smart and focus on the right priorities” – Keith decided to re-evaluate his to-do lists.

His big question was “what are the 5 key things that I should be doing in the first month of my role as a new manager?”

Here are what I shared with Keith in my conversation with him:

  • Have a heart-to-heart conversation with your direct boss

It is critical that you understand exactly the expectation of your direct boss. Have a conversation about the big picture in terms of what the organization (and the department) wants to achieve, the key priorities of the organization (and the department) and specific goals of your direct boss. Dig deeper and ask him about the key outcomes that he expects in the short term, say in the first quarter and the medium term. Seek his feedback on his work style to make it easy for you to work with him. Discuss about performance setting and monitoring. Get him to share his views on what he sees as the key challenges in the department from the perspectives of people, skill sets/competencies, systems and processes.

  • Get to know your subordinates/team members and your peers

You need to earn trust and respect from your subordinates/team members and your peers in order for you to be a good and/or an effective manager. While trust is something that you earn over time, first impression is equally important as people tend to form an opinion about you in the few seconds of their initial meeting – once perception is formed, it is hard to undo. Hence, it is definitely worth your while to get to know every one of your subordinates and your peers whom you will be working with closely.

Have a 1:1 meeting with each one of them. Understand their roles, their contribution, their strengths, weaknesses and the kind of impact that they have brought to the organization and their work styles. Likewise, you have to let them know how best to work with you. One thing that you must really avoid is to act as if you know it all. Be humble. Admit that in specific areas you would need their help and that you look forward to working collaboratively together.

  • Develop the ‘vision’ together

You are expected to establish your vision for the department; showing your team members on the direction that they should be pursuing. Rather than establishing the vision on your own, you are better off formulating it together with your subordinates. This will be one of the best opportunities to demonstrate that they are counted. You care about them and it is not about ‘you’. Besides, when you formulate the vision together, chances of them buying into the vision is very high. After all, they play a significant part in determining where they want to go.

  • Setting mutual expectations

The next important thing is to ensure that your subordinates know what you expect of them. Likewise, you have to let them know clearly on what they should expect of you. Have a dialogue with each one of your subordinates to discuss and determine mutual expectations that both parties will agree on. Define performance criteria and agree on the approach to measure and monitor them.

  • Introduce culture

In a nutshell, a culture is a collection of standard behaviours in a group; which means you can deliberately create a ‘culture that you want’ in your department. One way of approaching this is to introduce the ‘rules of engagement’ for your department. For instance, you aspire to create a culture of continuous improvement through direct feedback. Make it known to your subordinates and establish these rules of engagement – constant feedback is expected from every one, feedback must be two way and feedback must be acted upon. In addition, you must equip them with the right tools and capabilities for them to be able to provide feedback effectively; such as getting them to attend a customized training on giving and receiving feedback and establishing a number of interesting incentives to speed up their habits in adopting the culture of giving and receiving feedback.

Executing the above 5 priorities right will help you a great deal in setting the tone for your department.

You can share your top 5 priorities in your first month as a new manager in the comments section below.


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