How to be a successful new manager

The move into management is a significant step in anyone’s
career, not to mention terrifying one, writes Nathalie Towner. You
will suddenly be responsible for a team of people who will be
looking to you for direction, and senior management will expect you
to fulfil key objectives. It will take time to earn everyone’s
respect and there will inevitably be challenges ahead as you learn
to deal with conflicting expectations. Sometimes you might look
back and think it was easier to stick with what you knew and have
an easy life. But then you would be annoyed with yourself for
missing your chance. Go for it, be prepared to listen and learn.
Becoming a new manager is a fantastic opportunity to advance your
career and grow as a person.

Understand the brief

Take time to understand your role and what is expected of you
and if necessary ask your line manager for clarification. Jennifer
Penfold was promoted to staff development manager for
Leicestershire social services, which involves training staff
either in-house or commissioning courses externally. She found that
the biggest change was the size of the job and having to understand
the whole breadth of it. She spent a lot of time finding out what
exactly was required of her. “I was looking at what the department
needed, having meetings with service managers, team managers and
senior managers. I did lots of research and spent a lot of time
just getting my head round the issues,” she says.

Use the skills you have

Not all the techniques required for management need to be
learned from scratch. Penfold says she had already developed many
key skills but had to learn to apply them in a new context. “I’ve
been able to use the planning skills I developed as a social
worker,” she says. “I have also drawn on my practice work for
people management skills.”

Seek support

“There is nothing wrong with asking your peers what they would
do in your role,” says Martyn Sloman, adviser at the Chartered
Institute of Personnel and Development. He recommends establishing
a peer group network where you can ask for honest feedback. One of
the worst faults of managers is to think they’re good at something
when they’re not, so it is crucial to be aware of your strengths
and weaknesses. “My line manager gave me frequent supervision so I
could always check any queries with her and I also work very
closely with my assistant managers,” says Penfold.

Managing a team

Making the transition into management can be particularly
daunting if you are also new to the organisation. You will have to
earn the respect and support of your team. “Take time to read the
situation and step back from making early judgements about team
members,” says Sloman. If you are promoted from within the team
anticipate some difficulties at first as you all adjust to new

Workload challenges

The new manager will be pulled in all sorts of different
directions and this will inevitably lead to a demanding workload.
It is a stretching experience and time management can be a problem.
“To start with when you’re new you can let it get out of proportion
and work and work and work,” warns Penfold. She advises being
disciplined and also being realistic about what can be achieved.
“The workload is high but I’m part of a unit and it is the whole
unit that delivers.” Don’t try to achieve too much too soon and put
yourself under undue pressure. “Give yourself time to fit into your
new role,” advises Penfold. “You’ve been appointed because of the
skills you have and you just have to learn to use them as a

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