February 10, 2011

Following their promotions, new managers often experience a curious combination of feelings: pride and panic. Sound familiar?

The pride comes from being recognized as a high performer. You’ve been told you are someone with the potential to help an organization’s product and people improve. The panic comes from another message: a phantom voice in your head that whispers: “This is the day they find out you’re really not qualified for this job.”

You fear that the phantom voice may have a point. After all, you were probably dropped into management with no special training. Yet, each day you’re asked to solve supervisory problems that are often surprising but rarely simple.

That’s why it’s helpful to listen to a few other voices — veteran managers who have walked in your shoes. They’ve been through the pride-and-panic stage. They’ve learned from experience and are willing to share their wisdom.

Candy Altman

At a recent Poynter seminar for New Managers, our visiting faculty instructor Candy Altman brought just such voices into the conversation. Candy’s a corporate VP of news for the Hearst Television stations. She rose through staff and leadership ranks of TV stations, overseeing and mentoring countless managers. She surveyed some of them for her presentation “Six Mistakes New Managers Make.” From their top “new manager” gaffes as well as her own, she developed her list.

I’m sharing it here, and adding links to additional resources on the topics she addresses:

Six Tips for New Managers from Candy Altman

1. Delegate: You can’t do it all yourself, and if you do, two things happen — things won’t get done well and you won’t live up to your responsibility to train those who work for you.

2. Don’t stay in your comfort zone: New managers do this by gravitating toward people like them when hiring and focusing on tasks they know.

3. Adapt your skill set: Recognize that the skills that made you great at your old job may not translate to your new job. Understand that you will be dealing with a lot of gray areas in your new job, where your old job might have been fact-based.

4. Build your time management skills: Build them for work and for your life. If you don’t, you will be tortured all the time and feel like you’re not accomplishing anything. If you don’t find time to enjoy your life outside of work, you will burn out.

5. Know that it’s lonely at the top: Understand, truly understand that managing people can be isolating. You are making decisions that affect your employees’ livelihoods. You are evaluating them and giving feedback. You are no longer their after-work, dinner and drinking companion. Make new friends outside work.

6. Define and communicate a vision: What do you stand for? If you want people to follow you, you must lead with a clear mission.

I hope Candy’s list helps you keep the pride and calm the panic. For good measure, you can check out the list of related posts for new managers below this article. As you can see, aspiring great bosses are our favorite people!

And you can listen to this podcast, in which I identify the one very big and needless nagging fear that new managers should put to rest:

Poynter’s “What Great Bosses Know” podcast is sponsored by The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.

You can download the complete series of these podcasts free on iTunes U.

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Jill Geisler is the inaugural Bill Plante Chair in Leadership and Media Integrity, a position designed to connect Loyola’s School of Communication with the needs…
Jill Geisler

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