BY JESSI GILKS
It’s a sprint, not a marathon
At least that’s the way it feels sometimes in the corporate world. You are being pulled in every direction and have no time to slow down and think about what you really need to be focusing on as a new manager: helping your team grow and develop.
Managing a team for the first time can be a little (no, a LOT) intimidating. I have had many scary thoughts run through my head at some point in my short life as a manager:
- “What if someone on my team is smarter than me?”
- “What if I don’t know the answer?”
- “What if I mess up?”
Newsflash: we all mess up and (usually) live to tell the story. Not only that but we grow from those experiences more than when we succeed.
The fear of failure is something that most of us struggle with at one point or another. This is not unlike how I felt when I first started training for a half marathon many years ago. I learned a lot from that first training experience because I did it all wrong. I didn’t plan or train enough. I ran 13.1 miles despite not being prepared. I got physically sick with the finish line in sight (with many supporters looking on to witness), but I FINISHED.
Your first year as a new manager is challenging. You might not feel prepared or even qualified. You are trying to figure out this new role, set the right pace for your team, and just keep your head above water while trying to look calm and collected to the rest of the world.
One thing I realized during this time is that managing a team is not much different from managing your personal training plan. My first race experience helped me to be a better manager in the office, because I learned a few valuable lessons:
Preparation is key
Make a plan and stick to it. There is always room for adjusting when you need to. Having a plan for work or training and building in time for setbacks is key.
Lean on the experts
Know that there are always resources out there to help you. Online training programs became my best friend when I set out to train for another race. Visiting the local running store on a regular basis also helped. The workers there are all runners and love to share their knowledge.
In my first year managing a team, I asked for my manager’s thoughts on everything just to make sure I was on the right track. This helped me learn when something really needed to be escalated. I also realized that having team members that are smarter than me in certain areas is a blessing. It’s fine with me now when they answer my questions.
Find what works for YOU
You can read every book available about the best way to train or the best shoes to wear. You won’t know what is best for you until you try.
- How much time will you need?
- Which accessories best meet your needs?
- When are you most motivated in the day to make sure to train?
You will learn as you go, and it takes time and trial to figure those things out.
Similarly, you must find your own pace as a new manager. Remember what you appreciated about managers throughout your career and work with your team to find the balance together. What helps motivate one team member may be very different from what another team member needs. Adjust your methods where you can to be more effective as a leader.
Find your own pace as a new manager. Remember what you appreciated about managers throughout your career and work with your team to find the balance together.
Understand that you won’t have all the answers
And that is OK! I learned early on to be honest when I don’t know the answer. But let your team know that you will make sure to find out and get back to them.
As I recently completed another half marathon, I found I was much more prepared. It was still challenging, but I had put in the effort beforehand and I was ready. Managing a team is very similar to training for a race. Now that I have found my pace on the pavement and in the office, my day to day runs smoothly. Trust your gut and give it some time—the finish line is in sight.