Five Dos and Don’ts of Your First Management Position

You’ve mastered the art of meeting your deadlines, hitting your goals and accomplishing your deadlines. As a reward you’ve been promoted to a manager role. Or perhaps you eventually see yourself with that title change and increase in responsibility. Making the move from independent contributor to manager can be a challenging task. Stick to a few simple dos and don’ts to be the best manager you can be.


1.   Say “Yes, and….”

The first rule of thumb for any aspiring or new manager is to never turn down a challenge. In fact, try to remove “no” from your vocabulary as much as possible. If you find yourself being asked to do something with unreasonable expectations, instead of saying “no,” try a new approach. Try to respond with a reset with reasonable expectations; “ Yes, I’d love to take on that project. And with my current priorities, I think I can deliver that in a week.” “Yes, and” can help make you a positive team player.

2. Change your focus from “mine” to “ours”

As an independent contributor, your time was spent entirely focused on your own priorities, goals and deadlines. However, as a manager (or an aspiring manager) it’s important to look at your goals as part of the team’s goals. When you’re too focused on your own work and not on the team’s work, it can make you difficult to approach.

3. Find ways to informally mentor others

If you haven’t been named a manager, look around you. Chances are there are plenty of people whom you could give a helping hand or share your expertise. Perhaps your organization has some interns. Try taking one of them under your wing, and help guide them in their work. You’ll gain attention and notice by demonstrating your leadership skills above and beyond your job description.

4. Present a problem and a possible solution

When you’re good at your job, it’s easy to spot problems as they arise. You can see that speed bump two miles down the road. However, as a manager it’s important to always provide a solution to your problem. It is now your job to be a positive and proactive influence for your team and your organization as a whole. By being a solution-generating employee you increase your value to the organization.

5. Become a shock absorber, not an amplifier

My dad always taught me that there are two types of people at work: the shock absorbers and the amplifiers. Amplifiers do just that: amplify. Office politics, gossip, dissent, stress and fear can quickly spread through an organization if too many of these types of people roam your company break room. Contrastingly, a shock absorber creates a safe and calm place for all employees to address conflict without adding fuel to the fire. As a manager it is now your job to help keep your team calm so that they can weather any storm. Don’t let your reputation be one of a “rabble rouser.”


1. Assign blame

We’ve all experienced the person who throws us under the bus, and it’s awful. As a manager accountability is key. If your team fails, you have failed. Don’t waste time trying to point fingers or deflect blame. Instead, try to take responsibility and work with your team members to address the situation and create a plan for how you would alter behavior moving forward.

2. Be complacent

If find yourself or one of your team members suddenly without a project, don’t let yourselves get too comfortable. Be proactive and find something new. Perhaps someone in another department could use some extra hands, or maybe there’s a long-term priority that has been left to sit. Whatever you do, do your best to always add value.

3. Get caught up in office politics

That water cooler can be a dangerous place. When you spend upwards of 40 hours a week with the same people, it’s very easy to find yourself caught up in the day-to-day dramas and gossip of a modern-day workplace. However, as manager or aspiring manager, it’s imperative that you stay above the fray. Once you participate in the gossip-mongering, it’s very difficult to regain any respect that was lost. If you overhear such negativity, try to walk away or turn the conversation to a more positive topic. You’ll be happy when people think of you as someone who elevates the company culture rather than one who detracts from it.

4. Forget the big picture

Your team’s priorities are important. Deadlines should be met. Task lists should be completed. However, try not to lose your vision of the big picture. Why does your team have these tasks assigned to them? What is their impact? What is the value to the business? If you answer these questions every day, you’ll not only ensure that you always understand your larger organization’s priorities, but you’ll also ensure that your team sees and understands its daily impact against those priorities.

5. Avoid conflict

It can be difficult to address conflict, but what is the impact on yourself and your team if you don’t?  Never allow yourself to be a pushover or your team to be taken advantage of. Rather than backing away from conflict, simply ensure that you address it respectfully and politely. Tone is everything.