4 Ironclad Leadership Success Tips for New Managers

4 Ironclad Leadership Success Tips for New Managers

If you are a new manager or aspire to be one soon, welcome to greater responsibility. Your new role has accountability above and below you in the organization. It is an adjustment period, and you want to start well. Great managers all have some time-tested fundamentals. Let’s explore how a first-time manager can have success quickly.

What do new leaders need to know?

I will start with a question. What if you could be the kind of leader that people wanted to follow, rather than being obligated to follow? There is a significant difference. Isn’t there? At the foundation of a successful manager are two primary characteristics: Competency and character.

Establish competency.

Your boss is looking to you for consistent performance, and your direct reports need competent guidance. You may feel like all eyes are on you. Sometimes new managers focus more on the appearance of competency than on learning the managerial skills required for success. Most employees are perceptive, and you may risk fostering poor employee morale.

So, what should you do first?

-Ask your manager for a clear explanation of your job objectives and expectations. Ask what will define performance success for you in the job. Listen carefully. Ask questions, and be sure that you understand your goals. This meeting is essential.

-Early on, ask your boss for mentorship. Tell your manager that you want to get up to speed as quickly as possible and immediately promote good teamwork within your group. Be assured that you will get all the guidance and help you need primarily because you asked.

How should you address those who report to you? 

-Be humble. At your first team meeting, be honest, humble, and direct. Admit that you have much to learn in the new job and that, for a while, they may know more about their jobs than you do. You will begin to establish a solid bond with them. As a new manager, you need good cooperative team dynamics to achieve your goals. You have opened the door to meaningful communication. 

-Let your team teach you. Learn from those you are leading. In some of your initial meetings with your team, ask them to describe how the team functions. What processes work well for them? What do they do best? What help can you provide them? Ask them for wisdom to help you do your job better. You will gain meaningful insights from those meetings.

-Meet your team. Meet individually with several of your team members. Let them talk and educate you. Be sure to let them do most of the talking. Find out if you have an informal team leader. Whom do your employees trust, and who are the ‘go-to’ people? Ask if they have any constructive criticism as you begin your role.

-Talk with your predecessor. Learn from the previous group manager. Seek the advice of your predecessor if it’s reasonable to do that. You will probably hear dos and don’ts to remember. Those insights will be valuable.

-Study previous success. Look back over the prior performance success of your team and try to understand why it was successful and what you can learn from it. For clarity, ask the group to describe their success.

-Communicate team objectives. At the right time, but early on, let your team know their objectives in detail. Explain how those objectives fit into your goals and the company’s goals. Take your time with this. Prompt them to ask questions until you are comfortable that they understand the mission. You are creating expectations and alignment across the team. It sets the stage for successful performance.

-Manage your time wisely. Once you understand your goals and objective, take time to think through how you will manage your time. Make sure that you do not take your eye off your more important objectives, even if you need to schedule to study them regularly. This will always be time well spent.

Establish trust with character:

Few topics run deeper than character. But to start the exploration, ponder this statement. 

“Great managers and leaders never take credit.”  

It is a strong statement. Does ‘never’ really mean never? Can you practically do this? Does this limit your career progression if you do this and others don’t? Think deeply about this and consider debating it with those you trust for wisdom.

-If you never took credit, how would people who report to you think about you.

-Let’s take it a bit farther. If you found some way to give a team member credit, no matter what, how would they think about you?

So, let’s get back to one of my original questions. What if you were the kind of leader that people wanted to follow under any circumstances? Reverse roles and think about how comfortable and confident you would be if your manager or leader routinely did this. Selflessness builds trust and loyalty.

I still enjoy debating this ‘never take credit’ principle with executives, leaders, and employees. I believe that thinking honestly about what this statement means will positively impact your leadership character and success significantly and immediately.


And finally, seek opportunities to offer encouragement. Be quick to praise and teach and slow to criticize. Encourage your team members to recognize each other publicly. You are telling them that each individual contributor has value.

Learn what history teaches about character.

I found value in exploring the history of great leaders. I was encouraged by one of my mentors to explore the life of Sir Winston Churchill, Britain’s Prime Minister during World War II. I did, and it reshaped the way I think about leadership. Your mentors can recommend a historical leader to study. Your mentors may share their history as well.

Reading about leaders who experienced more significant pressure than you are likely to encounter can give you a positive perspective during more difficult times. Learn how they handled situations calmly, with grace, and for the common good. As a new leader, you will make decisions not previously part of your role. Get ready. Studying high-character leaders will mature your decision-making process, particularly under pressure.

Project calm confidence.

Here is one final leadership tip for you. A great manager remains as calm under pressure as possible. When stress is high, your team members will observe your reactions closely. If, during pressure situations, your demeanor changes significantly or becomes overly pessimistic, it can become a distraction. 

Part of a leader’s job is to instill confidence in team members when things get complicated. Make it easier for them to get the job done despite the circumstances. They will follow your lead. Please give them a calm attitude and encouragement. Smile! Get in the boat with them and show that you have confidence in their ability to perform. Each team member needs your encouragement more at a time like this.

After the pressure has receded, you will find that your team will have developed a different bond that performing well under pressure and stress can create. And they will appreciate your loyalty to them through it all. When pressure hits, everyone will handle it better and perform well again in the future. You will have a better team, and they will see you as a part of that team.

To summarize:

Successful leadership begins with competency. There is no substitute for skill and knowledge. Find mentors. Be sure to get clarity from your manager about your targets and objectives and what defines success. 

Engage your team with humility. Learn from them and bond with them by being approachable. Communicate performance expectations to your team. Always reflect a calm, steady presence under pressure and get in the boat with them.

Think about the concept “leaders never take credit.” Give credit away. Make encouragement a habit and promote it among your team members. And remember that character builds trust and loyalty. Be a leader who inspires people to want to follow you. Study the history of great leaders.

You can become the leader that everyone wants to follow. Be confident, lead and have fun.

To conclude:

First-time leadership responsibility can be daunting. But if I generalized all of the advice above, it would be, don’t go it alone. Get help from those who are more experienced. Remember that the fundamental objective is to perform well for your company. No one will be surprised if you seek help. They want you to be successful. 

If you would like to continue talking with me about this topic, click here for a free session. https://calendly.com/dave-kerford/

And join our Bulletproof Business Community. It is a forum for wisdom and experience from our C-suite and business leader members who have built or are building Bulletproof Businesses. As a first step, click here to sign up for our newsletter. https://davekerford.com/subscribe/ Enjoy!

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