“New Manager? Dont be a Dick”
By Martin Ellis
Twice in my working life I have really struggled. I mean proper struggled, not just stumbled about a bit. On both occasions I felt like a Dick. It’s best avoided.
Screwing up – it happens to the best of us
The first struggle was attending my first residential sales course at Rentokil. They were pretty tough and tried to dismantle and re-build me. I nearly walked out. On reflection, I probably needed it, so I just put that down to experience. I did some growing up.
The second was my first management job. I was dropped in the deep end. No support to speak of and I learned by my mistakes alone. That too made me do some growing, but I upset too many people along the way. Not by design, but by glorious ineptitude.
The trouble is, when you walk into your first management job, you don’t even know what it is you don’t know. So, remembering my own excruciating embarrassment, I thought I should gather my LinkedIn network around a warm fire and ask them to distill their collective thoughts into some really simple stuff we wish we’d all been told when we were first managers.
(I should also add I was prompted to write this because here at the RSE Group we now have own Leadership coach, Rachel Stone, Who helps clients improve their existing team before they waste somebody who could deliver a great result. She’s much better at it than me. I’m an impatient sod. Rachel will listen and respond appropriately. She’s nice like that. I just knock these blogs out when the mood and inspiration takes me)
So here is the collective wisdom of many hard-bitten souls who have been there before you. Of course I’ve edited it, so the ridiculous suggestions about being nice, and reasonable, have been left on the cutting room floor. You don’t have time for that. You have things to do, people to see – and DEADLINES and TARGETS. Best get on with it…..
I should also say this doesn’t replace training. You’ll need some of that. But this might tide you over and stop you making a Dick of yourself while you’re waiting for it to happen.
Some Top Tips for new managers to avoid looking like a Dick:
- Don’t even try to be fair. That’s far too subjective. You’ll end up making decisions in isolation. Try only to be consistent.
- Don’t run with the hare and the hounds. Honestly. Don’t. I tried. It doesn’t work. It gets very messy.
- Listen to your people. Yes it’s obvious. You don’t have to agree with them, but you do have to listen. They may be right. They may not. Use your judgement. Oh and listen to your customers too.
- Don’t be a Dick. This was very popular among this collective. It means don’t try and be something you’re not. You’ll get found out. Difficult to recover from that.
- Don’t make big decisions early. Keep your powder dry ’till you’re sure. Don’t look indecisive either. You can buy time by making small decisions that get noticed. Like buying decent toilet paper.
- Eat Last. You know what I mean.
- Explain your decisions. Sell your ideas, don’t just Tell, or your team will disappear on you.
- Praise in public, bollock in private. Never, ever, show somebody up in front of their colleagues, not even if they’re a A-grade pillock.
- Manage up. You can manage your boss. Don’t try too hard at first, just accept it as a principle. To do this you’ll need to avoid surprises. Surprises are bad.
- Catch people doing something right. And tell them.
- Buy cake. Easy one this. Celebrate success in small ways. Chocolate cake is probably best.
- Get a plan. Share it. This may take some time. That’s ok – if it’s a good plan.
- Allow people to fail. People need to take calculated risks to succeed. Just don’t allow them to make the same mistake twice, and you’re ahead if you get more right than wrong.
- Get a mentor. Probably from outside the organisation. Get someone you can trust. You will walk into situations that won’t appear in management manuals. You’ll need a sounding board.
So easy? Yes?
Good management is not easy. You’ll need proper training for that. Good leadership is probably harder still.
You will screw up. We all do. But these principles will stand you in good stead. They’re rather good. I didn’t think of them all. I asked others. And there’s the rub – People will gather round if you ask them to, and they’ll deliver a better result than if you try and do it all on your own.
I really hope you enjoy being a manager. Despite a flimsy education and a dreadful start I did ok. You can too.
Just try not to be a Dick.