INSIDER: The First-Time Manager

December 1, 2022

Brandon Chenevert, MBA Candidate

Stock Image of the First-time Manager Book

So, you’ve been promoted to manager—now what? You may have been promoted because of strong technical knowledge or performance, a personal relationship with a boss, or this was an inevitable next step due to seniority. Regardless of the reason, you now have others—and yourself—to take care of. Loren Belker, Jim McCormick, and Gary Topchik’s The First-Time Manager is a resourceful guide to help ease nerves, learn the ropes, recognize new responsibilities, relationships, and risks, and help you make a lasting impact on your organization and others around you through your new management role.

Learning the Ropes

Starting out may be scary to some new managers. As cliché as it sounds, the authors recommend new managers take it slow and approach this new role one day at a time. As a new manager, you will learn each day and also experience change as your career progresses, but one fact that will not change now is that you are working with people, potentially even more than before. As you are promoted, you will most likely experience the following four types of people in the workspace: 1) the people who are not happy about your promotion and may feel jealous, 2) the “yes people” who will start playing up to you, 3) the people who will test you early on to see if you are a good fit, and 4) the more common “wait and see” people, who need time to adjust. All of these personalities will be measuring you against your predecessor—which can be a good or bad thing, depending on where the bar is set. The best way to earn respect is to have a personal touch and get to know your team, and vice versa. They need to know that you are dependable and can hold others accountable to meet the goals of the firm.

Managers must be aware of different styles of leadership and tools to use when interacting with different personalities—and this applies to dealing with superiors, direct reports, and even oneself! For superiors, understand their expectations, personality style, and communication preferences. Do they need extreme details? How do they process information? What are their interests? What is their level of immediacy? For direct reports, understand the level of encouragement and control they need from you. Do they need to constantly be motivated, or do they need more skills and knowledge to complete tasks? Set clear goals and directions for those who need them and be aware of their constraints. Lastly, for yourself, understand the difference between management and leadership. Management is a top-down approach that is directive, structured, and determines methods. Leadership is bottom-up and participative with focus on exceptions, less structure, and dynamic groups that let members determine their own methods. Be a strong manager who is a respected leader so that you can be the most effective and impactful partner possible for your team.   

Responsibilities, Relationships, and Risks

In addition to individual duties and projects, a new manager now has others to consider when performing daily operations. A manager must oversee major responsibilities, learn to build and maintain relationships, and manage risks/be aware of potential negative outcomes.

Major responsibilities include, but are not limited to, hiring, firing, communicating, planning, organizing, training, monitoring, evaluating, and participating in and leading meetings. While these tasks may seem tedious and direct, some include indirect or behind-the-scenes work. For example, a first-time manager must understand how to encourage initiative and innovation, while also being motivating and disciplining. This is sometimes a hard balance to maintain, as you want to create a safe, relaxed environment where employees will be happy and comfortable while avoiding an environment where there is no drive to succeed. The authors recommend establishing a "work hard, play hard" mindset within your team so that employees understand that strong performance is rewarded in a competitive atmosphere.

A first-time manager should understand how to build relationships. The first step is establishing trust and confidence within the workplace. The authors recommend creating successful habits and avoiding perfectionism. This creates confidence and doesn't place a negative effect on productivity if minor mistakes are made. Also, be an active listener and show genuine appreciation towards your team—they need to know they will be heard and that you care about the hard work they are doing. This sense of trust and confidence builds a team dynamic that is open to communication, empowers others, and holds goals and roles accountable, which is a sign of effective management and leadership. 

The most complicated skill that a new manager should learn is how to manage risks, which are situational and handled on a case-by-case basis. Compare the current problem to past issues, and create a solution from there. Do not rush into a tough situation and try to deliver a quick resolution, as there may be an underlying or bigger issue at hand. The authors recommend new managers remember to not take anything personally and eliminate misunderstandings of complex jobs. Although HR or other departments usually cover this topic, a manager must have a strong sense of legal awareness, as well. A manager should be aware of privacy laws, sexual harassment and substance abuse problems, and disability or medical rules. Lastly, as remote work has become prevalent, learn how to communicate virtually with your team, treating them equally as you would someone in the office.

Improving and Developing Yourself

You may have heard about “managing your own brand” and taking care of your priorities first for good reason. If you do not have trust and confidence that you can lead or that others respect you, then you should reevaluate your skillset and habits, or ask someone for help. The first step is to develop a positive self-image of yourself. This is not creating an impression of arrogance, but having a mindset that you are successful and that you will get the job done. This positive self-image will lead to better emotional intelligence and body language and create a touch of class in your leadership style. Complement a positive self-image with a strong control of time management. Prioritizing the most important tasks ahead, doing smaller segments of work, and taking time to reflect on completed jobs can be very beneficial for a manager at any level. Practicing time management improves delegation skills, work-life balance, and better stress coping mechanisms.

Real Estate Implications

At some point in your real estate career, you may move into management, be it of a team, a market center, or even your firm. As you move into management, make sure to have constant communication with your team and your clients. The last thing you want is poor feedback because of poor communication. Next, be prepared with a broad range of market knowledge and keep an updated data system. The real estate market is constantly changing, and it is imperative to be up-to-date on listings and sales data, such as average volume sold, property prices, and appreciation rates. Finally, you must be reliable and available to your clients. As an agent, you can make or break the buying or selling process, and people are depending on you to negotiate, understand the legal aspects, and be a facilitator between parties. Being a manager is not always going to be easy or fun, especially for first-time managers, but if done correctly, your leadership can make a difference and leave a legacy.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Recommended Reading

Belker, Loren B., Jim McCormick, and Gary S. Topchik (2021), The First-Time Manager [Seventh Edition], HarperCollins Leadership: New York City, New York.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

About the Author

Brandon Chenevert, MBA Candidate
Baylor University
Brandon Chenevert is a graduate student from New Roads, Louisiana. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in Human Movement Science from Louisiana State University in December 2020. His work experience includes managing a new Baton Rouge restaurant, BRQ, and being the Founder and President of two LSU student organizations. Brandon is currently seeking an MBA at Baylor with a concentration in Entrepreneurship & Corporate Innovation and plans to pursue a career in the management consulting industry.