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How to Manage People

"Management is nothing more than motivating other people." - Lee Iacocca

Congratulations! You finally got that promotion you’ve been wanting and now, you’re a manager – perhaps for the first time in your career. So, now what? If this is your first foray into management, you might be a bit nervous. That feeling is understandable, common and, in fact, quite warranted. This is going to be very, very different from what you’ve done before.

Management has an entirely different set of goals, rules and a different skill set is required. Very often, people that are new to management do not completely understand what it means to be a manager – how their life will change (yes, your life will definitely change). This is especially true if you’ve moved from an hourly wage to a salary… more about that later.

This article will present you with a set of guidelines you can use to help make some sense out of what is often a confusing transition. This is not meant to be a complete set of day-to-day instructions; that concept is pretty much gone forever now that you’re a manager. It is, however, a reasonable outline that will help you through the process of goal setting and managing staff. So take a deep breath and let's get started!

  1. Understand what management is: What significantly sets managers apart is the migration away from a concept known as "individual contribution." Managers are not, primarily, individual contributors. That means that you are going to be responsible for the work of others; your success depends on how well your team performs. You are now responsible for far, far more work than you could ever possibly produce by yourself (see warnings). You can’t fix all the problems – don’t even try… that’s not your job anymore.

  2. Prepare for the transition: This will become confusing and frustrating... perhaps not immediately, but managers are often pulled in multiple directions. You may have a different dress code to follow. You will have new rules to obey (particularly in the area of Human Resources).

    • Find a mentor: Not your immediate manager, but find another manager with lots of experience and ask that person to help you transition. This is a very important and often overlooked tool. It will also gain you considerable esteem in the eyes of the upper level management team. It shows maturity.

    • Join a networking group: There are lots of these (Toastmasters for example). Ask other managers and executives about local clubs. Take advantage of the networking opportunities in your area.

    • Contact HR: Go to the Human Resources department and ask if there are any HR books or training courses you can use to help you. Read a bit about being a manager. There is a mountain of literature on the subject. Read some of the more well-known books (The One Minute Manager and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People are management staples).

    • Help your staff cope: It's possible the people you will manage used to be your peers and that will be the cause of envy (possibly resentment) and friction. You can't prevent it but if you keep the lines of communication open it will reduce the issues. However, you must remember that you are now management and while you don't want to flaunt it, you can't let your former peers take advantage of your previous relationship. Even if they weren’t your peers, getting a new manager is always disconcerting. Address the staff and let them know your plans. Establish the manager/staff relationship early. Even if it seems a bit awkward at first do not be bashful about it... just follow the steps, be yourself, and don't forget where you started.

    • Don't neglect family: Your husband-wife-playmate-whatever and children, if any, and friends still need your attention just like they did before. You will have a lot more on your mind now - management is a hard transition. Keep your priorities in check. If you hear people mentioning that you're distant - take note. You don't want to let your career ruin your family relationships (you wouldn't be the first).

    • Don't neglect your health: OK, you've discovered that this is actually fun. The work is exciting, you're working longer hours, maybe working more at home, staying up a little later, getting up a little earlier, doing a great job handling the family and kids... are you sleeping enough? Are you sure?

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