Question: I am leaving my current sales position to move across the state and join a larger weekly newspaper in a sales management position. This is my first management job. I was very successful selling, but have always wanted to move into management. My staff will consist of four salespeople with limited experience. What things should I consider as a new manager, any tips to help me get started?
Answer: First of all, congratulations on your new adventure!
It sounds like you enjoyed selling and, in all likelihood, your publisher and others at your current paper have told you that you are good at what you do.
Now, as many new managers do, you are beginning to wonder if you will be as good and as successful in managing as you were in sales. When you were selling, you felt very competent and confident, even when business was tough to get. But now you are moving on to a new challenge and you’re somewhat unsure about just what it is that management entails.
In the past, your independence, attention to detail, strong organizational skills,a perfectionist streak, and the ability to get it done (in most cases by yourself!) have served you well.
However, your movement from one who does to one who manages is going to require a willingness to change, a focus on energy, and a steady and dependable perseverance.
Regardless of the size of your new paper, the management team, or your newly assigned staff, the following recommendations will serve you well in your personal and professional growth in becoming an effective and respected manager and leader.
Move off the field, into the dugout. You’re no longer a player or a doer; you are now the coach. Let go and coach your new staff. Develop a strong ability to communicate ideas and views so others will understand and accept them. Encourage initiative, while minimizing staff frustration.
Listen. Of all the sources of information to help you know, understand, and evaluate the abilities and personalities of each of your staff, listening to individuals is the most important. Much like when you were selling, there were times to sell and times to ask questions and listen. Remember, too, that to be a good listener you should always strive to be objective. Good listening skills are paramount to looking for ways to improve productivity, identify and solve problems, plus develop your people. “Nothing I say today will teach me anything; if I am going to learn something today, I need to LISTEN!”
Embrace conflict. Conflict or complaints from your staff members and others about fellow employees or systems or procedural requirements are going to happen. Be prepared to handle the conflict fairly, positively,and in a timely fashion. Work to have all parties involved focus on the issues at hand rather than the personalities in the disagreement. Listen, and listen again!
Start strong. Don’t be easy, unsure, or misdirected. Communicate your expectations, particularly in this challenging economic environment. When an employee or group of employees does not meet them, a casual reminder (…our workday is 8 to 5) rather than discipline may be all that it takes. However, when discipline is warranted, don’t hesitate to step up. As a collegiate soccer referee, I learned long ago that if a referee does not enforce the laws of the game, those players who were wronged would begin defending themselves. Discipline sets the parameters and it confirms who is in charge and keeps everyone on track.
The more you are successful, the louder your critics will be. Expect people to disagree with you. Be willing to defend what you believe is right and be flexible enough to know when to compromise.
Goals, expectations, dreams. Begin developing, outlining, and communicating your goals and expectations (and those of the paper, too) to your staff and others. Double check that they are S.M.A.R.T. Specific, measurable, agreed upon (in the company, or among the staff), realistic, and time-sensitive.
Assess and enhance your resources. Both your people and your physical resources. Observe, understand, and decide when it is best to utilize your staff’s strengths, as individuals or as a group. Be sure you have thought through both individual and group reaction to your ideas or goals, or any changes in policies.
Plan, plan, plan. Plan your work and work your plan. Assign activities and assign responsibilities and continually seek feedback. Many staffer members, when asked, will say that they want their new manager to succeed as their leader. Usually they will also say that they are going to be sure she earns it! Management is a challenge. It is also hard work. Though the rewards are usually hard-earned, they are well-deserved.
Have fun … and good luck!