9 Lessons for first-time managers: Delegate to show trust.

If ‘everything is fine’ someone is lying.

When an employee tells you ‘Everything is fine!’ for too many one-on-ones in a row, it’s time to probe deeper. It may mean that an employee is actually too shy or scared to tell you they’re struggling. 

When a colleague tells you that things aren’t “fine,” they’re demonstrating that you have a good trust dynamic between the two of you.

Fuel strengths.

Ambitious people often want to know where they fall short so that they can fix it. 

When your employees jump to the “needs improvement” section of their reviews and skip over the “strengths” section, redirect their focus. Highlight the specific value they bring.

Ensure your employees know that the value they bring is what you see in them and what you expect them to grow.

Define ownership.

Make sure everyone knows who is responsible for what. When responsibilities aren’t clear, things fall through the cracks.

Individual team members, unsure if they dropped the ball, get defensive, and next thing you know, you’ve got a toxic environment on your hands.

Lose the ‘compliment sandwich.’Being nice is a good thing, but delivering critical feedback between two fluffy compliments isn’t as nice as you think it is. The best way to do this is to be direct and dispassionate. Be firm and own the critique. But, ultimately, you’re giving it because you believe they can do better. And that’s the best compliment of all.

Get a receipt when you deliver feedback.

Make sure the message is being received as delivered. Everyone feels vulnerable and self-protective during feedback, which can lead to defensiveness and misinterpretation. 

Ask employees to repeat back what they’ve heard at the end of feedback rounds.

Diversify your team like a stock portfolio.

As a manager, your job is to keep things moving in the short term while still planning for the long run.

Manage your team like a stock portfolio: keep one-third working on projects that happen in a few weeks, another group working on medium-term projects, and the third executing the early steps of ideas whose impact won’t show for years.

Don’t prolong a bad fit situation.

Many new managers think their job is to support individual team members to success. It’s not. 

Your job is to help your whole team achieve great outcomes. If you find yourself sinking a significant portion of your week (30% to 50%) into supporting people who are struggling, you’re missing a bigger problem.

“If you don’t believe someone is set up to succeed in his current role, the kindest thing you can do is, to be honest with him and support him in moving on. “When you decide to let someone go, do it respectfully and directly. Don’t open it up to discussion (it isn’t one), and don’t regard it as a failure on the part of your report.” [Julie Zhuo, Ex-VP of design at Facebook]

Know the goal of every meeting or cancel it.

Remember those meetings you and everyone around you used to dread? 

Now that you’re a manager, they’re happening on your watch. Make sure your meeting has a purpose.

Delegate to show trust.

Don’t just give your employees space; give them trust. Your goal is to delegate until you put yourself out of a job. 

You should be building a deep bench of the next generation of managers so when it’s time for you to move up there’s someone ready to take your spot.


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