Being a new manager can be anxiety inducing for anyone. This is true whether you are joining a new company as a manager, switching from an individual contributor role to a management role, or you've take on a new team. If you've just joined a new company you may have additional areas of focus, but let's walk through what all new managers should prioritize in order to get up to speed as quickly as possible.
You need to learn about the people you will be managing. You will get to know your team members over time, but getting some background is very helpful for a new manager. Ideally either your boss or the team's departing manager should meet with with you to fill you in. If neither of these are options, past performance reviews and other notes from the incumbent manager might be helpful for you to review.
Questions to Ask When You are a New Manager
Your goal should be to learn as much as possible about your team members when you become a new manager. You will be bombarded with a fire hose of new information during your on-boarding about the company, processes, and training. Your brain can take only so much new data everyday. It is important for you to dedicate enough cycles to learning about each team member so you can get up to speed as soon as possible. Here are some questions you can ask to learn more about each team member:
- Their background, how did they end up at the current company.
- In which areas would they most like your support? Ask them what routines worked best in the past.
- Let them know you are still coming up to speed and don't know all the ropes yet but ask them if there is anything immediate that they need your support with.
- Are they comfortable with being recognized publicly?
- What is at the top of their mind? What are their priorities?
The Transfer Of Goals & Recurring Tasks
- Roadmap Goals: As a new manager you need to get up to speed on what your teams roadmap items are, as well as their relative priorities. Make sure to figure out which of these goals are the ones with hard deadlines that cannot slip, and which goals can be delayed if necessary. Even though it will take some time for you to learn the full context, try to get a sense of why these goals are important to the company and your team.
- Recurring Managerial Tasks: What recurring tasks are you personally taking over from another manager? This includes weekly/bi-weekly meetings, planning and progress meetings, retrospective communications, 1:1s.
- Recurring Team Tasks: Are there manual or semi-manual procedures that your team is supposed to run at a frequency? Find out who you can ask to learn more about these tasks and make sure these procedures are being done on time. Financial and Security audits are examples of manual/semi-manual procedures.
- Important Rules/Assumptions: What are hard rules that you should be aware of regarding systems your team owns? You will build deeper knowledge and context over time but there might be some hard rules that you should be aware of from the get-go to ensure that you don't let someone break these rules unintentionally.
- Scope: It is always better to clearly specify the areas you are going to be fully responsible for and the areas your boss will maintain as you are coming up to speed. Are there certain meetings you are expected to take over at some point but not from the get-go? What are those meetings? When are you expected to take over these responsibilities?
Keeping Track of What is Working and What is Not:
Finding out what works and what doesn't is even more important if you are joining a new company as a manager but it applies no matter what. You have a fresh perspective and you should take advantage of this. People tend to get used to doing things in a particular way, and the inertia makes it hard for them to try something new that might be more effective or more efficient. As someone who is new to the company or the team, it should be obvious what is working and what is not. Make sure the team knows what they are doing well and tell them to keep doing an awesome job here. When you find inefficiencies and want to fix them, keep track of these and share you thoughts with your manager and the team.
Toyota's leaders painted a big red square on the assembly line floor. New employees had to stand in it at the end of their first week, and they were not allowed to leave until they criticized at least three things on the line!
There is a reason why Toyota does this. New people are not yet used to doing things the Toyota way. Fresh perspectives are valuable, and Toyota takes advantage of this. Although it is probable that the idea of new employee has already been tried, it is important to support a culture where new ideas are welcomed.
As you are observing and learning the way of things at your new company and on your new team it, is important not to exert your opinions right away. As a new manager you want to improve things and make an impact asap, but you probably don't know enough to do this yet. Keep track of areas where there is potential for improvement. Share ideas and possible ways to improve in these areas.
Being new is hard, and being a new manager is even harder. You want to get up to speed as fast as possible, and be helpful to your team members so you can show your impact. Don't be too hard on yourself when the process of coming up to speed takes longer than you want. The amount of new information you need to absorb daily can be overwhelming. Be sure to ask for help from your manager and peers. Focus heavily on listening, asking a lot of questions and learning the ropes. You have a blank check to ask as many questions as you would like when you are the new person in the company. Take advantage of that and ask away, because that won't last too long...