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A First-Time Managers Guide to Performance Management

Leadership
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Internal Communication
New Manager

24 March, 2022

Aditya Joshi
Aditya Joshi

Senior Director, Joint Venture Management at Western Digital

Aditya Joshi, Senior Director, Joint Venture Management at Western Digital, shares his best practices for first time managers, focusing on how to judge the performance of former colleagues,

Navigating Team Dynamics as a First-Time Manager

Six years ago, I became a first-time manager. I had a tough time during the transition as it was difficult to transition from being a colleague and friend to becoming a manager. Prior to my transition, I was a senior engineer and worked with a few other senior and staff engineers. I was clear with my manager about growth opportunities and transparent that I wanted to improve my skills as a leader.

Right before I transitioned to become a leader, I changed my approach when working with my colleagues – to take a more consultative approach. I did so because I wanted them to trust me with more responsibility. I also wanted to understand team members' perspectives on each topic or task, so I could lead with delegation rather than authority.

I implemented my approach for around two quarters before I became a manager. By gauging their responses to specific duties, I was able to understand where each engineer was in their career maturity and trajectory. Finally, my manager made the announcement that I would be the team's new manager and I, officially, stepped into the role.

Opening a Transparent Line of Communication

When I became a manager, there was virtually no change in the team dynamics. This was due to my leadership approach from before I made the transition. There were changes, however, specifically around communication through performance management and career growth.

My biggest challenge was navigating the interpersonal relationships I had with specific team members. As a colleague, it's easy to become friends with coworkers; however, it becomes more difficult as a manager – since you want to judge reports purely based on their performance.

For example, I think my sympathy meter was too high. Specifically, I didn't want to cross any lines with team members whom I held a personal relationship with outside of the workplace. It took me around six months to execute on these problems; however, I eventually opened an honest line of communication to judge the performance of my reports.

Tips for First-Time Managers

  • As a first or second-line manager, the primary purpose is to execute. This requires a clear vision of each team member's strengths and how they can relate to the execution. Understanding which individual is the right fit for which task is essential in creating high-performing teams.
  • Once each role is clearly defined, it is necessary for a manager to judge their reports based purely on that job description. Anything outside of that realm is an interpersonal relationship.

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