A First-Time Managers Guide to Performance Management
24 March, 2022
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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