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The new manager check list

In an ideal business world, all companies would have programs to identify high-potential employees and develop future leaders, and upper management would establish structured training programs to help first-time manager’s transition from individual-contributor roles.

For many small to mid-sized organizations, however, this is a utopian dream. More often than not, trusted, reliable employees are promoted into supervisory or manager roles and then left to do the best they can while senior leadership’s attention is drawn away by larger strategic needs.

Being a strong individual performer does not mean someone will be a good manager, and it can be frustrating or intimidating for those newly promoted to deal with a different set of challenges. Even those whom others see as having “leadership potential” need to be pointed in the right direction. For new managers and supervisors who feel they must fend for themselves, here’s an 8-point checklist of “good manager” practices:

  1. Are you providing clarity around what your team members need to do to be successful?
    Sometimes new managers don’t speak up for fear of stepping on toes or because they assume their staff members already know what to do. If the manager doesn’t provide a map, it’s not fair to employees when that manager becomes frustrated with them for getting lost.
  2. Are you making sure people have the tools they need to succeed?
    “Tools” includes not just training and equipment/computers/software; it also means having a coordinated plan with timelines. Anyone can delegate a task and walk away, leaving others to figure out “how.” Giving orders without contributing or providing support is what bad managers do.
  3. Are you learning the strengths and motivations of your individual team members and then coaching and training them accordingly?
    Taking a “firm, but fair” approach to management is a nice starting point, but it’s not a leadership philosophy. Good managers know that getting top performance out of a staff member often involves customizing the plan to the individual.  
  4. Are you paying attention to what your team is going through and providing the requisite support … without micromanaging them?
    Workers are often faced with conflicting requests, uncooperative stakeholders, and an imbalance in contributions. Don’t assume everything is fine because you haven’t heard direct complaints. At the same time, employees don’t want a manager who nitpicks their work. If they aren’t delivering the expected results, provide better training and find mentors who can help.
  5. Are you addressing problems before they escalate?
    Nobody likes to deal with performance problems, team members who don’t get along, or employees who aren’t happy with their manager’s decisions or procedures. But if you accepted the manager job, your duty is to deal with these issues promptly. They aren’t going to go away, and the longer you delay or avoid the problem, the more difficult it will be to resolve.
  6. Are you advocating for your team to rest of the company?
    You know your employees are talented and hardworking, but that’s not always apparent to other departments and senior management. Be an advocate for your staff, promote their successes, share their skills cross-functionally when possible, and stick up for them when necessary. If your team already provides support or contributes cross-functionally, make sure external stakeholders have managed expectations about what work can and cannot be done by your team.
  7. Are you focusing on the skill development of your employees?
    Not every company has a budget for formal training programs, but you can assign stretch projects and implement self-paced learning goals on your own. If you are setting expectations beyond what is listed in the job description, make sure that you are proactively facilitating success and not simply piling extra work on people without a plan. Set goals with measurable results, and be sure to follow through later to check progress and course correct if necessary.
  8. Are you planning for the future?
    The world of business never rests. Despite all the good things that come from carrying out items 1 – 7 (concurrently), some employees will transfer to another department or leave for a different company. Your organization might grow or shrink. New technology could eliminate jobs or create them.

Keep an eye on trends in your industry. Tell your manager you’d like to listen in to what senior management is talking about so you are prepared for what’s coming around the corner.

By acting on these points, new leaders will show management the right choice was made. If you’re the one who does the promoting, be sure to check out the employee-development tools described under the solutions tab above. Caliper offers plenty of affordable options for helping new managers and supervisors succeed, no matter the size of your company.

About Caliper - For nearly half a century, Caliper has been helping companies achieve peak performance by advising them on hiring the right people, managing individuals most effectively and developing productive teams. The accuracy, objectivity and depth of our consulting approach enable us to provide solutions that work for over 25,000 companies. To find out more about how Caliper can help you identify and develop people who can lead your organization to peak performance, please visit us at  or call us at 609-524-1200. Email to contact Caliper.