By Barbara Mitchell
Q: I am relatively new to management and feeling isolated. I know I need to keep my distance from my direct reports, but I’d like to have someone to brainstorm with me and help me learn how to manage my team. Where can I get some guidance?
A: Being a manager isn’t easy—especially when it comes to asking for help. So many managers try to do everything themselves to hide the fact that they don’t know it all. This is a huge mistake and derails many managerial careers. You’re smart to have recognized that you can’t do it all yourself.
See if your organization can provide you with a coach as you navigate your new role. If that’s not possible, look for mentors—either inside or outside your organization—who are knowledgeable and trustworthy. Mentors can be extremely helpful as you seek to lead your team successfully.
Develop a lifetime-learner mentality. Constantly be asking questions, reading, studying, and trying new ideas.
Consider gathering an informal management team in your organization, because I’ll bet there are other managers who also could use help from time to time. Set a time to meet, and come up with some ground rules, including confidentiality to allow for open and honest discussion. Each manager most likely has a skill or expertise that others would like to know more about, so take advantage of those free resources.
Don’t overlook your peers outside your organization. They can be real assets to you. For example, when I was a manager in a start-up tech firm, I was part of an informal networking group that shared experiences and brainstormed ideas. We met once a month for breakfast and discussed the similar issues we were all going through as we grew our businesses. Even though our firms competed against each other in some ways, we found we all had the same challenges in dealing with people. Again, having rules like confidentiality is the key to success.
As you seek to improve your managerial skills, take advantage of the vast number of resources—books, articles, webinars, and podcasts—that tackle management issues and can help you gain confidence in your ability.
I highly recommend developing a lifetime-learner mentality. Managing people is challenging, and no one has a lock on how to do it. We all struggle from time to time. So, constantly be asking questions, reading, studying, and trying new ideas. Your people will appreciate it, and you will be a better and happier manager.
Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected]