How to survive your first year as a manager

Becoming the manager of a team can be a big change. There are lots of factors to take on board – the personality make-up of your team, delegating, building culture – the list goes on.

We asked managers from finance backgrounds to share their advice on leading a team – here are their top tips.

Be a motivator

A big issue for managers of all levels is ensuring that your team is motivated. A team that lacks motivation will not deliver. James Barker, the chief accountant at financial technology company Finastra, says he wasn’t a fan of a regimented approach to management but knew he needed to make an impact without ruffling too many feathers. “I preferred the idea that you succeed as a manager if your team is successful,” he says.

Don’t let your management style be driven just by results and accept there are some essential soft skills you need to get the best out of any team. A simple “thank you” can work wonders for getting people to go that extra mile.

Key tip: You succeed when your team succeeds. Recognise and appreciate the efforts of individuals as well as the group – say “thank you”.

Set clear goals

Dean McInnis, the credit risk analyst at small business finance solutions company Iwoca, says goals and targets must be challenging but achievable. “This could be general team targets or a certain number of tasks per day,” he says. “It could be other things, such as how people integrate into the team.”

He adds that at Iwoca, new starters are often given responsibility for organising social events. “When I started in management, I wanted to give people something to strive towards. I would sit down with them to figure out what it was they wanted to achieve.”

Key tip: When it comes to injecting energy into your department, set clear goals that everyone can measure, and communicate these goals effectively.

Create an open culture

Sarah Williams, director at business psychology consultancy Edgecumbe, says an open culture helps new managers build a complete team with a diverse mix of thinking styles and personality traits.

“The key to harnessing the power of this diversity is in creating an open, trusting, curious and collaborative culture that enables individuals to play to their natural strengths within the team.” Having an open culture where team members feel empowered and confident to make decisions and use their initiative will build trust in you as a manager.

Key tip: Build trust within your team. Use your own experience to nurture talent and demonstrate that the team is working as one to achieve broader organisational goals.

Don’t fear difficult conversations

One of the hardest parts of a management position is having difficult conversations – these might be about someone’s performance, attendance record or other behavioural issues in the workplace. “Your team member might be struggling if their job isn’t what they want to do in the long (or short) term,” says Adam Lancaster, finance manager at credit experts TotallyMoney.

“But unless you speak to them, you won’t know if there’s something you can change to get the best out of them.” The office is not always the best place to talk, Lancaster adds. “Sometimes it is better to take people out for a coffee and talk things through.” Always do your homework before a difficult meeting, avoid getting too emotional, and try and keep conversations confidential.

Key tip: You won’t know if there’s something you can change to get the best out of your team member unless you have a conversation. Take them out of the office to talk.

Be direct

As a manager, you should always be direct, up-front and honest with your team, says Dean McInnis, a credit risk analyst at small business finance solutions company Iwoca. “Don’t beat around the bush or try to sugarcoat things,” he says. “Be honest, fair and tell people exactly what it is that doesn’t work.”

Explain to your team (or team member) that you are trying to help and that you care about their development. “Always keep the idea in your head that you are there to help them improve,” says McInnis.

Key tip: Be honest, fair and tell your team (or team member) exactly what the issue is. Don’t beat around the bush or try to sugarcoat the situation.

Decipher different personalities

A team is a combination of people with different skills and personalities, so as a manager, you need to take time to understand what makes each member tick. “Ultimately you need to create a good working relationship with everyone who reports to you,” says Lois McCloud at Cirkle PR. “

You can do this partly by understanding people’s different personalities.” McCloud was introduced to the colour chart of personality types – green tends to mean you are accommodating and reliable, red is assertive and determined, blue is logical and structured and yellow is enthusiastic, impulsive and active. McCloud says a member of her team is red, which means she needs to be more direct and assertive with that person.

Key tip: Decipher your team’s personalities using the Personality Type Indicator Test and adjust your management style to suit each team member’s personality.

In summary

Moving into a management role is more than just a title change. We’ve put together a ‘how-to’ guide so you can hit the ground running and keep improving. Our free eBook, which you can download at the bottom of this article, will support you in your transition from employee to manager, and lead you on towards becoming a strong leader within your organisation.

Download our free eBook now; The new manager’s guide to leadership

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