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5 Things Every First-Time Manager Should Know

Estimated reading time ~ 3 min
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Image courtesy of Annie Spratt / Unsplash

As an entrepreneur and founder, I’ve been building teams and companies for more than ten years, leading everything from operations to strategy to community development to fundraising. Most recently, I cofounded the shared office space startup Alley, an entrepreneurial hub that brings together diverse teams and businesses so that they can reach their next stage of growth. Through my journey growing Alley from an idea to a venture-backed startup that hosts events for business leaders and supports diverse teams and leaders to drive growth, I’ve learned a handful of lessons about successful management. Whether you’re starting out and managing up, leading a small team, or growing a workforce of your own, I suspect that they will prove useful to your career, too.

1. Learn to handle strong personalities.

It can be hard to get strong personalities to align with decisions with which they don’t entirely agree. But having every team member opt in and back a decision is key. It’s on you, as the manager, to identify that and create a scenario where everyone can get on the same wavelength before you move forward with a plan. It all comes down to communicating in a way that makes it easier for others to say yes, even if you think you don’t have the time. Putting in this effort upfront will pay off in the end, and the trust you build will carry on into the next decision, and the next, and the next.

Nsi Obotetukudo and the Alley team

2. Ask for help.

Even if you’re the boss, you still need mentors and advisors who can help you navigate the conditions of your management career. Mentors are work/life’s cheat codes. Managing people is as much about managing yourself as it is about managing those around you, and I know that mentors have pushed me out of my own way. They’ve helped me wrestle down my ego, even when I thought I was being judgment free. They’ve acted as sounding boards as I encountered challenges and roadblocks. I also recommend reading High Output Management by Andy Grove. This book has served as great guidance as to where and how to allocate my time as a manager, and I come back to it time and again to remind myself how to build a self-sustaining, mature organization.

3. Become a better listener.

It’s impossible to learn something you think you already know. Managing is not about knowing everything (or even knowing anything); it’s about listening to understand, making a clear decision once you’re equipped to do so, and rallying full support from your team. This openness and flexibly allows you to make the right decision in the context of your objectives. Not to mention that shutting up and listening is a fantastic way to show you’re vested in your employees’ success. Make the time for one-on-one meetings and the follow up. Be transparent about why things are happening and where each employee fits in that context. This makes it way easier to manage your team. (Disclaimer: This is assuming you’ve hired well to begin with!)
Nsi Article Pic

4. Don’t forget about your goals.

And repeat those goals often — to yourself, to your team, and to your bosses. Something said isn’t always something heard. I find that the more complex the business, the more distracted one can become by things that don’t matter. It’s helpful to be mindful of what does and track projects and decisions back to those goals. These may be goals for the week, the month, the quarter, or the year. It’s up to you to decide what kind of horizon you’d like to set a goal on, but the simpler and clearer the goal, the easier it is for your team to get behind it.

5. Invest in your community's success.

The most rewarding part of managing people is observing growth, progress, and wins on both the individual and organizational level. As managers, we’re personally vested in the success of our people. If you are great, we will be great. Period. As I move into my next venture, I’m constantly thinking: How do we best create an organization that inspires personal growth and growth in our local communities? How can good business impact communities in the best way and make those communities healthier? I think good businesses make employees better and, as a result, both the company and employees make communities better.

Images by Raymond Eugenio, courtesy of Nsi Obotetukudo


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