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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

First-Time Manager? How to Fast-Track Your Education

You’ve just been promoted to your first management job. Congratulations—what an opportunity!

And—what a responsibility, too. What you might not yet realize as you take on your new position is that you’re taking on a multitude of other roles, too. As a manager, you’re a coach, who makes sure that players know the rules and are prepared to play the game. You’re a conductor, who leads musicians who bring their own talent and training to the effort. And you’re a teacher, who continually shares knowledge with your students.

You’re also a scientist—quantifying what needs to be done, analyzing results, and ensuring accountability. Oh, and you’re a psychologist. Humans are driven by a huge range of incentives and motives—and you’ll need to figure out what drives your team members.

And, of course, you’re still an employee. But, you’re not an individual performer anymore—now, your success will be measured in large part by the results of your team members to perform.

This probably sounds like a lot—and it is! And there’s no substitute for hands-on experience. But that being said, you can make your job a whole lot easier by educating yourself as you go. And the good news is, there are many things you can do to study up:

Learn from Others

You’ve probably had great bosses and not-so-great ones, and now is the time to think back to their management techniques—what worked? What didn’t? When you encounter someone who manages people well, find an opportunity to ask them how they learned, and what they read (more on reading below).

There’s also a lot to learn from people who don’t know how to manage—you’ll quickly learn what not to do. Continually look to others’ management styles to develop and refine your own point of view.

Get a New Reading List

From management philosophies to specific topics on supervising others, one of the best ways to ramp up your learning is by reading everything you can get your hands on—the more viewpoints you can get, the better. A few of my favorite online sources are the Corner Office Project, the Harvard Business Review blogs, and Inc. Magazine. And a great starter book list includes:

  • The Mary Kay Way: Timeless Principles from America's Greatest Woman Entrepreneur, by Mary Kay Ash. Truly timeless wisdom on following the golden rule at work, and its benefits.
  • The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, by Michael Gerber. At face value, a book about starting and running a business—and actually, great practical thinking on the value of structure and process.
  • Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business, by Danny Meyer. I like this memoir because the author shares a lot of the personal work the author did while learning to manage people and a growing business.
  • Look into Classes

    Also check to see if your workplace has applicable professional development courses—many companies have training programs for first-time managers, as well as individual classes on topics like giving performance reviews or the hiring process.

    If your employer doesn’t offer training, check out local universities and community colleges for evening courses in business and management. Or, look into conferences and events through industry organizations. Also think about programs that serve entrepreneurial ventures, from community Small Business Development centers to organizations like

    And remember—ask your employer to sponsor you to take these classes. If you don’t ask, you won’t receive!

    Tune Back In Right Here

    This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg! So, we’ll be sharing lots more advice for first-time managers over the next few weeks. Check back in for practical tips on communicating clear goals, providing effective feedback (even when it’s tough), managing relationships with team members, and other important topics.

    Managing others is a huge career opportunity, and it brings the potential for many deeply satisfying moments with it. But it's no small undertaking. Like many complex skills—mastering a sport, playing a musical instrument—the 10-year rule applies: Developing true expertise in any domain requires 10 years of sustained practice.

    But don’t let that intimidate you—it’s time to get started building that experience! And we’ll be here to help you keep learning every step of the way.

    Tell us! What do you want to know as a first-time manager? What are the toughest situations you’ve encountered?

    Photo courtesy of English106.