Tap Into Situational Awareness to Succeed as a New Manager

BY Kathy Crosett
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A move into a management role is a big step in your career. You’ll want to do the best job possible to ensure your continued climb up the corporate ladder. Before you make major changes to the position you’ve taken on, devote your attention to situational awareness.

In her article for Harvard Business Review, Amy Jen Su suggests that you develop a keen sense of situational awareness in your new role. More than one new manager has crashed and burned early in her career, because she came into the department with the ‘my way or the highway’ attitude. On the other hand, if you’re completely new to the organization, you may be tempted to proceed with caution and carry on the way your predecessor did. Holding yourself to either one of these extremes could bring down the entire department.

As a manager, you’ll spend most of your time coaching your team members on how to most efficiently complete the tasks your department is responsible for. To effectively coach, pay attention to key details. For example, you may need a team member to create a worksheet that summarizes subscription and office supply expenses for the past year. You could hand the task to the person who’s a math whiz. Or, you could ask a new employee who has limited worksheet experience to complete the task. If you choose the less experienced employee, think about what will motivate him to do his best job. You might mention that you want to broaden his skill set. Before he starts the tasks, suggest that he take an online course to learn about worksheet creation as part of his professional development. Or, let him know that finishing this task by the end of the day, even if he has to work extra hours, means he can hand over a task he particularly dislikes to another team member. If you take the time to get to know each employee on your team, you’ll know how to motivate them.

When you change things, situational awareness means watching how all employees are reacting. The employee you give a new assignment to may need your encouragement and attention along the way. Allocate the time he needs to succeed.

Other employees will notice what’s happening and may resent being excluded from the assignment. As Su says, staying “authentic and genuine” will result in the best outcome for you as a manager. If you suspect other employees are grumbling about the situation, be proactive. Put a plan in place that will allow other team members to show their strengths and develop their skills. And then, stick to it. Review the changes in group meetings so that everyone hears about them at the same time.

As a new manager, don’t assume you understand how the department or group works, because of what your boss or someone else has told you. When you roll out changes, assess the situation, address any perceived unfairness, and show team members that you care about their opinions. This strategy will win loyalty and improve productivity.