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You Just Became A Manager – Now What?

The First 90 Days Are Critical To Your Success As A Leader.

By Steve Schumacher


Have you ever met a manager who has all of the greatest technical skills in the world but cannot manage people well at all? A person who knows the aggregates business top to bottom but fails when it comes to being a leader?

Over my career, I have worked with many leaders who have strong technical skills but have never honed their management/leadership skills. Many organizations promote their best technical person into a leadership role based on their success technically.

Those same organizations seem to think that there is a direct connection between being successful technically and being successful non-technically. WRONG! The skills required to be successful in both areas are completely different. Unfortunately, when these promotions happen, the company loses a strong technical employee and gains a not-so-good leader.

If you have found yourself in this position, consider the first 90 days in your role as a manager as the foundation for your future success as a leader. Take the following steps in that timeframe and you, your employees, and your company will gain from you as a leader:

Leave your technical skills behind. Now that you are a manager, your main job is to develop people, period. Your long-term success will now be defined by how your employees perform in terms of results. Your job is to help them get there through training, feedback, goals, coaching, etc. You will still be accountable for measurable results, but the way to get there is by building up your employees, not by your doing the job itself.

Build trust. Go hang out with your employees and get to know them as people. Find out about their interests, families, hobbies, etc. The only way to build trust is face-to-face. Be a good listener. People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Without a foundation of trust, all of the best management techniques in the world are worthless.

Be open. Now that you are a leader, you must build an atmosphere of openness with those that follow you. Schedule group open forums where employees set the agenda for discussions. Encourage them to ask any and all questions. If you do not have an immediate response to those questions, go find the answer and get back with people right away. Doing this in the first 90 days will set a culture of openness.

Learn about personality types. Go through the process of identifying the personality types of your direct reports, along with your own. Then, learn to adapt your primary style to the styles of your employees. One size fits all does not apply when it comes to being an effective leader. Learn early on what your style is and how you can flex and bend with how your different employees are best managed.

Build solid relationships with other departments. Just like spending time with your employees right away, it is important to do the same with other departments. Your employees will need you to be the link between them and other departments. To be that link most effectively, you must build good relationships with them. Talk to the leaders in other departments about what your team needs to start, stop, and continue doing. Use this information to build your strategies for your team.

Seek a mentor. Everyone needs a coach. We never stop needing one. Identify someone at your level, or higher, who has a lot of management experience and is willing to guide you. This should be a person that only has your success as an agenda. Set a regular meeting schedule and be respectful of their time by having an agenda in advance.

Realize you will make mistakes. Keep in mind, that you are learning new skills of how to manage well. Just like learning any other skills, you will make mistakes. Do not be hard on yourself. Learn from those mistakes and move on.

In your first few months as a new leader, it is vital that you understand that the technical skills that got you promoted will not help you advance from now on. Leadership skills will. Lay the foundation for your career as a leader by building trust with everyone you work with. You, your employees and your company will benefit from you taking the time to build that foundation.