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IT Leadership // Team Building & Staffing
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Jessica Davis
Jessica Davis
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Leadership: How to Succeed as a New Manager

You've spent your career learning about IT -- network troubleshooting, programming languages, and data management. But now they want you to manage a team of people. Here are a few tips to get you started on your new journey.

You are a master of databases, you know how to program in multiple languages, and you can troubleshoot the trickiest network and IT issues. But now you are a manager. Leading a team of people is a whole new skillset, and your computer science training doesn't seem to help. Rest assured, if you feel a little unready in your first management role, you are not alone.

You will make mistakes and you will learn many lessons as a new manager. They won't all be easy. But sometimes you can learn from other people's mistakes, according to Dwayne Price, assistant vice president and technical solutions manager at T. Rowe Price. It's a lesson he learned early as a middle child looking to avoid the mistakes of his older brother.

(Image: Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock)

(Image: Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock)

"I'd rather learn from other people's mistakes," he told InformationWeek in an interview. That's one of his top recommendations for new managers -- to be constantly learning. Adopting that constant learning philosophy can save you from difficulties.

Price is an expert on new managers and the challenges they face. While he is an expert at many things IT -- he has earned both a B.S. and M.S. in IS, and is also a Certified Cloud Security Professional, a Certified Information Privacy Technologist, a TOGAF 9 Certified, and more --he has put a great deal of focus on studying how new managers can succeed in leading teams. Price will be sharing some of his hard-won wisdom during the session Look Before You Leap to Maximize Your Impact as a New Manager at Interop ITX on May 4 in Las Vegas.

Dwayne Price

Dwayne Price

New managers typically face a pretty big challenge -- leading the team of which they used to be a member. That's because if you are a new manager, you've most likely been promoted to that role at your current organization. (Since companies don't usually hire you from the outside as a manager if you've only ever served in an individual contributor role elsewhere.)

Suddenly the people who used to be your peers, maybe even your friends, are now reporting to you. Is it ok to go to lunch with them? Can you carpool with them? How do you manage their impressions of you? The road ahead is filled with potential landmines that you somehow have to navigate, and you have no management experience really. Plus, you don't just want to survive the challenge. You want to be a success. This is a rung on your career ladder, not the top.

One of the ways Price developed himself as a manager was to analyze his experiences as an individual contributor working for other managers.

He said that he benefitted from having good managers, but he also learned from bad managers, too. He said as an individual contributor, he decided he would remember all the things that managers did wrong so that he could do the opposite when he became a manager.

He also spent time talking to people who he respected as managers to get their advice and help as he approached his own early management jobs.

"It can be overwhelming," Price told me. "But being prepared in advance can help with the transition."

Here's one comforting thought -- the rules of being a manager haven't really changed over the years, according to Price.

"A lot of the things it takes to be a good manager are very common sense," Price told me. "But just because it is common sense doesn't mean that people put it into practice."

So yes, you can go out to lunch with one of the people on your team -- if you invite all the other members of your team, too. But forget about continuing in that carpool with your former teammate who now reports to you. You'll need to drive yourself to work from now on or risk giving the other team members the feeling that there may be favoritism in play.

What else should you do as a new manager? Price says you should talk about what you've accomplished, and you should avoid talking about what you plan to accomplish.

And how do you know if you are in trouble in your new role? Price says that your team members may not complain, but if there's some voluntary turnover -- people start quitting -- "that's the last thing the hiring manager want to happen when he promoted you. The good people will just go elsewhere, and that's where disruption begins."

That might not happen if there's turnover on the team of a proven, experienced manager. But if you are a new manager, it's a red flag, Price said.

Looking for more tips and hacks for your first management gig? Be sure to come to Price's Interop ITX session, and get the benefit of learning from someone else's experience and wisdom -- the way smart new managers do.

Jessica Davis has spent a career covering the intersection of business and technology at titles including IDG's Infoworld, Ziff Davis Enterprise's eWeek and Channel Insider, and Penton Technology's MSPmentor. She's passionate about the practical use of business intelligence, ... View Full Bio
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