Do you have any advice for someone who is new to managing employees?

Answered by Debra Thompson, President, TG & Associates

I have had some good fortune in that I was just promoted to manager of my department. While I am excited about the promotion, it is my first management job and I want to do it right. Do you have any pointers to help me as I get started in this new position?

Congratulations on your promotion. It is always a good feeling when you are recognized and advance in your career. It is obvious that you were accomplishing good things in your former role and now your efforts have been rewarded. It is also a good thing that you are not just resting on your past accomplishments, but instead recognizing the need to grow your skills for this new responsibility.

Whenever I look at any organization, I examine three elements (look at them as the sides of a triangle) and I would encourage you to examine these elements in your organization and let your observations and experience guide your efforts.

The first side of the triangle is Procedures (you might also call it systems or processes). These are the written policies and guidelines that everyone is expected to follow. They include everything from the work hours to how to operate equipment and complete the product or perform the service. They all need to be defined and followed. As a new manager you need to make sure that your department has the policies and procedures that are needed and that, when followed, deliver a quality service or product. Since you were promoted from within, you probably already have a good feel for what worked and what didn't work in your department's procedures. Use that base to move forward and make the changes that are necessary.

Of course, you are also required to be in compliance with the processes and policies from higher levels of the organization, so make sure you understand them. If you feel there is a need for change, get the experts involved. Remember, your department policies may be driven by other company policies and even Federal or State laws so you need to check carefully before changing them. If there are procedural changes that should be made, get the experts involved again. In this case, the experts may be the employees who are responsible for the task. Let them work out and document the best way to do things. Once these ideas are defined, test them carefully to make sure they really work.

The second side of the triangle is People. This clearly means all of the people in your department, but it also means the organizational structure that ties them together and the job descriptions that define their roles and relationships. And it also means the attitudes that you and your people bring to their jobs. In your new capacity, it is important to understand that you need people to perform your department's functions accurately and timely. The key thing is to recognize that without the people, it doesn't get done. And without top performing people, it doesn't get done right.

I recommend you read Marcus Buckingham's book, First, Break All the Rules which defines a set of 12 "yes-or-no" questions that you should be able to ask your staff and get a positive response. If you cannot get yes answers to such questions as "Do I know what is expected of me at work?" or "Is there someone at work who encourages my development?" then chances are your people are not engaged in their work and they have no commitment to the success of your department. These are just two of the questions that will illustrate whether your employees are engaged at work. But just because they are not engaged now doesn't mean that they can't become engaged. Your job as a manager is to work the issues defined by Buckingham's 12 questions until you keep the percentage of "yes" answers growing. As you enable your employees to respond with "yes" answers, you increase their level of engagement. It is possible that you will not be able to get everyone engaged. If you identify that some of the personnel don't seem to understand and don't fit in, then you are faced with the toughest duty of management, which is to eliminate the poor performers and find more suitable replacements.

The third side of the triangle is Communication. This is the glue that holds it all together. This means open and honest communication in all directions. It means keeping your people aware of the status of the business and capabilities of your department. It means holding the meetings that are necessary to keep everyone on the same sheet of music and it means listening to your people and getting their feedback on anything and everything and then doing something about what you hear. Don't be afraid to speak out to your people and don't be afraid to listen to what they have to say.

So once again let me congratulate you on your promotion. If you can keep the three principles (the triangle) in mind as you work in your new position, you will continue to improve and you will take your department to greater levels of performance. Management means that you are working on your department's business and getting things done through your people. Your full time job is to see how the sides of the triangle fit together and to make the changes that keep all of the elements working.

Good luck in your new position.

Debra Thompson is a national speaker and consultant on people management issues for the graphics industry. She is president of TG & Associates which specializes in Staffing Solutions for the Graphics Industries. She is the 2003 Recipient of the PrintImage International Industry Award of Distinction.

Visit for more information on her company, products and services and free information on the hiring process. She can also provide support to make your hire successful or do it for you. Debra can be reached at 877-842-7762 (toll free) or
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