10 Things Every Young Manager Should Know

Today I want to talk about a conversation I had in class with a manager. This gentleman was new to management (about six months). As we sat around talking on a break he said, “Steve, you've been in management for a long time … I have to ask you a question: what do you wish you’d known early on in your management career that you didn't learn until later?” What a great question! We had a good conversation that made me think, and it prompted me to put together a list that I wanted to share with you. Here are 10 things that can help you avoid pitfalls as a young manager, or someone trying to become manager.

10. Don’t try to do everything yourself.

 An important first lesson is learning the power of the team. First-time managers try to do too much themselves. You can’t resign yourself to the notion of “well, I'm in the manager position now … I got here by working hard and now I’m just going to keep taking on all the responsibilities to be the best manager I can be.” You have to realize that management is about getting your team to perform better overall.

9. Set proper boundaries for your employee relationships.

 The next thing you have to watch out for are friendships with coworkers and employees. While you can be friendly, close personal friendships can complicate things if you are promoted. You used to be “one of the gang” – now, you’re their leader (awkward!). Secondly, if you're a new manager or first-time manager and you go to another location to start your management career, you will have new employees - you have to be cautious about setting the tone for that relationship going forward. You want a great relationship with them, but must respect the boundaries between the boss and the employees.

8. Holding others accountable for their results. 

The next part of the list is about holding others and yourself accountable. As a leader and a manager, your people have to put up results and you have to make sure it happens, or ultimately you're going to fail in the position, and we don't want to see that.

7. Do not avoid your boss. 

Even if things are going poorly, don't avoid your boss! They can be rough around the edges when you're starting as a young manager, but avoiding your boss and neglecting to deliver bad news is the absolute worst thing you can do. You need to have open communication and make sure they are on the same page as you. Your boss is typically much more experienced at leadership and management at this point, and can probably help you through some of your initial pitfalls as a young manager. A lot of times, what happens when something tough is going on, you hesitate to share it because you don't want to look like you're failing. This can drive a wedge between you and the boss that’s not always easy to repair.

6. Never stop learning.

Whenever most anyone gets into a new position, especially management, they get very busy, and they stop taking the time to learn new things. You've got to remember how you grow. You must be a student of the industry – continually learning. You haven't arrived yet; you've just achieved the next step and you’re going to have to keep adding to your knowledge and skillset to succeed in that next step.

5. Become allies with other departments.

You need to build rapport with other departments in the business and become their ally. A business relationship with all the departments helps them view you as a “business partner” working toward a common goal of helping the dealership succeed. Your department or area of the business is not an island; it's not “I win, they lose,” and that's the way you make a career. If you want to be a long-term, successful manager in this industry, you've got to get along and work with other departments and help them succeed.

4. Communicate your long-term plans.

 The next one is for first-time managers who’ve never before developed and communicated a long-term plan to their team. When you’re a new manager, this is what people want to know:

  • What are you going to change?
  • Where is the business going?
  • What's the overall plan here?
  • How will it affect me?

These are questions weighing on their minds. Develop your long-term plan and share it with them and the communication and buy-in you receive will help you step up from a manager to a leader.

3. Don’t forget to manage by the numbers.

A big problem you sometimes see in new managers is not managing by the numbers. Emotions can run high when tough decisions need to be made according to the numbers, but business is all about the numbers. You need to make sure that you are managing by the numbers and never ignoring them. Take the lead on this and make sure departments perform well and you’ll take some of the emotion out of the decisions.

2. Be careful with your hiring.

First-time managers: don't hire friends or family. Early managers, especially if they came from another location, might be inclined to hire folks they consider “allies,” or people they have worked with before. They know their work habits and they know what they’re getting when they bring them on board. The problem? When you're new to a management role, they may want a little bit more to come over – maybe more than what they deserve, and they may also think they know you a little bit too well and don't have to quite play by the same rules that everybody else does. So, if you're going to hire people from your prior job or other people in your past relationships, be very careful with this.

1. Profit is Priority.

Number one to remember: profit is required to be a successful manager. We are in a for-profit business and need to make sure that we are successful in that mission. You have to make many tough decisions to achieve that – some encompassed in the items mentioned above. Ultimately, to be successful you've got to be able to take the department to the profitability level that your boss and owner expects.

If you stay aware of these ten items, you can avoid some of the pitfalls other managers run into and stay ahead of the curve. Hopefully putting some of these in practice propels your career forward at a pace that will astound your peers. 

Additionally, if you would like to explore our executive operations training opportunities to further increase your knowledge and skillset, view our NCM Institute courses here.