First-Time Manager Tips: Gaining a Management Perspective, Part 1

As a new manager, there are numerous adjustments you’ll need to make, least of which is your business perspective. On top of getting results through others rather than performing certain tasks yourself, you need to gather a new view of the business landscape in which you now stand. Think for a moment of how a scene might look from the peak of a hilltop compared to that same landscape viewed from the forest floor. It’s the perspective from the hilltop you need to obtain in order to lead your team through the forest.

Three key elements to understand are:

  1. Where your business fits into the marketplace
  2. The business’s measurable objectives or goals
  3. How your team contributes to the business achieving its overall objectives

You may already be very clear about some of these elements by virtue of having worked at the company prior to becoming a manager. But if you’re lacking information in any of these areas, it’s time to start backfilling. Your value to the company as a manager is to guide your group to meaningfully contribute to achieving the company’s articulated objectives, even if you’re only supervising a small group. Don’t ever trivialize your team’s contribution. Every group and every individual plays an essential role in the organization, especially when they’re all aimed at the same corporate goals. Managers or supervisors who “get” the big picture will always stand out because they direct their teams in alignment with the needs of the business.

To learn and understand the three key elements of the big picture, schedule time for yourself to do your homework and consider your resources. Put 30 minutes a week on your calendar to gather information until you’ve pulled it all together. Think about where certain information may exist that you can read and who might aid you in getting your bearings on your trek to the top of the hill. Following are questions to consider and resources to use to gain insight into Key #1: Where Your Business Fits into the Marketplace.

How to Do Your Homework
Questions you should seek to answer are:

  • What’s the corporate mission?
  • Where does my business fit into the market?
  • Who’s the competition?

The company website can be an excellent source of information about the corporate mission and can give you insight into your company’s consumer. Because many businesses units operate in “silos,” i.e., they’re not connected to or integrated with other functioning units of the company, you may have worked for your unit for quite some time but not have an awareness of other products or customers of the company. If you haven’t mined the company’s website before, do so now; you may discover some aspects of the business’s face to the public that you didn’t know.

If your company is publicly held, the most recent annual report will be a source of information as well. This is a report that public companies are required to furnish to their shareholders. Though the pages of financial details may be initially overwhelming and may not be important for you to master as a new manager, check out any letters or reports from the CEO and Chairman that are included since these address the condition of the business. Ask yourself:

  • What are the trends that are discussed?
  • Are there subsidiaries or brands that you weren’t aware of?
  • Where are the company’s locations in other countries?

Though this information may not be relevant to your day-to-day job as a manager now, having this information helps you to understand where your business unit fits into the larger picture. It may also suggest opportunities you’d like to pursue that you hadn’t previously considered.

Read articles related to both your company and your industry. You’ll learn a great deal about competitors and where your company fits in. You’ll also need to analyze what’s in the press. Current events having to do with the industry or your company may not reflect the long range, big picture view for the company and may be sensationalized to sell papers.

Once you’ve done your homework, go to your boss and validate your conclusions. Confirm that what’s on the website is still the current direction of the company. Companies are fluid; changes that you should know about may not have been posted on the website yet (and last year’s annual report may not reflect the current state of the business).

See First-Time Manager Tips: Gaining a Management Perspective, Part 2 to learn about how to understand your company’s objectives and how to connect your team’s activities to those objectives.

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