First-Time Manager Tips: Why You Need to be a Role Model

By Marla Rosner, Principal
InstillLeadership

You must have passed the preliminary test as a role model, or you wouldn’t have been promoted to a manager position. Now it’s time to understand what more is expected. Your direct reports and your boss will be noting how you carry out your new position. This is not a formal appraisal in the beginning, mind you (though it could end up as an issue in your performance evaluation down the road if you’re not doing a good job in this area.) Nobody will be standing at the office door with a checklist when you walk in. It’s subtle.

Your direct reports will begin to register aspects of your behavior and, perhaps without even being aware of it, make assumptions about what they can also do at work. For example:

  • “If he’s late, I can be late.”
  • “If she’s wearing jeans with holes on casual Friday, it must be trendy. So I can wear mine too.”
  • “If she makes nasty remarks about others in the company,
    so can I.”
  • “If he makes long personal phone calls from work, why shouldn’t I chat with my girlfriend when I feel like it?”

Bosses have a different vantage point and are concerned with the impact you have on others now that you’re in a management position. For example:

  • “If he’s late, his people are going to start to be late.”
  • “If she’s wearing jeans with holes on casual Friday, her group’s going to start looking shabby.”
  • “If she makes nasty remarks about others in the company, she’s not a team player and her team’s not going to respect other departments.”
  • “If he makes long personal phone calls from work, his team is going to take that as permission to do the same thing. There goes productivity!”

A seasoned manager, i.e., your boss, is keenly aware that a poor role model in a new manager position has a ripple effect on his group. The lesson here? It’s all about self-awareness. Operate with the knowledge that you’re “on stage” whenever you’re at work. Although you may have initially imagined that your influence on those you manage would be in the form of delegating and coaching, you also have a substantial “unspoken” influence based on how you conduct yourself on a day-to-day basis. Think about how you want those on your team to conduct themselves — and then, walk the talk.

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