“Congratulations! You’re a manager. Now what?”: Five Communication Skills to Master Your New Job in the New Year
By Arielle Silverman and Christopher Peck
Remember when Alex was hired for that middle management position? They came in with big ideas and wanted to “shake things up” while you and your teammates rolled your eyes hoping they would leave you alone. Well, now you’re Alex—metaphorically speaking—and it’s your turn to take on the challenging responsibility of managing people. However, with little to no professional support for management positions, you’re not sure how to avoid Alex’s failures. What is the best way to earn respect? How do you create influence and get others to listen? How do you sell yourself in this new position?
We’ve got you covered. Start the New Year strong with these five communication skills to help navigate your new role as manager.
1. Be Respectful
Respect is an action, not an outcome. Yesterday you were their colleague, or the new production manager coming in from Wisconsin; or a complete nobody. Today you’re their boss. It might take a while for individuals to adjust. In the meantime, express enthusiasm for the people you work with and the strengths they bring to the organization. Prove yourself as a manager there to assist your team, not control them. Respect begins with rapport. Take the time to build it.
2. Model Curiosity and Awareness
The quickest way to build synergy with your team is understanding their nuances, their strengths, and their presented challenges, while also acknowledging your own biases and agenda. You were hired for good reasons. Perhaps you’ve demonstrated yourself in similar positions, or you were selected for your ideas and approach to leadership. But before you begin asserting those big ideas, skills, and strategies, get curious with your team. You are new to your role. They are not new to theirs. Get to know their styles, their preferred method for receiving positive praise, constructive criticism, and your help when requested. Assume they have a clear understanding of their needs as it relates to their performance. Building a strong leadership presence takes time, and often begins by embodying an attitude of support and collaboration.
3. Ask Great Questions
Communicating honest interest in others can be of tremendous value when building deep, meaningful professional relationships. Who are the people on your team? What motivates them? What gets in their head? What helps them succeed? What restrains their potential? These people are crucial to the success of the organization—it’s in your best interest to know as much about them as possible. They have families, social interests, pets, and quirky Tuesday game nights. Ask open-ended questions allowing them to share about the cares and concerns most immediately impacting their personal and professional responsibilities.
4. Listen Actively
Active listening to team members’ ideas, anxieties, and inspirations can be instrumental in nurturing a productive and harmonious environment. No agenda or ulterior motive. Listen just to listen. Note the successes and difficulties of the team as communicated by those facing them daily. Learn what they have in common. Learn what makes each exceptional. Listen genuinely and empathetically to their wants and desires. In doing so, you craft an atmosphere for everyone to feel seen and heard while also showcasing influence and trust.
5. Sell Yourself
Getting hired for this job was a crucial first step, but you’re not done selling the value of your leadership. The great news is you’re committed to effective communication practices. This means you’ve demonstrated interest and curiosity in the motivations and needs of your team. You know how they want to be communicated with, managed, and assisted. You know their ideas, dreams, passions, and beliefs. You know what opinions the team shares and where they are divided. Now commit to this great sales technique: Identify problems from the perspective of the client—or in this case, your team—and use your understanding of those problems to share your vision, experience, and leadership style as the solution.
Managing other people can be hard. Whether you’ve been promoted internally, or come in from the outside, you can expect ego, pride, personality quirks, and more than the occasional challenging persona. Take the time to earn your team’s trust and appreciation by committing to a communication style built on curiosity, awareness, and respect. Ask open-ended questions, listen to the answers, and piece together a comprehensive understanding of the environment you’ve joined. By doing so you create rapport and influence which allows your team to more easily listen to and respect you as the right person for the job.
Arielle Silverman is a top-performer in the high-stakes world of commission-only outside sales for the home improvement industry. Before coming to sales, she was a distinguished Lead Trainer and field representative for a high-producing marketing team.
Christopher Peck is a Communication Coach and longtime theatre director and educator. He coaches both individual clients and corporate teams in areas including public speaking, interpersonal communication, sales and call-center scripting, and organizational storytelling. Contact him directly at www.speakintoactioncomm.com or follow him on Instagram @chrisspeaksup.