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5 Things First-time Managers Can do to Jump-Start Success

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First off, congrats! 

You found your way here, which is a pretty strong indication that you've recently earned a new title ending in M-A-N-A-G-E-R. Your visit also tells me a little something about you as a new manager - you’ve got the makings of a really, really good one.

By the simple act of finding and reading this post, you’re showing me:

(1) that you recognize a new leadership role means bigger challenges and higher expectations and

(2) that you’re wanting - and willing - to up your game.

And where that kind of self-awareness and initiative flow, skill tends to grow. But, first things first, right? Let’s talk about five actionable strategies to execute during those first few months as a new manager for a major jump-start on success.

5 Things First-time Managers can do to Jump-start Success

SUCCESS JUMP-STARTER NO.1. Spend 30 minutes, save months of precious time by getting clear on your manager’s priorities

The very first step in your journey to confident, successful manager?

Simple. It’s to find out what success ‘looks like’ in your role.

Need a tip here? Unless you’ve just promoted yourself to manager of your own business, success is going to be defined in large part by your manager. For now, at least.

This means, sometime during your first few days/weeks in your new role, you need to book 30 minutes on your boss' calendar. That entire 30 minutes? It's doing to be dedicated to same-paging on the topic of success.

It’s possible that your manager will be proactive and set such a meeting up, but if s/he doesn’t take the initiative, you’ve got to.

What, exactly, does a same-paging session look like?

A success same-paging session looks like working together to establish a clear understanding of priority issues and opportunities for your team, your department, and for the company as whole.

Not only will this meeting give you clues as to what a successful next 90 days will look like, it's also your chance to show your manager that you:

  • are a strategic thinker
  • are a proactive communicator
  • can take a little bit direction and run with it

Let's take a look at a few dos and don'ts for this super-important meeting.


  • vocalize the objective for the meeting, 'to same-page on team success'
  • book a 30-minute meeting and keep it to a 30-minute meeting
  • bring a notepad and pen
  • prepare a few thoughtful, success-informing questions ahead of time
  • listen


  • schedule this meeting on the same day you want to hold it, this does not give you boss time to prepare her thoughts
  • pepper your boss with a million questions when you can get your answer in four
  • grill your manager on nitty-gritty details on her responses
  • be the one doing all of the talking


The main objective of this meeting is to come away with a solid understanding of where your boss is coming from and where she wants to go. What you don't want to do is come across as if you're trying to figure out from your manager how to do your job. At this point, you should ask for and accept higher-level guidance. 

This key to making this 'success' meeting a success lies in that quality of the success-informing questions you ask.

Curious about these 'success-informing' questions?

To quickly get crystal-clear on your manager’s hopes and expectations, there are four very specific questions that I recommend you get answers to. 

You can find them all in "FIRST5: The New Manager’s Guide to Five Critical Firsts"a FREE guide and workbook I created to help first-time managers tackle five significant ‘firsts’ successfully and low-stressfully.

Not only does this 30-page workbook feature those four success-informing questions, it also contains worksheets and scripts to help you implement the four success jump-starting strategies we haven't covered yet.

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SUCCESS JUMP-STARTER NO.2. Get answers and guidance without having to go to your boss (a.k.a. find your office BFFs)

Look, I have been there before and totally get it.

You’re a new manager. It’s natural to want to start demonstrating your butt-kicking managerial skills, like, yesterday.

But, you need to accept this one truth as cold and hard:

You’re a new manager.

Your forecast for the near-term future is partly cloudy with 100% chance of tasks and situations that are new to you. There will be tasks you don’t know how to complete and situations you don’t know what to do about.

And, while we just talked about the importance about getting clearer on your boss' vision of success, we also talked about how you don't want to go to her for specifics on how to do your job.

So, what's a new manager in need of specifics to do?

If you're looking for a strategy that will help you make the day-to-day learning curve a little smoother, then do this:

During your first or second week on the job, start searching for friends in helpful places. I call them Office BFFs and here's why you're in the market for one or two.

If you are very, very lucky, your predecessor is still around to train you. This is not likely.

If you’re even luckier, your manager is willing to train you on how s/he would like to see things done (the exception for most first-time managers).

If neither of these scenarios is playing out (100% the norm), you need to find someone who is somewhat versed in your role that you can comfortably go to with questions.

If your predecessor is not around and your manager is super busy, my number one recommendation for an office BFF is someone who has been with the company for a while that worked closely with your predecessor.

In my experience, this is your very best office BFF bet. Why?

Because the quicker you get good at your role, the better this person’s work life will be. This makes him or her highly motivated to see you succeed.

Where can you find such an office angel?

Ask your manager.

Tell her that part of your effort to get to know your role better includes developing closer connections with the departments you'll be working closest with. Then, ask for a few suggestions on inter-department players who are:

  • friendly,
  • known for being collaborative,
  • and exhibit above-average GAS (give-a-shit).

When you receive your list of potential Office BFFs, make it a point to introduce yourself to e’rybody on it in-person and say something like this:

Hi, Jim. I'm Pam, the new marketing manager of the Dessert Floats Division. I was told you are the Go-To for vendor vetting and payment processing, so I thought I'd come over and introduce myself. Would you have 20-30 minutes next week to walk me through your preferred payment request submittal? I figure the sooner I learn the process correctly, the better for all of us.”

Once you've established yourself as someone who is willing to learn from others with more knowledge, you can strengthen your relationships with your Office BFFs by implementing what you learn from them, letting both your respective bosses know how helpful your BFF has been to you, and by demonstrating reciprocity by offering them help whenever you can.

No-shame disclosure: I make it a point to know my Office BFFs coffee preferences. (And they know mine.)

SUCCESS JUMP-STARTER NO.3. Make your first set of goals 'success-size'

Here's the very simple premise behind this strategy:

If you want to feel like a winner, you need to start winning.

While it seems like big-time victories, BHAGs, and stretch goals get all the glory, experts in the field of psychology and behavioral therapy have found that, when it comes to achieving goals and creating a success mindset, the “small win” is a pretty big deal.

Why, exactly, are small wins such a big deal?

Two reasons:

  1. 1
    We believe we have the ability to achieve smaller-sized goals, so we do.
  2. 2
    Any achievement, regardless of size, has the physiological effect of jump-starting the reward circuitry in the brain. 

Now this concept of small wins is so cool and so remarkably effective as a management strategy, that I've written an entire post on it. In it, you'll learn, step-by-step how to 'right-size' goals. I recommend opening the post and bookmarking it for later.

For now, you need to know this: the quicker the win, the sooner a positive feedback loop is established.

Teeing up a series of mini-accomplishments allows your team members to continually hit the “repeat” button on their positive feedback loop. This works wonders on their individual confidence and on your team’s morale as a whole.

SUCCESS JUMP-STARTER NO.4. Have a plan for learning from mistakes

It's gonna happen...or not happen.

Despite the great (actually small) lengths you will go through to set your team up for success, there will be a time - or two - when things go wrong or don't go to plan. 

You will make mistakes and you will not always reach your goals.

That's just (work) life.

What's most important, especially during your first year in your new leadership role, are the steps you take post-mistake. The most effective leaders understand the amazing value of mistakes (or even full-fledged 'failures') and how to help her team turn them from liabilities to assets.

What's is the value of 'failure'?

  • Failure will show you how badly you really wanted the win…or that your end-goal might be just fine without it.
  • Failure will show you how to make your product or service even better.​
  • Failure will point out where your skills need polishing.

If you let it, failure can illuminate the path to success. To make sure the mistakes are nothing more than valuable mini-detours along your team's path to success, you'll need to think about how you will integrate failure-as-a-valuable-tool into your management approach.

You will make mistakes and you will not always reach your goals. That's just (work) life. What's most important, especially during your first year in your new leadership role, are the steps you take post-mistake. 

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SUCCESS JUMP-STARTER NO.5. Spend 1 hour each week planning your week.

You know what successful managers and unsuccessful managers have in common? A total of 24 hours in a day.

All other things equal? The effective manager knows how to use those hours better.

In this strategy, we focus on time management as a critical element to fast-tracking a new leader's success - or lack thereof.

Even if you've always managed your time well, those bigger challenges, higher expectations, and direct reports you are now managing might have loosened your grip on time.

And, if time management hasn't ever really been a strength of yours, now's the time to change. The good news for you is, we start simple.

Our strategy is to dedicate one hour of each week to planning the week. Maybe you choose one hour Monday morning to plan your current week or maybe you take one hour on Friday afternoons to plan the week ahead. Doesn't matter, as long as you use the hour to get strategic about what's on your plate for the next five days.

What you should aim to accomplish during your weekly time management sessions:

  1. 1
    Identify your three must-accomplish tasks for the next five days.
  2. 2
    Set 'appointments' with those tasks by blocking out time slots on your calendar (in Outlook, Google Calendar, an old-school planner, whatever) during which you will work on them. Be realistic about how much you can accomplish during these 'appointments'. You might block out three, one hour-long sessions during the week for just one of your three tasks.
  3. 3
    Make a list of resources you will need to in order to work on those tasks and gather them together ahead of time (i.e. running reports, placing files in a temporary folder on your desktop for easy access, locating contact information, etc.).

This weekly planning hour is the first step in a more comprehensive approach to time management known as Time Blocking. I highly recommend it.

Time is one of your most precious, fixed resources. Not only does this success jump-starting strategy of spending one hour planning your week help you quickly get a handle on time, your improved 'time knowledge' will also help you set realistic expectations with your team, your boss, and your customers on the topic of how long it actually takes to get things done.

Overview: 5 Things First-time Managers can do to Jump-start Success, Plus Free Resource Reminder

You have the makings of a great manager.

But first, you’ve got to make it through those first critical months.

The five strategies outlined here will help you jump-start your journey from newbie manager to strong, creative leader. Ideally, you’ll start implementing them during you first few months on the job. But, if you've already been in your role for awhile, and have struggled to find your footing, these strategies also make for an effective, systematic approach to setting the rest button and getting things on track.

And, don't forget to snag the FREE guide and workbook that was specifically designed to help you put these strategies into action. Enter your details below to have your copy of "FIRST5: The New Manager’s Guide to Five Critical Firsts" delivered to your inbox instantly.

FIRST5 New Manager's Guide

Start proving to your boss you were the right hire.

Enter your details below and we'll instantly deliver your copy of FIRST5 to your inbox.

The information you enter here is used to send you the material you are requesting as well as updates about our products. Privacy Policy details can be found here.

To help you keep these strategies top of mind during your first few months in your role, I created the infographic below. Feel free to download and print it out, save it to Pinterest, or embed it on your own website using the code below!

5 Things to First-time Managers Can do to Jump-Start Success Infographic

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