3 critical tips for training new managers – ask questions, listen, and take action

Woman manager holding boss-themed mug

Welcome to part 1 of our “Training a New Manager” series. I’ve been managing people for a long time, and when one of my guys asked me some questions about where to start, we began the email trail you see here.  (This is part one of what will be several more!) We decided to publish it and dedicate it to new managers who are trying to figure out how to lead their people. Do you have something to share? Feel free to share your tips in the comment section below!

Dear Michael,

Congratulations on your promotion! From the day we hired you I knew you’d be in management someday. That day is here, and you deserve it. I have consistently appreciated not only the excellence of your work, but also the fact that you didn’t wait for a promotion to start leading. You took some risks, and you weren’t afraid to “lead up”. I love that!

Thanks for asking for some input regarding your first couple weeks as a new manager. I agree that this is a critical time to establish your leadership style, and that many on your staff will judge your fitness for the role based on their first few interactions with you. Here are a couple things I learned along the way (sometimes the hard way!):

  1. Ask questions. One of the reasons you got promoted in the first place is that you have shown you have good ideas, you’re a problem solver and people follow you. That’s great, but if you come in and pull the “there’s a new sheriff in town” schtick you may lose your team at the outset. Your staff are likely viewing your promotion as a new beginning for themselves too, and they want you to know that they’re smart, motivated to succeed and that they’re “players”. Let them show off a little! Ask them about the problems they see and how they would solve them. Ask them about their dreams and their career path. Ask them how you can help them achieve their dreams and the goals of the department.
  2. Listen to the answers.  Leaders ask questions because that’s what we’re are supposed to do, right? But I hope you’ll ask questions because you want to know the answers your staff come up with. They’re smart, they’re insightful, and sometimes all they need is a platform and someone who believes in them to move from being good employees to being great employees. Ask follow-up questions, take notes and be teachable. You may not like what you hear. You may want to be defensive, but if you shut them down now you’ll be setting the precedent that you’re not open to their input. Don’t do it! Listen to them with the same intensity that you’d want to be listened to.
  3. Take action on some of what you hear. The fastest way to let your staff know you’re serious about empowering them is to act on what you’ve heard when you started asking questions. You don’t have to do everything, and in fact, that’d set the wrong precedent, too. But if you can find a couple things to act on and make it clear that the impetus for action was a suggestion from one of the staff, you’ll quickly gain the reputation as someone who is open to new ideas, and that will help you immensely in the long run. If you haven’t read it yet, I’d highly recommend the book “It’s Your Ship” – there is some great material in there about leadership, asking questions and taking action!

Michael, this is a super exciting time for you and your team! If I can be of any help to you, please don’t hesitate to get back with me – I’d love to help in any way I can!



Are you a new manager? If so, feel free to ask a question by emailing [email protected]. We’ll add great questions in our upcoming posts! Check out the other posts in the series:

1. 3 critical tips for new managers—ask questions, listen to the answers and take action 
2. 4 reasons to have meaningful meetings—if you have to!
3. 3 reasons to avoid stand-ups and recurring meetings when you can
4. How weekly one-on-one meetings can change your company culture

Ready to start having better one-on-one conversations?

Learn how with our free guide to improving your one-on-ones.

Subscribe below to get future posts from Chris Zaugg