“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” — Vince Lombardi

Vince Lombardi’s timeless words remind us that leadership is a skill honed through experience and dedication.

Being promoted to manager is no small feat, so take a moment to bask in the glow of your achievement! 

Now, let’s be real. 

Being a new manager for the first time can feel akin to solving a Rubik’s Cube in the dark. Suddenly, you’re responsible for others.

Exciting, sure, but also terrifying. 

What if you struggle to find the right balance between being approachable and maintaining authority? 

Well, even the most exceptional leaders have to start somewhere, right? 

So, grab your favourite drink, and let’s dive into the essential people management tips for first-time managers you need to know for success.

What Is People Management?

People management is about leading your employees with confidence, care, and trust, helping each team member grow while achieving common goals. It involves organising and delegating tasks, motivating people, and making sure everyone feels valued. 

1. Understand the Impact of Measurable Progress

Three darts with red and yellow flights are embedded in the center of a dartboard, with the focus on goal setting. Image by jcompa on Freepik.

Three darts with red and yellow flights are embedded in the centre of a dartboard, with the focus on goal-setting. Image by jcompa on Freepik.

Goal setting, folks, is the MVP of people management.

Jim Rohn’s advice on setting clear, achievable milestones within a specific timeframe highlights the concept of “Making Measurable Progress in Reasonable Time.” He suggests that progress is not just necessary—it must be sustainable and realistic.

As a new manager focusing on measurable achievements within practical time limits, you enable team members to stay motivated, monitor their progress, and refine their strategies to achieve their goals.

The team celebrates their success after achieving their goals, and they receive recognition and rewards. This creates a positive work environment where employees feel valued and satisfied, enhancing their job happiness and performance.

A common mistake many first-time managers make is to set vague and generic goals: for instance, telling your team to “do better” without explaining what “better” looks like isn’t helpful.

Our Effective People Management course equips you with the skills to set clear goals from the get-go. 

2. Address Underperformance Without Delay

The dreaded “we need to talk” moment—yes, that one. It’s when underperformance bubbles up, and suddenly, those tough conversations can’t be swept under the rug anymore. 

Tackling underperformance head-on is an important aspect of effective leadership. If the mere thought of confrontation sends shivers down your spine, fear not. Developing your people management skills can make all the difference. 

A good manager doesn’t delay having difficult conversations. 

Start by outlining where expectations fall short and providing concrete examples. Next, work together to set short-term goals while offering your support throughout the process. This might include more regular check-ins, empowering each employee to take accountability for their responsibilities. 

3. Serve up Constructive Criticism With a Side of Empathy

Two women engaged in a conversation at a workspace. Image by pressfotoa on Freepik.

Two women engaged in a conversation at a workspace. Image by pressfotoa on Freepik.

No one enjoys being on the receiving end of criticism, but it’s an inevitable part of work life, particularly when you’re in the hot seat managing a team. 

Empathy is essentially putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to truly understand where they are coming from. When you get this right, you turn constructive criticism from something feared into a positive, growth-inspiring experience.

Don’t go all in with how they can improve yet. Take a moment and pause to acknowledge their efforts and show you understand the challenges they face. Then, gently and clearly, point them towards how they can get better.

4. Embrace the Growth Mindset

If a project doesn’t go as planned, focus on what can be learned from the experience rather than dwelling on the setback.

This mindset shift promotes a culture of continuous improvement and resilience. 

An example of a growth mindset in action could be a scenario where a marketing campaign didn’t achieve its targeted Return on Investment (ROI). Instead of viewing this as a failure, you analyse the campaign to understand which aspects did not perform as expected and why. Was the target audience not clearly defined? Were the channels used not optimal for reaching the intended audience? 

Moreover, when your team sees you actively learning from your experiences and striving for success, it motivates them to adopt a similar approach. This shared mindset creates a dynamic and supportive environment, where everyone is encouraged to grow, take risks, and innovate, knowing that the focus is on progress and learning, not just immediate results.

5. Oops… Did I Do That? Normalise Mistakes 

Illustration of a dismayed businessman beside the 'Oops! 404 Error' message. Image by storyseta on Freepik.

Illustration of a dismayed businessman beside the ‘Oops! 404 Error’ message. Image by storyseta on Freepik.

Normalising mistakes within your team doesn’t mean lowering your standards.

It means understanding that they are essential stepping stones for growth—vital for your career and wherever it leads you. 

Mistakes show our humanity. They can enhance employees’ trust in you. Trust is the foundation of effective leadership and creates a culture of open communication, mutual respect, and collective success.

They remind us that to err is human and a part of the learning process. When we accept our mistakes, everyone feels safe to try, fail, and, most importantly, learn.

The most successful teams are those that can navigate the ups and downs together, with a clear understanding that every “oops” moment is a chance to improve. 

Elevate Your People Management Skills

As a first-time manager, you have the opportunity to grow your people management skills. By following the tips and strategies in this article, you can elevate your leadership abilities and become a more effective manager.

Join FirstCom Academy’s Effective People Management course, a Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ)-certified training programme, and chart a path to a future where you have the skills and confidence to lead your team to success.

Enrol now to transform your leadership and management skills.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Be trustworthy 
  2. Be empathetic
  3. Be friendly and approachable