Friday, January 15, 2016

Advice for new managers

When I started work all those years ago, a colleague gave me a little book filled with aphorisms about life in the office. At first I thought it was a humor book, with comments like "When the office secretaries say they are cleaning out the fridge of anything older than one month, it is time to grab your bottle of salad dressing and put it on your desk." But in the first month of my first job, I quickly realized the truth behind these pithy observations.

When I later became a manager, I wished someone had shared similar wisdom with me about how to act as a new manager. So I would like to share a few brief observations that may help first-time managers.
Be genuine. For example, if you don't normally wear ties, don't start wearing them around the office just because you became a manager.

However, do wear a tie if you are going to meet your boss's boss.

Buy a blazer or suit jacket, and wear it to meetings with your boss. You don't have to wear a tie for the boss meeting, but the blazer will dress things up a little, even over a t-shirt.

Some advice on ties: If you're meeting with a team, wear a blue tie. If you're meeting with faculty, wear a brown tie. Avoid green, purple, black, or yellow ties.

Hang a mirror in your office, and check your appearance before you go to meetings.

Go to lunch with someone else at least once a week. Always look for someone new to have lunch with.

Slow down before you walk into meetings. You need to appear composed as you walk in the door.

If you had a long walk to get to a meeting, stop at the restroom on your way into the building and wash your face.

Speak up in meetings, so the people in the back can hear you clearly. Don't speak too quickly.

Your meetings will have as much energy as you bring to them.

If you're on stage in a Q&A, repeat every question that comes to you, then answer it.

Arrange a three-day weekend once per month. Take a week vacation every few months.

When you go on vacation, leave your laptop and phone at home. If you do a "stay-cation," store your laptop and phone in a closet.

Process for writing emails: 1. Write email. 2. Delete most of it. 3. Send.

Avoid acronyms. Even if you think everyone in the room knows what the acronym stands for.
Apologies if the list seems male-centric (references to ties in the first few items). In full disclosure, this post derives from an email I sent to a colleague who was stepping up into his first management position.

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