Back to Basics – Take a Breath and Try It!

Companies increasingly face the challenge of finding enough experienced recruits for departing managers and new executive positions.

It’s a challenge that also presents an opportunity for young managers looking for a big step up in their careers.Some participants are under 30. We often give them extremely challenging assignments that take them well outside their comfort zones. They may have to manage staff, most of whom are older than they are.

Here are the most valuable lessons I have learned about being a manager:

establish trust

Your first task is to establish bonds and trust with your team. Get out of your office and “walk the floor” to get to know all the core members of your team. Spend time with each member of management and ask them to identify the main problems they are struggling to solve and the main opportunities they see.

break down barriers

I’ve always been a big believer in the power of diversity. As you walk the floor, identify people with the ability to get the job done, regardless of their background or education. Usually the best ideas come from the factory floor. Solicit advice from a broad array of backgrounds. If you do this, your plan will apply to a wider number of people – and you are more likely to succeed.

be confident, yet humble

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but your superiors trust you, so trust in yourself. Don’t let self-doubt cloud your thinking. At the same time, never be cocky. Show employees your willingness to learn what you don’t know: Ask lots of questions. Learn all you can about what they do and why. Solicit and listen to feedback – particularly negative feedback. Turn to mentors (previous bosses, colleagues, professors, relatives) when you are stuck on a problem. A “mentor” might be someone you barely know or someone you haven’t talked to in years; you may be pleasantly surprised by the number of people willing to help if you simply ask.

Be demanding of yourself: Others are more willing to follow your direction if you show your willingness to work hard, to dive into a problem, to be open to new ideas. Show you care. Show that your own success is tied to the success of the entire team. Successful management is about creating a model for others. You will not accomplish anything if you do not inspire and motivate your team. Demand more of yourself than of your workers.

listen and communicate

Young managers often think they should talk a lot; in fact, they need to listen. Communication is a two-way street. Particularly in your first few weeks and months, take plenty of time to listen. Then develop a comprehensive plan. The plan should be difficult – but not impossible. The plan should establish one or two key priorities, with specific, quantifiable targets. Communicate these priorities and targets relentlessly and in multiple formats (face to face, in formal presentations, in casual meetings, in company videos).


Your ability to exceed expectations is the most important element of all. Even if you perfect all of the above elements, you will still fail if you don’t deliver results. In the end, this is what management is all about: accomplishing your specific mission. Discipline yourself to focus on performance and avoid distractions.