The First Rule for New Managers

Questions This Guidance Answers: 
  • How can I impress as a new manager?
  • How do I get to know my people as a new manager?
  • Why should you not change everything immediately?

In this cast, we share the First Rule For New Managers: the most important recommendation for someone taking over a team.

We have been asked hundreds of times for guidance on what to do as a new manager, and we're finally ready to start rolling out this series of casts. This first cast will probably surprise some of our listeners, because it's pretty counterintuitive. On the other hand, we have alluded to it in a few casts before. It's just not what most people think it should be.

We'll tell you as well what most managers do...and why they're wrong.

The first in a series: The Manager Tools Guidelines For New Managers

  [Play in Popup]

Extra Content
    Manager Tools Personal License
    Interviewing Series
    First Job Fundamentals   

This should be a law! I got some

This should be a law! I got some really bad flashbacks as I was listening to this awesome cast.

Very early in my corporate career the department I worked in got a new manager who did his very best to do the exact opposite of everything you guys suggest - and in a very gung-ho way. A manager in a different department had given this guy some great advice.. "You have a great team, let them do their jobs." He didn't heed the advice and changed everything. He didn't want to know why some things shouldn't change, and his manager started getting complaints because other departments weren't getting what they needed to do parts of their jobs.. because of his changed processes. Those that knew me, of course, complained to me.

He didn't last long, he was fired after a couple years. His manager knew he should have been let go earlier, but as you guys said.. it was his mistake and he didn't want to let everyone know he made such a horrible mistake. He wasn't fooling anyone - EVERYONE knew. He let the new VP (his boss) clean up his mess.

I love MT guys, but the more I learn.. sometimes it's depressing to know just how bad it really is out there! But I'm going to learn all I can and make differences where I can. Thanks for everything!

This cast could not have come at a more

This cast could not have come at a more perfect time. Monday is my first day as new manager of a team who have been my peers for the last several years.

The tips in this cast are just what I needed as I set off on this new adventure. I am excited about putting the MT tools into practice...O3's for now but low key until my credibility is built up.

Thanks a million Mike & Mark !!

I would say that the most important

I would say that the most important task for a new manager (which I learned the hard way) is the build relationships. If you feel you absolutely need to make some kind of change, find ways to support your team. Don't do anything big...just enough to help remove a roadblock here and there for your team. Relationship, relationship, relationship! That's the key...and the 1x1s help build it.

One question - If the team doesn't

One question - If the team doesn't already have a regular team meeting, is it OK to start that in the first week?

I take over my first team tomorrow, so this cast is very timely! It's only 3 folks, but they don't have team meetings at the moment and I had planned on starting those as well as one on ones - perhaps just short ones (45-60mins) to get an idea of what they are doing and what issues they have as a group.

Thanks guys!

I am forwarding this URL to my

I am forwarding this URL to my sister--she just got promoted to management last month!! Great timing!

matthelm, If your team is not in


If your team is not in many other meetings I think it's OK to start them, but NOT in the first week. Just as with scheduling 1-on-1's, you want your teams input on what schedule of meetings works well for them.

matthelm- No. If the team hasn't


No. If the team hasn't disintegrated without a team meeting, you can wait a few more weeks. START NOTHING NEW. (Except one on ones, because you can't have a relationship with a team, you can only have a relationship with individuals).

(written in Chicago, the night before our conference)

You guys! If you were here, I'd hug

You guys! If you were here, I'd hug the both of you. Today's the first day of my new job. How topical can you be?

Thank you!

Excellent Cast! Made me think of my

Excellent Cast!

Made me think of my two bosses. The last one that did everything wrong and the current one that did everything right.

I cannot wait for my 90 days!!

love your show. so helpful to newbies.

love your show. so helpful to newbies. It helps me as a direct and I feel that when I am able to step up to manager level - i will be prepared and confident.

I have some constructive criticism: you had some audio problems a whistling noise in the foreground and some foraging noises in the background. it was a little distracting in the headphones.

Thanks for a great service!!

I remember back to the days of Advanced

I remember back to the days of Advanced Camp in the Army (What us R.O.T.C. guys did in the summer.) The new company commander of the day would undoubtedly change how we rolled or folded our ponchos just so he could show that he was a "decisive leader".

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Bold

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Bold and different - and RIGHT!! And so welcome to help the junior manager (like me).

Well, I'm about 90 days in, so I guess

Well, I'm about 90 days in, so I guess I can start changing things :-). Actually, I inherited a very good team, and relatively little needs changing. I'm glad to hear I was right in my sense that trying to start feedback and coaching right off was not going to be a good idea. I've started doing a bit of that in the past month, working it in gradually. My predecessor did wonder about my decision to start O3's right off the bat -- "How are you going to have time for all of that?". It's a bit tough, but I've learned a huge amount of absolutely critical information with the O3's -- and I was working in this group for 18 months before I became the manager.

Next step--working on coaching and delegation. I look forward to hearing what you guys have to say on that subject in this context (and yes, I've listened to coaching and delegation podcasts multiple times).

Uhhh - I started working (Director

Uhhh - I started working (Director level) with a new company 3 months ago and intended not to change a thing for 3 to 6 months. To my horror, I found that my team was doing and not doing several things that were unlawful/non-compliant with our heavily regulated industry. (Some could have actually meant jail time!) As soon as I knew, it was the choice of two evils - I didn't want the CEO going to jail on my watch and felt I had to change these things. The people truly did not know what was required and/or the consequences. I can see that these changes scared people and they were embarrassed that no one knew how serious these omissions were. They LOVED my predecessor and seem to feel I am tarnishing her legend by finding these problems.
Any advise on how to repair some of the damage done? Yes, I am doing one-on-ones.

Love the show - I refer people to it all the time. Thanks for doing what you do!

Scarbrey: I took over from someone

I took over from someone that was a tyrant and I have done little to change except being available and encouraging. Your situation needs change. Best approach is to concentrate on the right way of doing things and not on who was the last manager. We can love the person but when it comes to doing the right things, don't compromise. Concentrate on teaching (coaching) what is right. It might be that the pervious manager didn't know (however unlikely that might be). Build the system to work without tearing down the previous manager. You will get the effective support of your team if you don't tear her down. I would like to see what others might have to say here too!

Scarbrey- I don't think there's any


I don't think there's any damage done. I think I did have an aside in the show at some point about a rare exception, like sexual harassment - which was intended to suggest that no manager presides over illegal/immoral/unethical behavior. As long as the activities were unlawful, you did the right thing in addressing them.


Does no changes include not asking for

Does no changes include not asking for status reports? My manager needs to report to her manager. Any suggestions on how to make her happy without rocking the boat? Thanks.

If there is an existing status

If there is an existing status reporting system, use it for now.

If not, collect whatever info you can on projects and operations from existing staff meetings, project meetings, and one - on - ones. Collate the status report yourself, and provide to your boss.


I'd like to make a quick comment. I am

I'd like to make a quick comment. I am not yet a 'new' manager .. I'm still doing my time within the System Administration Team, however I'd like to know what you both think about ITIL, as an IT Framework? Is it worth branching out and learning something like this, or better to keep technically up to date, and learn new / or near new products, such as VMware from a Management Prospective.

I is good to know that the way that I

I is good to know that the way that I act when I am starting with a new team, is the same as you think.

I have seen managers come and go and the number of times I have seen the "new broom" tactic, which falls flat, is amazing.

The best, I think, is trying to implement an idea that has been tried by every other manager before them, but instead of listing to the people "on the shop floor" they go ahead anyway. This has never inspired anybody to follow.

Two scenarios that prompt questions for

Two scenarios that prompt questions for me and I know I'll get the best steer here...

1. My better half takes up post as a new manager of a team created out of restructure. The team has not operated under one manager previously. The creation of the team is change in itself.

Would new routines of team meetings and O3s be appropriate immediately in this instance?

2. The same restructure sees me moving from a project management role to line management. The team I will manage has a great reputation and their current manager has moved onward and upward in the re-org after only 4 months in post. He does have history with the team though having been 'home-grown' from Analyst to Team Leader and then Manager. Many of the team members have worked for me on projects previously and I have enjoyed great relationships with them.

I feel there are several none-standard aspects to this scenario in relation to the cast and would appreciate any 'tuned' advice.

Thanks for an outstanding resource gentlemen, I hope to see you at your next European conference.

Can the same approach apply for a

Can the same approach apply for a seasoned manager transitioning to a new organization and team?

Excellent podcast. The advice is so

Excellent podcast. The advice is so much common sense. So uncommon.





Mark and Mike, I am basically a

Mark and Mike,

I am basically a newbie at MT, hardly 3/4 weeks. And it is the perhaps the first time ever I found or heard of experts recommending to fit in first.

Amazing and very very logical discussion in the entire cast. Wow.

Thank you,

Mark and Mike I am starting a new

Mark and Mike

I am starting a new job on Monday and just going through some old casts so I start off on the right foot. I loved this cast and thank you for the great content. One question though. I see this is the first cast in the New Managers series, where are the other casts?


S, Not out yet, but they're coming


Not out yet, but they're coming :-)


Hi there, Not sure what to do about

Hi there,
Not sure what to do about my situation. I take over on Monday in a new role, created to sort out a seriously underperforming team. My position has been created over the top of the current manager, who keeps the title and money but is in a funny way sidelined (to avoid firing him really). So he stays in my team in his kind of kept but downgraded state. This guy 10year plus relationships with the other 3 guys (all 50 or 60 plus). He knows everything about all the machines, and I know nothing of them. Im 32 years old and am making an internal shift from the design team to this maintenance manager role. So I have good relationships with all of them, but little credibility in this field so its going to be a challenge taking over what is currently a bit of a holiday camp of the old boys. The productivity is abismal, aspirations are all outside work, and they 'milk' every job to get as much overtime as possible out of them- hence my appointment. No doubt the pressure from my boss will be pretty intense on getting things rolling.

Thanks to your advice to first time managers, my strategy is to kick off building relationships, and learn everything I can about everyone and everything. (not recommended by my new boss...who is new himself)

A couple of things- is asking them to do a solid days work counted as change? or do I let them continue for another 3 months? Am I right in assuming that I should introduce feedback after a month after I have built a trust foundation and address it then?

I'm going to be taking over (i think) most of the current managers tasks and I need him to work on the tools again (he doesn't do that at all presently). Do I need to let him wander around and do nothing for 3 months before getting him to work? Hard to get out of being the 'bad cop'' on this one....

Anyone got pointers for me? - Appreciate any comments.

Looking forward to the next few 'new manager podcasts'

Dave - Wellington, New Zealand, working for a sheetmetal manufacturer

Dave, A few things you should do:


A few things you should do: Establish your metrics and start measuring (yourself) as soon as possible. Don't need to engage the team on this yet, but you need objective baseline data so that you can measure progress. Also, are there benchmark data points (ie, another team can do job X in 3 hours) that you can use as comparisons?

What recourse do you have - specifically, can you fire underperformers? Can you increase wages or reduce hours for top performers? Can you arrange responsibilities so that folks are doing tasks they prefer? These are the tools you have to incent performance. Take the time to understand your toolkit.

Few people want to do a poor job. Sometimes, the 'social rewards' that come from "sticking it to the man" outweigh any other rewards, and a culture of poor performance is established. You need to replace that dynamic by rewarding performance and taking action when someone won't or can't step up.


PS: these kinds of questions are better posted in the discussion forums, where you'll get more responses from the MT membership, in a thread dedicated to your issue.

Hi John, Thanks for your comments Yes

Hi John, Thanks for your comments
Yes I can fire under performers, but it will take some time to gather the info for a sound case to do so. I do suspect that rearranging their tasks or environment to better suit their preferences, holding them accountable for things, and me taking an interest in their world will make a significant difference - I'll try this first! I'll also take note on creating meaningful metrics and establishing benchmarks for measuring others and myself against. Appreciate your help.

>>>It seems you may be an administrator on this site John. Would you mind deleting the 'working for a sheetmetal manufacturer' line from my last post, and these lines also as they are not really appropriate for the tone of my post. Thank you. (John or any other administrator)

Hi Mark, Mike and John, I'm a new

Hi Mark, Mike and John,

I'm a new team leader in a German IT-consulting company and I recently joined the company. So might be a "bloody greenhorn" in the eyes of my directs, who have been working for 10+ years for that company. From the competence point of view both regarding IT-architectue and Software development (which is our job) and also regarding my extroverted personality I am quite confident to meet the requirements of that job.

My problem is, that we have a matrix organization. All of my 3 team members work outside at the customer locations and in projects, which I probably won't join within the next year. And they are used to have almost no "team feeling", because they work independently on their own.

When I tried to introduce a kind of regular team meeting or even one-on-ones, they reacted quite "defensive", such like "hmm, but that will take part of my time, wich I could spent better at the customer generating revenue". And the amount of revenue generated over the year directly influences their individual salary.

What would you recommend me to do or not to do in order to "get them into the team boat" and to build better relationships with them?

Thanks a lot in advance!

Albersma- It's a good question, and


It's a good question, and one we get a lot. It's even harder when the team members are only billable when they are with a client.

Nevertheless, the right answer is to do one on ones with them, every week, for a half hour. Over the phone works just fine.

Regarding their defensiveness, that seems normal - don't let it get to you. It's new, they probably don't like changes like this. But, there are ALL KINDS OF THINGS your company asks of them that takes them away from the customer, almost all of which last longer than half an hour. And, I'm sorry to tell them, but I've been with directs like this, and they are NOT so busy as to not have a half hour once a week to chat with you.

Regarding their comment that they could be more productive with their customers, you might be surprised to hear that I agree with them. But that argument is a bit like saying that because the first ten steps I would take out my front door to the grocery get me closer in the beginning, I shouldn't go into the garage and get my car. The half hour is NOT going to appreciably reduce their effectiveness in a week, but it WILL improve their effectiveness for YEARS to come.

Tell them thanks for the input, and do them anyway. Some will like them after a couple of weeks, and ALL will benefit within a month.

Sometimes (ALMOST ALWAYS! :-) ) you have to choose effectiveness over popularity.


Mark, thanks a lot for your


thanks a lot for your responsiveness and very valuable input. I'll try to do so.
I'd kindly like to ask one additional question:

I asked them in advance to any one-on-one or personal visit
to provide me with a summary of their
current projects, their actual role in that projects and customer
contacts in order to learn more about their strengths and possible
opportunities both to expand our engagement with that company
and possible ways to "align" them a bit more into my possible
projects, I will drive in the future, where I will definitely need
good people and their experience. Of course, only if they would be
interested and the relationship with the current customers wouldn't
take a lot of harm because of disruption.

I gave them a deadline of 3 weeks to accomplish that taks
(in a friendly, not threating manner), and told them not to invest
more than 1-2 hours of their time for that "briefing letter" in order
to proactively avoid "unwillingness" or "anger" at their site because
of spending too much "not-billable" time.

I also told them, that I'd like to make an onsite visit to both see their
solutions working (those only work onsite cause of needed
IT-backend infrastructure), because I am really interested
in the technologies they used and in the actual user experience
(GUI etc.) and because of the "social" aspects, to get a feeling
how they integrate with the customer's staff.

Was that a good approach to go in your eyes, or do you think
it's a bit to "offensive" or "intrusive"? What would you recommend
me to do better or instead of?

Thanks again for your expert help!

Albersma- If that was what you did


If that was what you did to introduce one on ones, it wasn't a good idea. That sounds like a delegation, a task, and you're using the one on ones to check up on them. That's not one on ones are for.


Mark, thanks again for the quick


thanks again for the quick reply! Yeah, maybe I stepped-in in a kind of too massive approach. I just wanted to show my presence and interest, not any kind of "I must impress people and show, who the future boss will be". I like cooperative style.

Ok, thanks anyway again!

Is there a good way to introduce

Is there a good way to introduce yourself to your team in an effort to "fit in"? For example, I start my job as a new manager in about 3 weeks. How should day one go besides filling out paper work etc..? Any advice on meeting the team.. thoughts ice breakers, etc..? Thanks.

Dr. Maltz- Yes, there is an

Dr. Maltz-

Yes, there is an effective way...its a future show, promise...but it won't be out in the next few weeks.

Don't do paperwork. Shake hands. Make no sudden moves.


Tomorrow is my first day as a new

Tomorrow is my first day as a new manager in a department that I've been a worker in, I have heard alot about the first 90 days and was so glad to hear this outlline, there are changes that need to be made, but going slow is a now going to be in my thinking process.
Fitting in maybe a struggle, but diffently worth trying,I had planned on my one onone's with in the first week, and will be using your guidelines.




One on Ones.

Good luck!


This podcast is great! Im a

This podcast is great! Im a new manager and would want to have a good start in managing people.

I thank my boss for introducing your site to me. This would help me become a successful employee.




The Manager Tools Guidelines For New Managers

Did the rest of the casts for this series ever get done? If so, I can't find them. I'm curious what you guys have to say about introducing yourself, getting to know your new reports, and your new reports' reports. I also would like to get your perspective on setting expectations, communicating plans (even if the plan is to not do much initially), etc.

response to RLFLYNN

I, too, am looking for the list of podcasts in "The Manager Tools Guidelines For New Managers" series.  I assumed they woud be aired in order, but I am not sure that was the case.  Does anyone have the complete list?  Please note that I am aware of the "Basics" and have listened to them all.  I believe THIS series to be comprised of a different set of podcasts.

Folks, Sorry for the


Sorry for the confusion. There is not another "series" in the sense of a set of podcasts. We'll be rolling out more on the topic of New Manager guidelines over time. I suppose that once we have a number of them, we'll then put them into a published series.


Hi Mike, Thank you for the

Hi Mike,

Thank you for the always relevant and solid information Are there more episodes targeting new managers? If you're not ready yet to start a "series", could you may be introduce a new tag for the ease of discoverability? Something like "new_manager".





Any update on a published series?

Hello Mike,

I have started a new role as a manager and I was hoping to find the "published series" you eluded to in your comments above. Any progress since your last update?