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Skills new managers need to master

5 key skills can help you adjust to your new position quickly


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March 01, 2024

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the spring 2024 issue of ASU Thrive magazine.

Build your skills

Improve your managerial skills with additional resources. Go to maybusch.com/team-leadership.

Consider taking the Principles of Character-Driven Leadership course at careercatalyst.asu.edu/programs/character-driven-leadership.

Stepping into a new leadership role doesn’t have to feel like you are starting at square one. By checking your ego, caring for your team and creating a support network for yourself, you can master the five essential skills for a new manager.

Check your ego

Are you stepping into a new leadership role this year? Stepping up as a new manager can feel like starting back at square one, especially since you were likely the master of your previous role. But the good news is, mastering key skills can help you adjust to your new position quickly. Here are the five most important skills new managers need to master. 

Make sure you bring your “big self” to work. This is the part of you that thinks about doing the right thing, from the standpoint of the team, the mission and the organization. And leave your “small self” to the side. That’s the part of us that feels compelled to convince everybody how smart, talented and deserving you are of your position.

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Learn how to care for and feed your team

Everybody feels motivated by something different. So you’ve got to talk to each team member to find out what motivates them. For example, one person might need a lot of structure, while another team member thrives on a more hands-off approach. Treat people how they want to be treated, the way that will help them give it their best.

Let people know you are on their side

This is all about your tone and your mental stance. Instead of doing what I call, “Tell, sell and yell,” go for positivity and encouragement. Let your team know you support them and have their back.

For example, in my first leadership role, I sat down with each team member individually to ask, “What does success mean for you?” I assured them, “I will do everything I can to help you.”

Focus 

Choose three priorities and laser in on getting those done. This gives people something concrete to rally around, and you’ll feel much more in control if you’re not scattered. 

The same goes for your guiding principles and rules. Don’t make too many. Decide on what really matters for you and your team and stay focused on those things.

Illustration of four people carrying a bulky item

Create a support network 

When you’re a new leader, it can feel lonely. It helps to build an informal network of people in similar situations to yours, or people further along. Consider getting formal support too. For instance, you could hire a coach or set up times with a mentor to go through some of your questions and concerns.

Put it into action

Take a moment to consider your new role. Which of these skills do you think will most help you succeed in your new leadership role? Or, if you’re not in a new role, which of these strategies will help you excel in your current position?

Portrait of May Busch

Focusing on the people on your team, the mission of the organization you serve, and these tips will help make the challenges feel less daunting and help you succeed. 

Written by May Busch, former COO of Morgan Stanley Europe.

Busch is now an executive coach, speaker, advisor, author and executive-in-residence in ASU’s Office of the President.

Read more at maybusch.com/asuthrive.

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