1. Be friendly — without playing favorites.
Fostering a congenial work atmosphere is good for productivity and generating a positive attitude, and being around the same people five days a week can lead to friendships. But trying to be a friend to your employees rather than a supervisor can minimize your effectiveness as a manager, Deaton says. It also can cause friction among employees who might believe that you play favorites.
2. Trust employees to do their job.
Deaton cautions against thinking that supervising is the same thing as controlling: An effective manager delegates tasks and entrusts employees to take on responsibilities and make decisions. The key, Deaton says, is "being visible and accessible without micromanaging or spying."
3. Involve employees in decisions.
"Avoid thinking you have to make all the decisions without input from others," Deaton says. Instead, involve employees in the decision-making process to encourage dialogue and let them know their input counts. "Certainly ask questions and listen to people's answers," Deaton advises. Then make decisions based on what you learned.
4. Empower employees to succeed.
Of course, you want to showcase the abilities that earned you a spot in management. Your employees also have abilities they want to share and develop. This doesn't mean they're competing for your job or trying to outshine you. "It's important to control your jealousy or sense of being threatened when your employees excel or when you give responsibility to them," Deaton says. "It's so easy to feel that by giving them credit, you are losing credit yourself." The success of people reporting to you reflects your leadership skills.
5. Understand the economy's impact on employees.
Many employees might be trying to adjust to new workplace realities created by the struggling economy. You may deal with employees who are unhappy where they are but who can't quit or change jobs for financial reasons, Deaton notes. Not only that, but as companies lay off employees to trim costs, you could also inherit "survivors" who are burning out from shouldering the workload — without extra compensation — of those who are no longer there.
"Ask people how they feel about their jobs and listen," Deaton says. "Answers aren't necessarily needed, but being heard is important." Acknowledge they're working hard and may be stressed, and consider offering relief in small ways, such as company-paid lunches, Deaton suggests. The bottom line for new managers, she notes, is to "tune in to your people, be sympathetic and do whatever you can to relieve stress, even if it's just a little bit."