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A classic and practical guide to handling the challenges thrust upon the new manager. Wise counsel for all who manage others. The First-Time Manager explains how to: train yourself to see the "big picture"; build confidence in yourself and your staff; counsel employees and conduct performance appraisals; manage problem employees; and more.

"Belker has distilled his 30 years of executive experience into a simple-to-read book whose sections are full of wisdom from which any manager can benefit. . . . Within each section, realistic management situations are discussed clearly and logically, and specific ways to handle problems are interspersed. . . . His advice is refreshingly straightforward."--Miami Herald.

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Editorial Reviews

"Take the time to learn or relearn your management skills with this book and improve more than the success of your business; improve the quality of your life."
Independent Agent
"This is quite possibly the most informative management guide ever excellent read for aspiring management minds at all levels of the agency."
Joyce Lain Kennedy
"New managers who aren’t sure which way is up won’t find a better offering than this acclaimed summary of managerial experience with a side of wisdom."
nationally syndicated columnist
From the Publisher

"The First-Time Manager is an excellent how-to guide for anyone new to managing people."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814408216
  • Publisher: AMACOM Books
  • Publication date: 3/18/2005
  • Edition description: Fifth Edition
  • Edition number: 5
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.02 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

LOREN B. BELKER was an executive in a major midwestern insurance company for nearly 30 years, and the author of previous editions of The First-Time Manager.

JIM McCORMICK is the former Chief Operating Officer of the fifth largest architectural firm in the United States. A full time speaker and organizational consultant, his clients include Accenture, Bank of America, FedEx, Hewlett-Packard, PepsiCo, and Verizon.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The Road to Management

There are many different ways that individuals become managers.

Unfortunately, many companies don’t go through a very thorough process

in choosing those who will be moved into a managerial position. Often

the judgment is based solely on how well the person is performing in his or

her current position. The best individual contributor doesn’t always make

the best manager, although many companies still make the choice on that

basis. The theory is that successful past performance is the best indicator

of future success. However, management skills are very different from the

skills one needs to succeed as an individual contributor.

So the fact that an employee is a good performer, even though he or she

demonstrates a pattern of success, doesn’t necessarily mean the person will

be a successful manager. Being a manager requires skills beyond those of

being an excellent technician. Managers need to focus on people, not just

tasks. They need to rely on others, not just be self-reliant. Managers are al-

so team-oriented and have a broad focus, whereas nonmanagers succeed

by having a narrow focus and being detail-oriented. In many ways, transi-

tioning from the role of an individual contributor to a manager is similar to the

difference between being a technician and being an artist. The manager is

an artist because management is often nuanced and subjective. It involves a

different mindset.

Management Is Not for Everyone

Some companies have management-training programs. These programs

vary from excellent to horrible. Too often, the program is given to people

who already have been in managerial positions for a number of years. Even

experienced managers periodically should be given refresher courses in

management style and techniques. If a training program has any merit,

however, it should be given to individuals who are being considered for

management positions. The training program will not only help them avoid

mistakes, it also gives trainees the opportunity to see whether they will be

comfortable leading others. A management training program that helps

potential managers decide that they are not suited for management has

done both the prospective managers and the organization they are a part of

a great favor.

Unfortunately, far too many organizations still use the ‘‘ sink or swim ’’

method of management training. All employees who move into supervisory

positions must figure it out on their own. This method assumes that everyone

intuitively knows how to manage. They don’t. Managing people is crucial

to the success of any organization; but in too many cases, it is left to

chance. Anyone who has worked for any length of time has observed situa-

tions where a promotion didn’t work out and the person asked for the old

job back. The well-known saying, ‘‘Be careful what you wish for, because

you just might get it’’ comes to mind. In many companies, the opportunities

for promotion are limited if you don’t go into management. As a result,

some people go into management who shouldn’t be there—and they

wouldn’t want to be in management if other opportunities existed for salary

increases and promotion.

A series of management seminars was conducted for one company that

used an enlightened approach to the problem of moving the wrong people

into management. Everyone under potential consideration for a first-line

management position was invited to attend an all-day seminar on what is

involved in the management of people. Included were some simple but typi-

cal management problems. When these candidates were invited to attend,

they were told by the company, ‘‘If after attending this seminar you decide

that the management of people is not something you want to do, just say

so. That decision will in no way affect other nonmanagement promotion

possibilities or future salary decisions in your current position.’’

Approximately five hundred people attended these seminars, and

approximately twenty percent decided they did not want to move into man-

agement. After getting a brief taste of management, approximately one hun-

dred people knew they would not make good managers, but they were still

valuable employees. Far too many people accept management promotions

because they feel (often rightly so) that they will be dead-ended if they re-

The Omnipotent One

Some people believe that if you want something done right, you’d better do

it yourself. People with this attitude rarely make good leaders or managers

because they have difficulty delegating responsibility. Everyone has seen

these people: They delegate only those trivial tasks that anyone could per-

form, and anything meaningful they keep for themselves. As a result, they

work evenings and weekends and take a briefcase home as well. There is

nothing wrong with working overtime. Most people occasionally must

devote some extra time to the job, but those who follow this pattern as a

way of life are poor managers. They have so little faith in their team mem-

bers that they trust them with only trivial tasks. What they are really saying

is that they don’t know how to properly train their people.

There is often a staff turnover problem in a team with this kind of manager.

The employees are usually more qualified than the ‘‘omnipotent one’’

believes and they soon tire of handling only trivia.

You probably know of an omnipotent one in your own organization. It

is a problem if you’re working for one, because you’ll have a difficult time

being promoted. Caught up in your impossible situation, you’re not given

anything important to do. As a result, you never get a chance to demonstrate

your abilities. Omnipotent ones seldom give out recommendations for promo-

tion. They are convinced that the reason they must do all the work is that

their staff doesn’t accept responsibility. They can never admit that it is

because they refuse to delegate. The trap of becoming an omnipotent one is

being emphasized because you don’t want to allow yourself to fall into this

mode of behavior.

One other unvarying trait of omnipotent ones is that they seldom take

their vacations all at once. They take only a couple days off at a time be-

cause they are certain the company can’t function longer than that without

them. Before going on vacation, they will leave specific instructions as to what

work is to be saved until their return. In some situations, they’ll leave a

phone number where they can be reached in an emergency. Of course, they

define what the emergency might be. The omnipotent one even complains

to family and friends, ‘‘I can’t even get away from the problems at work for

a few days without being bothered.’’ What omnipotent ones don’t say is that

this is exactly the way they want it because it makes them feel important. For

some omnipotent managers, their retirement years are demolished because

retirement means an end to their dedication to the job, their perceived indis-

pensability, and possibly their reason for living.

The Chosen Few

Sometimes, people are chosen to head a function because they’re related to

or have an ‘‘in’’ with the boss. Consider yourself fortunate if you do not

work for this type of company. Even if you are related to the boss, it’s very

difficult to assume additional responsibility under these circumstances. You

doubtless have the authority, but today’s businesses aren’t dictatorships and

people won’t perform well for you just because you’ve been anointed by

upper management. So, if you’re the boss’s son or daughter or friend, you

really need to prove yourself. You’ll get surface respect or positional respect,

but let’s face it—it’s what people really think of you, not what they say to

you, that matters—and that affects how they perform.

In the best organizations, you’re not chosen for a managerial position

because of your technical knowledge, but because someone has seen the

spark of leadership in you. That is the spark you must start developing.

Leadership is difficult to define. A leader is a person others look to for direc-

tion, someone whose judgment is respected because it is usually sound. As

you exercise your judgment and develop the capacity to make sound deci-

sions, it becomes a self-perpetuating characteristic. Your faith in your own

decision-making power is fortified. That feeds your self-confidence, and

with more self-confidence, you become less reluctant to make difficult deci-


Leaders are people who can see into the future and visualize the results

of their decision making. Leaders can also set aside matters of personality

and make decisions based on fact. This doesn’t mean you ignore the human

element—you never ignore it—but you always deal with the facts themselves,

not with people’s emotional perception of those facts.

People are chosen to be managers for a variety of reasons. If you’re chosen

for sound reasons, acceptance by your new staff will, for the most part,

be much easier to gain.

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Table of Contents

1 The road to management 3
2 Starting out 8
3 Building trust and confidence 15
4 Show your appreciation 19
5 Being an active listener 22
6 The new manager's job and pitfalls to avoid 28
7 Dealing with your superiors 32
8 Choosing a managerial style of your own 39
9 Building team spirit 43
10 Managing problem employees 49
11 Hiring and interviewing 56
12 Training team members 68
13 Managing change : dealing with resistance 75
14 Disciplining the employee 78
15 "Oh my God! I can't fire anyone!" 87
16 Having a legal awareness 96
17 No secrets 105
18 The human resources department 108
19 The current state of loyalty 111
20 Is there such a thing as motivation? 113
21 The generation gap 119
22 Writing job descriptions 125
23 Doing performance appraisals 128
24 Salary administration 140
25 Having emotional intelligence 147
26 Developing a positive self-image 150
27 Managing your own time 167
28 The written word 174
29 The grapevine 178
30 Your best friend : delegation 180
31 A sense of humor 184
32 Managing, participating in, and leading meetings 188
33 Taking center stage : the role of public speaking in your career 195
34 Coping with stress 203
35 Having balance in your life 207
36 A touch of class 210
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First Chapter


By Loren B. Belker


Copyright © 2005 Belker, Loren B.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8144-0821-4

Chapter One

Starting Out

Your first week on the job as a manager will be unusual, to say the least. If you're a student of human behavior, you'll observe some surprising developments.

Settling In

Don't believe that everyone is happy about the choice of the new kid on the block. Some of your coworkers will feel they should have been chosen. They may be jealous of your new promotion and secretly hope you fall on your face.

Others, the office "yes people," will immediately start playing up to you. As the chosen one, you can be their ticket to success. Their objective isn't all bad, but their method of operation leaves something to be desired.

Some coworkers will put you to the test early. They may ask you questions to see if you know the answers. If you don't, they'll want to see if you'll admit it or if you'll try to bluff your way through it. Some may ask you questions you cannot possibly know the answers to yet, for the sheer delight of embarrassing you.

Most-you hope the majority-will adopt a wait-and-see attitude. They're not going to condemn or praise you until they see how you perform. This attitude is healthy and all you really have a right to expect.

You will be measured initially against your predecessor in the position. If that person's performance was miserable, yours will look great by comparison even if it's mediocre. If you follow a highly capable performer, your adjustment will be tougher. Before you begin thinking it's best to follow a miserable performer, consider the load of tough problems you would be inheriting from your inept predecessor, which is why you're there. The highly capable predecessor is probably gone because he or she was promoted. So, in either case, you have a big job ahead of you.

One of your first decisions should be to refrain from immediately instituting changes in the method of operation. (In abnormal situations, top management may have instructed you to go in and make certain immediate changes because of the seriousness of the situation. In such cases, however, it is usually announced that changes will be forthcoming.) Above all, be patient. If you make changes immediately, you'll be resented. Your actions will be construed as being arrogant and an insult to your predecessor. Many young new leaders make their own lives more difficult by assuming they have to use all their newfound power immediately. The key word should be restraint. Whether or not you want to admit it, you're the one who is on trial with your subordinates, not they with you.

This is a good time to make an important point about your own attitude. Many new managers communicate rather well upward to their superiors, but poorly downward to their direct reports. Your direct reports will have more to say about your future than your superiors. You are going to be judged by how well your section or department functions, so the people who now work for you are the most important in your business life. Believe it or not, they're more important even than the president of your company. This bit of knowledge has always seemed obvious, yet many new managers spend almost all their time planning their upward communication and give only a passing glance to the people who really control their future.

Using Your New Authority

If there is one area that many new managers blunder into, it is the use of authority. This is particularly true of new managers who are navigating their way through a self-directed "swim or sink" method of on-the-job training. It is the idea that because you now have the authority of management, you must start using it-and you must use and display it in a big way. It may be the biggest mistake that new managers make.

View the authority of the new position as you would a storehouse of supplies. The fewer times you take supplies from the storehouse, the greater is the supply that remains there for when it is really needed.

The newly appointed manager who starts acting like "the boss" and begins issuing orders and other directives is off to a bad start. While you may not hear the remarks directly, the typical comments made behind the back of such a misguided manager might be, "Boy, is she drunk with power," or "This job has really gone to his head," or "His hat size has gone up two sizes since he was promoted." You don't need this kind of problem.

If you don't go to the storehouse of authority too often, the authority you may have to use in an emergency is more effective because it is infrequently displayed. The people you supervise know that you are the manager. They know that the request you make carries the authority of the position. The vast majority of the time, it is unnecessary to use that authority.

There is a term in the creative arts called understatement. For the most part, it means that what is left unsaid may be as important as what is said. This is true with the use of authority. A direction given as a request is a managerial type of understatement. If the response is not forthcoming, you can always clarify or add a bit of authority. On the other hand, if you use all your authority to achieve a task, and then discover by the reaction that you have used too much, the damage is done. It is difficult, if not impossible, to de-escalate the overuse of that authority.

In short, do not assume that you need to use the authority of your position. Perhaps the greatest by-product of this softer approach is you are not building a negative image that may be nearly impossible to erase later.

Having the Personal Touch

Sometime during the first sixty days on the job, you should plan on having a personal conversation with each of the people in your area of responsibility. Don't do this the first week or so. Give your reports a chance to get used to the idea that you are there. When it comes time to talk, the conversation should be formal in nature. Ask your reports into your office for an unhurried discussion about anything that is on their minds. Do no more talking yourself than necessary. This first formal discussion is not designed for you to communicate with the others; it is designed to open lines of communication from them to you. (Have you ever noticed that the more you allow the other person to talk, the higher you'll be rated as a brilliant conversationalist?)

Although the employee's personal concerns are important, it is preferable to restrict the discussion to work-related topics. Sometimes it is difficult to define these limits because problems at home may be troubling the employee more than anything else, but at all times you must avoid getting into a situation where you're giving personal advice. Just because you've been anointed as the boss, it doesn't make you an expert on all the personal problems confronting your people. Listen to them; often that is what they need more than anything else-someone to listen to them.

Getting to Know Them

Now let's get back to your conversation with your team members. The purpose is to give them the opportunity to open the lines of communication with you. Show a genuine interest in their concerns; learn what their ambitions are within the company. Ask questions that will get them to expand on their points of view. You can't fake genuine interest in others; you're doing this because you care about the employees' well-being. Such attention is advantageous to both sides. If you can help employees achieve their goals, they'll be more productive. What is more important is their belief that they're making progress toward their goals.

So your goal in these early conversations is to let your team members know you care about them as individuals and you're there to help them achieve their goals. Let them know you want to help them solve whatever problems they may be having with the job. Establish a comfort zone in which they can deal with you. Make them feel that it is perfectly natural for them to discuss small problems with you. By discussing small problems and small irritants, you can probably avoid most of the larger problems.

You'll discover in your first few months as a manager that your technical abilities are not nearly as important as your human abilities. The majority of your problems are going to revolve around the human and not the technical aspects of the job. Unless your responsibilities are technically complex, you'll discover that if you have outstanding human skills, you can overlook your minor technical deficiencies. Conversely, even if you are the most technically competent manager in the office, without human skills you'll have great difficulty.

Having Friends in the Department

One of the problems many new executives confront is handling friendships with people in the department who now become their employees. This is a difficult situation to which there is no perfect answer. One of the most common questions new managers ask is, "Can I still be friends with the people who used to be my coworkers and who are now my employees?

It is obvious that you shouldn't have to give up your friendships simply because you've received a promotion. However, you don't want your friendships to hurt your performance or the performance of your friends.

It is a mistake to allow your friendships to interfere with your method of operation. A direct report who is truly a friend will understand the dilemma in which you find yourself.

You must be certain that coworkers who were your friends before you became their supervisor receive the same treatment as everyone else. And that doesn't just mean favoring them over other workers. They must not be treated worse merely to prove to the others how unbiased you are.

Although it is certainly true that you can be friends with people, you cannot expect to be friends with them in the same way in the context of work. As a new manager, you will need to establish some expectations of how you will work with all of your team members, whether they are friends or not. You need to hold all individuals to the same rules, regulations, and accountability standards. Also keep in mind that what might look like friendship to you can often look like favoritism to others.

There is a temptation to use your old friend in the department as a confidant. You do not want to give the impression that you are playing favorites. In fact, you must not play favorites. If you do need a confidant, it is preferable to use a manager in another department or section of the organization.

Managing Your Mood

People who report to you are very aware of what kind of mood you are in, especially if you tend to have wild mood swings. Temper tantrums have no place in the work habits of a mature manager-and maturity has nothing to do with age. Letting your irritation show occasionally can be effective, as long as it is sincere and not manipulative.

All of us, from time to time at the office, fall under the spell of moods that reflect outside situations that are troubling us. Many books on management tell us we must leave our problems at the door, or at home, and not bring them into the office. That attitude is naive, because few people can completely shut off a personal problem and keep it from affecting how they perform on the job.

There is little doubt, however, that you can minimize the impact a problem has on your work. The first step is to admit that something is irritating you and that it may affect your relationship with your coworkers. If you can do that, you can probably avoid making other people victims of your personal problem. If an outside problem is gnawing at you and you need to deal with an employee in a critical situation, there is nothing wrong with saying to the employee, "Look, I'm really not in the greatest mood today. If I seem a little irritated, I hope you'll forgive me." This kind of candor is refreshing to a subordinate.

Never think for a moment that others don't have the ability to judge your moods. By showing dramatic changes of mood, you become less effective. In addition, your direct reports will know when to expect these changes, what the telltale signs are, and they will avoid dealing with you when you're on the bottom swing of such a mood. They'll wait until you're on the high end of the pendulum.

Managing Your Feelings

You should work hard at being even-tempered. But it is not a good idea to be the kind of manager who is never bothered by anything-a person who never seems to feel great joy, great sorrow, or great anything. People will not identify with you if they believe you disguise all your feelings.

Keeping your cool all the time is another matter. There are good reasons for keeping your cool. If you can always remain calm, even in troubled situations, you're more likely to think clearly and so be in a better position to handle tough problems. It's also important that you show feelings once in a while, however, or people will think you're a management robot.

To be an outstanding manager of people, you must care about people. That doesn't mean taking a missionary or social worker approach toward them, but if you enjoy their company and respect their feelings, you'll be much more effective in your job than the supervisor who is mostly "thing" oriented.

This, indeed, is one of the problems companies bring on themselves when they assume that the most efficient worker in an area is the one who should be promoted to management. That worker may be efficient because of being thing oriented. Moving these so-called experts into areas where they supervise others doesn't automatically make them "people" oriented.


Excerpted from THE FIRST TIME MANAGER by Loren B. Belker Copyright © 2005 by Belker, Loren B.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2006

    A useful manual for new managers

    Many rookie managers feel like imposters until they grow into their jobs, but if you are scaling that learning curve, help has arrived. Authors Loren B. Belker and Gary S. Topchik provide managerial coaching for new occupants of corner offices (or, at least, of cubes with windows). The text provides novice managers with concrete examples, solid discussions, helpful suggestions and insights on a wide menu of corporate challenges. Although the book is redundant in spots, and needs more extensive chapter summaries, it is a terrific tutorial for managers. We recommend this book to everyone in managerial slots, especially those who just arrived.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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