Ok, your space and your office is set up. You’ve got all the meetings on your calendar, you have access to data and email, and as new manager, you are ready to go, right? Not quite. There are two more areas that I think you need to check out.
As new manager, you have some homework to do. Who reports to you? Do you know their job titles and functions? Their backgrounds?
So here is the checklist:
______ Is there an organization chart on the company or organization website? What is the “chain of command?”
Yes, you know who your supervisor is, but who does she report to? If you need info from another department or office, who do you ask, and what is the protocol? These are important issues for getting off to a good start—and to avoid embarrassment!
______Are there written office policies for the staff about requesting vacations, calling in sick, etc.?
I once started as a new manager where there were no written office policies. There was also an atmosphere of bullying! One of the staff intimidated others and gave herself preferential vacations. Some staff deliberately took vacation time at the busiest season so that they wouldn’t have to deal with the stress. Needless to say, it took both time and strategic thinking to turn that workplace around, and an important early step was to develop written policies. So find out what they are and understand them completely. If there are none and you need to create them, don’t do it on your own. (I’d be happy to steer you a bit on the best steps for you to take)
______Are they consistent with organization/union/civil service policy?
Few managers are willing to go the extra mile and learn the policies of the larger environment in which they work. The contracts and policies are your friend! Knowing them could save you from a load of grief later. And as a manager, that is also part of your job.
______Do I want to establish drop-in office hours for my direct reports or staff?
Sometimes staff complain that they can’t talk to the boss when they need to. Sometimes it’s simply the quantity of meetings that fill his calendar. And that is a real problem for many in management positions—there are so many meetings that there is no time to do the actual job! (My assistant and I used to joke that a good day was when we could look at the “to-do” list before 4 pm!) Think about whether there is a time when you could allow people just to drop in. Or when you can go wandering around the office and visit with people. Be careful, you don’t want them to think you are spying on them, or don’t trust them to do the job! There is a fine line from being available to being a micromanager. Or you can follow the pattern of one of my best bosses (see below).
______Is it possible for me to eat lunch in the cafeteria (or other common space) on a regular basis?
I know, I know. Despite the advice of doctors, management gurus and our own inner selves, many of us eat lunch at our desks, because it seems like there is no time to do anything else. But if you can carve out a half hour three days a week, and tell your staff that they are welcome to sit down with you, you’ll be amazed and how many people will stop by and eat with you. It is great both for your reputation for accessibility, but also for keeping in touch with what is going on.
______Do I have a copy of emergency protocols? Have I reviewed them?
This is so important. Have you ever had a data breach? An intruder walk in? A staff member with a heart attack? A fire overnight? A power loss? Where are the back up files? (You do have backups, right?) None of these things may ever happen, but if they do, you’ll be glad you prepared.
______Have I reviewed recent staff evaluations?
Who are these folks anyway? Staff evaluations of your direct reports are your responsibility, so reading past evaluations will help you get to know them better. Good managers set goals with their staff, so you will be able to see if your staff have specific goals that they are working on. Reviewing their files will also inform you whether or not evaluations have been done in the past! Too often, although individuals are supposed to be reviewed every year, the reviews get forgotten. They can be challenging and time consuming, especially if you have never written one before. But if, in the first few weeks, you discover that Ms X is a problem or Mr Y is absolooootly terrific, it is nice to know whether that has been reflected in their reviews. This is not the place to discuss how to review an employee or how to deal with a problem person, but you should know what is in the files and compare that with your own observations.
Next time, we’ll talk about the final points on the check list!