No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

The leadership survival guide


crackersNew managers may welcome extra responsibility but it comes with greater accountability, says David Pardey – it's like two sides of a coin: you can't have one without the other. His checklist for first time leaders is designed to help them know what to expect from their new role, and cope with the burden of being in the firing line.

Nothing can truly prepare anyone for the transition to being a manager for the first time. The lucky ones will have had some responsibility, short of actually taking on the role, but it will usually be hedged round with controls and limitations on the ability to actually decide anything.

But what does becoming a manager for the first time involve?
The most significant aspect of the role is responsibility, including responsibility for people and their performance; money and the way it's earned or spent; products or services, and the way they are developed, promoted and provided; physical resources, and the way that they are acquired, used, maintained or disposed of and the health and safety of people or the impact the organisation has on the environment.

Photo of David Pardey"These two abstract ideas – responsibility and accountability – are like opposing sides of a coin, and you can't have one without the other. It's the accountability that often makes the responsibility hard to cope with."

This list is by no means complete, nor will any one manager necessarily have responsibility for all of these operational areas. Some will only be responsible for one, others for many – in general, new managers will find their responsibility limited to only a few areas, the scope of the role widening as they gain experience.

With this responsibility comes accountability for the way that people perform and money is earned or spent. These two abstract ideas – responsibility and accountability – are like opposing sides of a coin, and you can't have one without the other. It's the accountability that often makes the responsibility hard to cope with, and encourages some new managers to become overly controlling. After all, if you are accountable for how other people do their jobs, it seems to make sense for you to make absolutely sure they are done properly. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal way to motivate and inspire people! One of the hardest things for new managers to learn is how to trust people or, more acutely, how to judge how much to trust other people.

Lawrence Appley, one of the leading figures in the American Management Association throughout the 70s and 80s, described management as "getting things done through people" and first time managers have to focus their attention on making sure that they have the knowledge, the skills and, most importantly, the confidence to ensure that the right things are done, and done right, by other people. The following checklist is designed to help new, first time, managers, to focus on what they can do and, most importantly, what they can't, so that they can ask for help in becoming more effective in their role, as soon as possible.

"One of the hardest things for new managers to learn is how to trust people or, more acutely, how to judge how much to trust other people."

1. Knowledge

  • What systems and procedures, standards and rules apply to you and your area of responsibility, over which you have no control?
  • What people and resources, systems and procedures, standards and rules do you have specific responsibility for, and what limits apply to that responsibility?
  • To whom, and how, are you accountable for your exercise of that responsibility?
  • Who are the people you have responsibility for, what is their role and what are they like? What do they think about their work, what do they want to do, and what do they want from you, as their manager?
  • Who else will you work with, including suppliers and customers, colleagues and stakeholders, what do they want from you, and how can they help you to do your job more effectively?
  • 2. Skills

    What strengths do you bring to your new role, and what are your weaknesses?

    In particular, how effective are you at:

  • Working with other people, motivating, developing, understanding and supporting them to do their job effectively?
  • Communicating with other people (personally and in writing), and understanding other people's communications with you (especially the unvoiced messages that are often the most important)?
  • Identifying, collecting and analysing data on key aspects of your role, and using this to inform your decisions and your understanding of the areas you have responsibility for?
  • Identifying your goals and managing your own work to achieve them?
  • Using your experiences to learn and improve your own performance?
  • 3. Confidence

    One of the biggest challenges for new managers is having the confidence to make decisions, especially in relation to people who you have worked with as an equal. To develop your confidence, consider the following:

  • Are you honest about your feelings, to yourself as much as to others with whom you work? You should acknowledge any fear, anger or other emotions you feel and work through it, not try to bottle it up – that's part of becoming emotionally intelligent.
  • Do you ask others for their opinions and advice? Don't try to do things on your own. Asking others shows respect and gives you better information on which to make decisions – if someone brings you a problem, ask them what they would do, and test out their ideas to help determine the best course of action.
  • Do you feel embarrassed managing people you once worked alongside? How do they feel about it? Ask them and discuss this with them, don't try to pretend that it's not an issue, but bring it out into the open.
  • How can you get feedback on your performance, from your line manager and from those you manage? This will help you identify what you are doing well and what you might need to improve, so ask!
  • Don't expect to come out as 100% on each of these aspects of the role – if you do, you are either an amazing prodigy or deluded, and it's probably the latter. The most effective managers are those who are able to make sense of the world around them and their place in it. This checklist will help first time managers to develop themselves and live up to the confidence that their employer has placed in them.

    This article was first published in March 2008.

    David Pardey is the senior manager, research and policy for the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), an awarding body for leadership and management qualifications. He writes widely on leadership and management and its development.

    Thousands of new managers each year achieve their ILM award, certificate or diploma in first line management. These vocational qualifications have been specially designed to give practising or aspiring first line managers a solid foundation in their formal development as a manager. For more information visit the ILM website at:


    Get the latest from TrainingZone.

    Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


    Thank you!