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Success for the First-Time Manager Can Depend on 4 Areas of Focus

Becoming a successful manager in any business takes time and effort.

But becoming a first-time manager - moving from being part of the team to running the team - requires a concerted effort.  That effort should be concentrated in four areas, a Seattle consultancy says: aligning behavior, time and influence, motivational assumptions and consistent accountability.

These four areas are discussed in the article “When an Independent Contributor Becomes a Manager: Four Principles of Successful Management,” written by Seattle's Impact Achievement Group. The article, the third in a 12-part series, outlines guidelines to effective performance management.

“Poor management by a new boss may lead to the loss of talented employees because they either quit, or worse, they quit and stay - creating a real management challenge,” says Lee Klepinger, Impact Achievement Group president.

A manager’s failure to develop a respectful, professional relationship with direct reports can significantly affect employees’ loyalty and their effort, Klepinger says.

Aligning Behavior

Under the first principle, aligning behavior, successful new managers ensure that their words and behavior are congruent. This behavior, according to the company president, creates a “trust and respect” between the manager and his or her employees.

Time and Influence

Managing their time and influence wisely is the second principle that successful managers implement.

Many supervisors (and managers) spend far too much time with their top and bottom performers,” Klepinger says. “Successful supervisors spend time with ‘reactive people’ - those middle 80 (percent) who react to the time, energy and leadership provided by the manager.”

This group, the company leader says, provides the highest return on that investment of the supervisor’s time and influence.

The 12-part series is derived from “Supervisory Basics,” 12 individual, yet linked, two-hour training modules that help managers understand the management behaviors and tactics required to ensure their and their company’s success.

Motivational Assumptions

Effective managers recognize that numerous factors - motivational assumptions, the third principle – go toward creating an environment in which employees are productive and happy. These same managers, Klepinger says, understand that morale is “a byproduct of success, contribution and productivity,” not the reverse.


Accountability, the fourth and final principle, is the foundation of any high-performing organization, according to the article. Although it may be difficult, a successful manager must be prepared to hold employees accountable for their poor performance.

If a manager fails to address a poor-performing employee, resentment can grow among those workers who are performing at or above expected levels. In addition, the competent employees don’t like having supervisors who tolerate poor performance.

Performance, discretionary effort and retention are all most affected by the relationship the employee has with his or her boss, Klepinger says.

“All aspects of an employee’s job are pervaded by their direct supervisor,” says the company president. “Good bosses = good jobs. Bad bosses = bad jobs. Good bosses provide a combination of challenge and support by skillfully executing on these four principles of effective performance management.”

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