What to do (and not do) during your first 2 weeks as a new manager

You’ve just been promoted… Now what? Here’s what 1,000+ leaders across the world had to say about what a new manager should do during her first 2 weeks on the job.

A friend of mine was recently promoted to being a manager for the first time. It’s a slightly terrifying thing, for those of you who remember it (or are going through it now!)

Naturally, I invited her The Watercooler, our online community in Know Your Team for leaders, and I sent her a few pieces I’d written for managers (I’ve shared them below, as well). But it got me thinking…

What should a new manager do in their first two weeks in the role?

I posed this question to the 1,000+ leaders from all over the world who are a part of The Watercooler. Here’s what they had to say.

#1: Go on a “Listen and Learn Tour”.

Before anything else as a new manager, you must first earn your team’s trust – and that starts by listening to what your team members have to say, not telling them what to do. You’ll gain an understanding of your team’s problems and concerns, and from there, create the right environment in which the entire team can succeed. Said one Watercooler member:

“You’re going to be able to see how the team can improve with your fresh eyes, but your first step is to gain the team’s trust, and that is done by listening and getting a deep understanding of the team’s problems so that you can work on creating the right environment for that team to excel in.”

This was by far the most emphasized piece of advice. Many leaders even suggested doing this “listen and learn tour” for even longer than just the first two weeks.

#2: Ask specific questions to each team member, one-on-one.

The only way you’ll know what the current state of the team is and what should be done is if you ask. Don’t make assumptions that something is broken or people are feeling a certain way: Ask first.

Leaders in The Watercooler strongly recommended asking these questions to each team member individually, one-on-one. Specifically, you can ask questions around “how did they get to that job, their aspirations, their dreams, their doubts and frustrations, their visions for them in the company,” You can also ask about more tactically about the work, as to what tools they use — one leader suggested this as a way to start thinking about how to help build a more productive environment for them.

Here are also some questions to ask during this one-on-one.

#3: Interview fellow leaders in similar positions in the company.

Your peers who are also managers might just be your greatest ally as a new manager. These can be leaders in the same division — or even from other parts of the company, but who run a team that is similar in structure (for example: a similar amount of people, similar time zone distribution etc.). Ask if you can get their advice for 30 minutes, and find out about how they run their teams, what works, and what doesn’t. Here are some possible questions that one Watercooler member suggested to ask:

  • How do you organize your week?
  • Which tools do you use and what challenges do these tools solve for you?
  • Looking back, what was the one thing you’d do differently if you became a manager again?
  • What is it you most enjoy as a manager?
  • What is the most difficult task? How do you make it more bearable?

By chatting with peer managers from your own company, you’ll gain a unique insight into the company’s idiosyncrasies, and best practices for successfully manage up and down. On top of that, these conversations will help you build rapport with people who find themselves in a similar situation with yourself. Perhaps one day, you can repay the favor to them and help them in an area they might need a hand with.

#4: Say, “I don’t know” if you don’t know.

Leaders are not supposed to have all the answers — especially when you’re new. You’re not an island, and you have a team for a reason. Ask the subject-matter expert on your team rather than attempt to provide an answer based on your best guess. And, when you don’t know simply say: “I don’t know.”

Many Watercooler members remarked that not doing so is a mistake that new managers make all the time. One leader added: “[New managers often] try to B.S. the way into an answer. This erodes credibility fast.”

#5: Sit on your hands.

Don’t be compelled to make significant changes just because you’re the manager now. You’ll have plenty of time for that. More often than not, you’ll need much longer than just your first two weeks of digesting the firehose of inputs before taking any action. While there might be certain things that could be sharpened for a variety of reasons, resist the urge to change things just because you can. Be patient, observe, absorb — and know the changes can come later.

#6: If you must act, go after the small wins first.

If you do feel you need to take action in your first two weeks as a new manager, focus on the small wins first. Leaders in The Watercooler talked about how accomplishing smaller items that have been looming are an effective way to show that you won’t be just all talk.

This builds your credibility with your team. And, remember, even a small win can go a long way.


Keep in mind that two weeks is a short period of time really make your mark as a new manager. So don’t rush it. Know that what matters most is consistency. Sure, it’s great if you listen to your team during the first two weeks… But what about two years from now? The best leaders are the ones who know that your team will support you, believe in you, and perform the best if they see your actions consistently, over time.

Start with these actions in the first two weeks, and build on it from there.


Curious what resources I shared with my new manager friend on leadership development? Here ya go…

You might also find these articles helpful…

Written by Claire Lew

CEO of Know Your Team. My mission in life is to help people become happier at work. Say hi to me on Twitter at @clairejlew.

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