With this year coming to an end and a new business year starting next month, this is a good time for a first-time manager to stop and take one last look at her first year business plan and assess how things went relative to the company’s goals; the employees within the group’s goals; and the group’s sales, revenue, and operating budget.
As a group leader, I would do this assessment with the rest of the group on a quarterly basis, to first educate those working with me to clearly understand what we were striving to achieve and to make course corrections based on each quarter’s progress. Our fourth-quarter meeting would also include an open discussion on identifying our anticipated repeat clients in the coming year, as well as selecting a few new potential clients we would target next year.
Our “last look” was completed in November, but I would share all the end-of-year financials with the group as soon as it came out in the first quarter of the new year, in order to close the books on how we did during the past year. I believe a manager should keep all employees involved so that they can see the difficulty of earning money, retaining clients, and attracting new clients (which also helps them understand how important it is to retain your existing client base).
As a first-time manager, it is important to remember that you do not need to have all the correct answers. No one is that smart. Instead, what managers need to do is surround themselves with a knowledgeable group with a diversity of experience. While I don’t believe in democracy (managing by consensus), I do believe a manager should listen to others in the group because, as I said, no one is that smart and quite often a different perspective can often be the best answer to the problem and/or question.
A trick of the trade I have lived by since my days as an entry-level draftsperson is to use checklists. You can never have enough checklists to make your job easier to manage, as well as maintain consistency and quality control. Here are some checklists a first-time manager can probably use as an HVAC group leader.
• Position list. Purpose is to inventory each employee in the group with regard to skills and salary. This list helped me make sure each person was in the correct category — e.g., draftsperson, designer, and so on, and that they were being paid fairly and in line with their peers. If you use this checklist approach, and you are taking over a group for the first time, experience has shown me that any woman in the group was not being paid on par with their male counterpart. When this happens, you are in a position to correct the error.
• Non-think checklist. Purpose is to inventory all the tasks that you don’t want an experienced CAD designer to be doing, such as room names, column lines, title blocks, etc. If you use this checklist approach, you can better manage each employee’s time based on their job skills.
• Coordination checklist. Purpose is to inventory that information that the CAD designer needs to share with the project’s electrical engineer, plumbing engineer, structural engineer, etc. If you use this checklist approach, you can make sure the other consultants have what they need for information to assure the project has adequate capacity, interlocks, starters, etc.
• Existing condition checklist. Purpose is to inventory all that information an engineer needs to collect when surveying an existing building that is going to be renovated — e.g., equipment accessibility into and removal out of the building, electrical, gas, water utilities, and so forth. If you use this checklist approach, you can avoid embarrassing yourself later when you specify a gas boiler and there is no gas.
As a first-time manager, routinely remind yourself as to why you wanted to be in this manager role. Remember all those complaints you had about management, and make sure you don’t forget that you chose this position to improve business, project delivery, and employee retention. No one should ever take on a new job description because it pays more than the current job responsibilities. That is analogous to someone believing they can drive from one city to another while they lack a driver’s license to operate the vehicle. You may get to the destination, but you may have caused a lot of havoc along the way.