My first full-time job out of college was working in Collections for Sears Credit. I worked my way up to Team Lead. Also, I found I was good at following rules and managing performance, what I had to learn was how to connect with my employees. I got accepted into the company’s management training program and within about 2 years, I found myself managing people who had as many years experience as my age. I am sure I was around the age of their children, yet I was there to drive the department to results.

As a young manager, I had very little experience, thus making it difficult when trying to communicate to my employees who questioned my credibility. Credibility is composed of one’s character, competence, and to the level one displays care for others. Credibility is dependent on trust and trust is not often given easily, it takes time. So, I sought to build trust with my teams. My first action involved showing the employees I knew the job and could perform the job. Some may thing this is unnecessary as a manager but it build credibility when the employees know you are not asking something of them you are not willing to do.

My biggest mission was building relationships. This entailed getting to truly know my people. I wanted to know beyond the work they did and the level of performance and experience. I wanted to know what motivated them and what concerned them. Also, I wanted to know about their families – the “why” of their work. I made a point to walk the floors often and speak to each employee a few times a day. Some may think you don’t have time for this. I believe you don’t have time NOT to do this. Something as simple as asking an employee about their children makes a world of a difference.

The Importance of Building Relationships for Young (and new) Managers

I had one incident where one employee had been out for an extended time due to health issues. When I heard she was back I went to talk to her. I asked how she was and I received the customary response. When I asked how she really was and if her health was improving, she looked at me and said, “Oh, you really want to know how I am?” I said, “Yes, I do.” It was a breakthrough moment where this employee saw I truly cared about her as a person and not just about her performance. True, in the department I managed, it was a heavy load for other employees when one was out and the department performance suffered at times but the performance was not as important as the people.

Next to caring, one’s character also influences credibility. People are always watching you to see if you are true to your word. Meaning, do your words and actions align? Are you a person others want to follow? What is your level of self-awareness? What is your level of emotional intelligence overall? Meaning, are you aware of how your words and actions impact others? And are you receptive to feedback? These are all essential questions and reveal one’s character.

I sought out wisely counsel and was mentored by the owner of a consultant company I currently work for. I applied the feedback and sought feedback from my employees and managers. Also, I kept my ear to the floor to know what was going on and sought ways to remove the obstacles. I applied my love for structure to how I managed, which gave me consistency and aided in my performance management. After a few short months into my position, I built great working relationships with my managers and employees. Our performance improved and my department had moved from #9 out 9 in the nation to #1. I had gained a loyal group of employees who I was honored to serve as their senior manager.

The Importance of Building Relationships for Young (and new) Managers

Lessons learned:

  1. Knowledge is important but not as important as the people.
  2. Don’t get so focused on demanding respect for your position that you forget that trust is not built overnight. It takes consistency in your actions and transparency in your motives.
  3. Take the time to get to sincerely know your people. Take an interest in them and they will respect you naturally.
  4. Credibility is built on character, care, and competence. All three are critical to credibility.