Just like landing your dream job or getting out of your new-grad unemployment slump, becoming a boss for the first time can bring on a roller-coaster ride of feelings: disbelief, sheer joy and — once reality hits — doubts or fear. To help brush off the scary emotions that might come with your rise in the ranks, we talked with 15 bona fide bosses to get their top, tried-and-true tips for first-time managers. Scroll on for their secrets, and then head back to work confident about the great work you’re going to do. Onward!


1. Keep your expectations high. Maria Yuan, the founder and CEO of IssueVoter, suggests not letting your standards slip. “I always appreciated managers who had high expectations and drove the team to accomplish a lot,” she says. “It contributes to everyone’s personal growth, learning and autonomy.”

2. Set your team up for success. Shine Co-Founder and Co-CEO Marah Lidey focuses on the need to support your team in their work. She says this means truly listening to and hearing your reports about their career goals, blockers AND happiness. Lidey advises, “Set up systems that encourage constant constructive feedback, like weekly one-on-ones, and advocate for your team internally.”

3. Treat yourself well. “Be kind to yourself,” Lauren Burke of The Possible Lab reminds us. “We all want to be the perfect boss, but you should remember that you’re also a human being. Cut yourself a break when it’s been a hard day, own up to your mistakes to your reports and take time to be human with your team.”

4. Remember what it’s like to be managed. Katie Livornese, Conference Director at S.H.E. Summit, makes a good point that you should always keep in mind what it was like to be on the other side of the equation. “Remember the good and the bad,” she says. “Learn from both your former bosses’ shortcomings as well as all of the qualities that made them excellent.”

5. Listen and take action. “As a manager, actively listen to your direct reports. Be supportive and responsive to their ongoing feedback,” Mogul founder and CEO Tiffany Pham offers. “Do what you can to develop and train them to be supportive and responsive managers as well in the future, from your example.” Kelsey Jones agrees: “As the founder and CEO of StoryShout, I’ve learned that people just want a boss who makes them feel heard and appreciated. I go out of my way to ask for opinions and try to always point out great things my employees are doing instead of focusing on mistakes or what goes wrong.”

Two creative millenial small business owners working on social media

6. Show respect. Liz Entin, the dynamo behind Runway Passport, emphasizes the importance of having faith in the people you’re managing. “Trust that they know how they work best,” she says. “If someone prefers to start at noon and work until 2am, let them — so long as it’s in line with the company structure and culture. Assume they truly care about doing their best and know what they need to do to achieve it unless they prove otherwise.” She continues, “I’ve seen higher levels of energy and creativity from people when allowing the flexibility to live and work on their terms.”

7. Be humble. In that same spirit of showing appreciation for your team, The Startup Consulting Group’s Avery Roth suggests, “Lead with humility — it’s about more than experience and expertise. A humble mindset will make a major difference as industries, companies and jobs continue to quickly evolve.”

8. Stay true to your North Star. “Spend time each week to refocus your team on big-picture goals and why they are doing the day-to-day work they are engaged in,” says Tiffany Starr Kumar, the global head of songwriter relations at Spotify.

9. Hire carefully. “My tip for first-time managers is to be super picky when hiring,” CEO Christy Johnson of Artemis Connection says. “It’s better to have an open position than to have someone with a bad attitude or who isn’t the right fit. Reflect on the type of personality that works best for you, and know that every person you bring on board will have some kind of impact.”

10. Strike a healthy balance. “As a manager, my goal is to empower and bring out the best in people while helping them achieve a little more each time,” explains Shivika Sinha, the Alex and Ani digital marketing director. “Know what each person can do and help them push that boundary without becoming overwhelmed.”

11. Create and cultivate relationships. Establishing rapport requires ongoing effort, which is worth your energy as a new manager. Jessica Lynn, the founder and CEO of LOVR, recommends, “Build relationships with your direct reports beyond work. Your genuine care will help keep team members around.”

12. Delegate! “A first-time manager myself, I’d say that the biggest lesson I’ve learned in the last six months is to delegate as much responsibility as I can to my direct reports. It helps each person reach their own stretch goals,” Shang Saavedra from L.E.K Consulting tells us. “I then come in to help with the hardest things, which also means I’m personally focused on the most difficult problems to solve.”

Have tips to add or questions you want answered as a first-time boss? Tweet ‘em to us @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)