First Year in Management

The jump from individual contributor to manager of a team can be a big transition. Going from just being responsible for your own work to being responsible for the work of others can be a very challenging – yet rewarding – experience. We heard from recently appointed and career managers to find out the lessons they learned from their first year.

(above) photo by Rich Smith



Gloria Portillo

Production Manager, Miller Industries

What do you remember from your first year in management?

I remember having to learn how to make the transition from doing to delegating. I was used to seeing myself as the one who takes action, and I had to learn to ask others to take action. It’s easy to assume that the skills that made you a good employee will make you a good manager. But while knowledge of the role is important, management itself requires a completely different skillset.

What important lessons were learned?

I learned that my number one job is to help other people accomplish their tasks in an outstanding way. Managers need to be able to show each person how to see themselves differently so that they are able to produce at a higher level than they ever imagined. Each person wants something, and you need to find out what that is. Then help them achieve it.

What would you have done differently?

I thought I had to be the smartest person in the room. When people came to me with problems, I would just jump in and fix things. It was faster and easier than guiding my direct reports to the right answer (so I thought), and when time was of the essence, it seemed like the right call. But not only did I hinder their growth by always solving their problems for them, I eventually became a bottleneck.

How will you implement the lessons you have learned in the years to come?

Lessons learned showed me that you should focus on helping your employees progress individually and collectively. One way to do that is to not micromanage. Instead, provide boundaries so the team can be creative within the boundaries without veering off course. Creating SMART goals for everyone based on their skillset helps clarify priorities and provides a clear way forward. Then, make sure to point out progress when you see it.

(above) photo by Rich Smith



Chris Taylor

Double Barrel Bay Foreman, Astec, Inc.

What do you remember from your first year in management? 

At the time of my promotion, our company was growing, and my department was replacing several employees who were promoted to new positions. With that came the transition of the newer employees that replaced them. We were also in a very active time for our business with a heavy workload, so we were faced with the challenge of training these new employees on the fly. We endured a few growing pains but learned some invaluable lessons going forward. Though at times this was a tad overwhelming, it ultimately made us a better department. 

What important lessons were learned?

I learned the importance of delegation, safety, and trustworthiness. Good employees who take pride in their work are hard to come by, and I am fortunate to have a great group. 

What would you have done differently?

If anything, I would’ve delegated a little more at first. The biggest adjustment from being an individual contributor was recognizing what responsibilities to delegate and who to delegate those to. 

What advice would you give now to a newly appointed manager?

You can’t avoid tough conversations. Avoid assumptions, and don’t assume your team automatically knows your intentions. Make sure they do. Ask questions from other managers, because experience is golden. I try to look at the other Astec departments (such as paint, construction, etc.) that we send our product to as a customer. That helps me make sure we are doing our part to make the final customer happy. Don’t send anything out that you wouldn’t put your name on.

(above) photo by Rich Smith



Vikki Ledbetter

Manager, Corporate Communications, Unum Group

What do you remember from your first year in management?  

It was a big responsibility, but one I was excited to take on. My own manager has been one of the biggest catalysts for my development, so knowing how big an impact your role can have on a colleague’s job satisfaction is weighty. I had a lot to learn, so I grew familiar with a certain level of discomfort in the new role. But that was good for me. You can’t grow until you try, maybe struggle a bit, learn, and then apply what you learned.

What important lessons were learned?

I’ve learned to balance being encouraging and supportive with being direct and clear. I’ve found the more straightforward I can be with both recognition and constructive feedback, the more empowered my team is. I’ve also learned the importance of seeking direction from other managers and mentors. There’s no cookie-cutter way to work with people, and that’s okay.

What would you have done differently?

I would’ve focused more on the overall group compared to just my one-on-one experiences with each direct report. I had a good grip on the tasks each person was accomplishing, but, as a team, we didn’t meet often enough to discuss needs, opportunities, etc. Team meetings are a great way to more quickly identify and resolve roadblocks or challenges we need to address.

What advice would you give now to a newly appointed manager?

Prioritize this part of your role. Any time I’ve been able to work with a teammate who is energetic, positive, and values healthy dialogue, it’s been so rewarding. Finally, it’s new and will be challenging, but be confident. Strong leaders instill confidence in and even inspire others, and you can’t really do that very well if you aren’t confident and inspired yourself. 

(above) photo by Terry Henson



Chad Butts

Senior Director of Assembly, Volkswagen Chattanooga

What do you remember from your first year in management?      

I remember being surprised at how complex it was to manage other salary personnel versus processes on the shop floor.

What important lessons were learned?

I learned that one of my main responsibilities as a leader is to remove obstacles for my team. To do this, I needed to build relationships with other stakeholders in the business.

What would you have done differently?

I certainly would have delegated more
and micromanaged less.

What advice would you give now
to a newly appointed manager?

It is important to engage your team, request their input, value their perspective, and challenge them with tough but realistic targets.

How will you implement the lessons you have learned in the years to come? 

The best way to continue to implement lessons is to continue to be willing to learn them. Learn from others, celebrate your team’s successes, and resist your ego.

(above) photo by Terry Henson



Emerald Scott

Senior Manager, Shop Operations, Roper Corporation

What do you remember from your first year in management?  

I remember being indecisive and wondering if I made the right decision. I was 23 years old and supervising over 100 people that were double my age. I remember calling my mom daily, and her advice was to always pray that the Lord guides me in the right direction to make the right decision.

What important lessons were learned?

To employ every resource that is offered to you. I was able to lean on my peers and individuals that worked for me who had years of experience. I learned that when making important decisions, you make sure all parties involved agree. I also learned about conflict resolution and how every situation can’t be handled the same. Each employee is different, and you must adapt.

What advice would you give now to a newly appointed manager?

Utilize every resource you have when facing issues you’re both familiar and unfamiliar with. Gain your employees’ trust and respect by considering their ideas when they give them. Learn who works for you, because I guarantee they will learn everything they can about you. I take pride in knowing all the names of the 263 employees I currently have. When they experience issues in life, I always show concern because you never know what a few encouraging words will do.

How will you implement the lessons you have learned in the years to come?

Since I’ve been in this role, I’ve had the pleasure of taking a few leadership courses to help influence my leadership style. In each course, they all had a similar principle. To get respect you have to give respect. In my opinion, a good leader is only as good as the team he or she leads. If your team doesn’t respect you, they won’t help you succeed.

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