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How to Navigate Being a First-Time Manager: The 3 P’s Framework

By Eden Metzler
10 Min Read
An image shows the discussion between a first time manager and his fresh employee.

Becoming a first-time manager is an exciting time, because new hires mean your membership business is growing. But, it can also be intimidating if you’re still finding your footing. 

You might feel some pressure to have all the answers, especially to the question, “Where do I start?”

We’re going to help you navigate that question mark and more by exploring a broad framework and sharing some universal tips, all of which you can apply to your own team (regardless of your managerial style, your priorities, or your resources on hand).

Think you can manage?… All of the info, that is. 

Then let’s get into it!

The 3 P’s: Purpose, People & Processes

When it comes to management advice, there are endless frameworks, hot-takes and thought leaders to choose from to guide your approach. 

So, to help cut through the noise, we’re going straight to the person who wrote the book on being a manager. Literally.

Julie Zhou, the VP of Product Design at Facebook, leads a team made up of hundreds of employees.

In her book, ‘The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You’, Julie introduces the framework of the 3 P’s: purpose, people, and processes.

A graphic shows a management framework consisting of purpose, people, and processes.

The beauty of this framework is that it acts as a flexible guide, as opposed to an unforgiving to-do list. 

To figure out what that guide might look like when applied to your managerial style, let’s unpack each of these ‘P’s a little more closely…

1. Establishing Purpose

“Why am I here?”

It’s a recurring question asked by employees and existential-crisis-havers alike, and usually it’s for one reason: they’re unsure of what their purpose is.

There are 2 parts to establishing purpose: firstly for your membership, and secondly for your individual team members.

Every membership business has a purpose, and it’s bigger than just making a profit. Purpose is, simply, the impact that you want your membership to have on the world. 

Knowing and clearly communicating this bigger purpose to your team helps to provide a guiding light for all of the work they put in day-to-day. It keeps them from losing motivation, and staves off the question of “Why am I here?” that threatens to get in the way of your team’s success.

Once the bigger picture is established, communicating and enforcing the purpose for each role within your business can have a positive impact on your team’s productivity, morale and retention. 

To help form a clear tie between your employee’s work and your organization’s main goals, try working backwards:

We want to achieve [company goal] over the next [period of time].

And so, [employee] needs to accomplish [goal 1], [goal 2] and [goal 3] by [deadline].

It’s helpful to check in regularly with your team members to make sure that they still feel that they understand their purpose, and are satisfied with their scope of responsibilities. 

Which brings us to the next ‘P’…

2. Managing People

Strengthening Communication

As a manager, communication should be among your top priorities, especially when you understand the benefits of nurturing it, and the pitfalls of neglecting it.

Whether you’re a team of 2 or 200, strong communication is necessary for effective problem solving, overcoming and avoiding conflict, and consistent productivity and engagement across your team.

And weak communication… well, it leads to the opposite of all of that.

A graphic shows the effects of strong and weak communication.

A good place to start strengthening communication is by getting to know each team member. Dedicate time for casual conversations, both one-on-one, as well as with your whole team.

Communicating as a person first and a manager second might sound counterintuitive to building a strong professional relationship, but it’s one of the most effective ways to build rapport and a strong sense of trust: both of which will go a long way in serving the goals of your company.

That’s because a person-first space is a safe space, which encourages an invaluable level of transparency between you and your team.

They will feel more comfortable communicating about things that are uncomfortable by nature, and this can help to avoid a number of issues down the line.

And, on top of all of that, strong communication is one of the biggest building blocks for a strong foundation of trust. 

Which brings us to the next point…

Building Trust

As a first-time manager, you’ve recently moved up from executing the work, to overseeing the work, which means that still you know each process like the back of your hand.

Which is great when it comes time to lend that hand to provide a bit of guidance and feedback, and to help develop the skills of those you manage.

However, you might expect your team to approach their tasks in the exact same way that you did, and that can lead you down the road to micro-managing.

A wise manager (my own manager, in fact) once said: “As a leader, you can influence everything… but you don’t have to own everything”.

And then he dropped the mic, and promptly left me to get on with writing this article. Cheers for that, James.

This philosophy is a simple but powerful tool that can help to adjust your managerial mindset.

These tasks that have been delegated to your team were removed from your plate in order to free up your time and mental energy: ultimately allowing you to have a bigger impact in more important areas

But, spending your time micro-managing completely mitigates that. 

To avoid micro-managing, you’ll need to build trust. Start by identifying areas where you can have constructive influence, and then create room for the hiccups that are bound to happen while your team develops their skills and knowledge. 

This will allow you to provide feedback where needed, while removing unnecessary pressure.

Once your team members are making strides in their capabilities, your job is to remove the training wheels and provide more opportunities for ownership. This will show your team that you trust them, as opposed to you simply telling them that you do.

Taking off the training wheels might feel risky, but it’s important to have perspective and remember that when it comes to work: you either win, or you learn.

And, on that note, let’s talk about failure…

Approaching Failure

Chances are that at some point, something is going to go wrong in your membership business. 

A deadline will be missed, a video file will disappear into the ether, and an external email will be sent with some unfortunate typos.

That’s showbiz, baby.

But, the way that you approach that failure can be make or break. So, let’s focus on the make.

A productive way to approach a mistake is to react calmly with a simple question, “Why did this happen, and how can we learn from it?”

It could be down to an unmanageable workload for one of your team members, a miscommunication about expectations, or simple human error. 

Generally, as a manager, one of the most uncomfortable lessons that you’ll learn is that you have a lot more influence over failure than you realize.

And, at this point, a strong foundation of honest communication will be a massive help for tracing your steps to figure out what went wrong, and why. 

Once the details are clear, you can reframe the situation into a learning opportunity for both you and your team.

Importantly, nobody makes mistakes on purpose. 

So shifting your mindset away from accusatory and towards understanding will be a huge help for you, your team, and the positive culture that you’re trying to build.

3. Handling Processes

Ironically, the process itself of establishing, overseeing, and fixing processes can be extremely time consuming. 

But, there are 3 questions that can save you some time (and headaches):

1. Is this process actually necessary? 

The process in question should offer a solid return on the time and resources invested into creating it.

The new (or improved) process should either enhance team efficiency, assist with organising and archiving files, or better facilitate collaboration.

If you think the benefits will be minimal compared to the investment, then leave the system as is, and make a plan to circle back for another assessment when it feels necessary.

2. Can we do this in a simpler way?

It’s tempting to sink hours into setting up the the shiniest, most robust process possible. But, ‘shiny’ and ‘robust’ can just be sneaky synonyms for ‘complicated’.

Take a closer look at what you want to achieve, and put together the simplest process possible to accomplish your set outcome.

3. Whose input do I need?

Processes are put in place to support the work of people, so it’s important to get their input on their processes.

That being said… too many cooks, y’know?

Loop in the people on your team who will interact with the process in question on a regular basis, and collect their feedback and action it where necessary.

Wrapping Up…

Purpose and processes are important pillars of your membership business. But, when you take a closer look, you’ll see that these pillars exist to support your greatest asset: your people.

Reinforcing your company’s purpose, as well as the purpose of each individual contributor, will help to motivate your team and keep their eye on the prize. 

Ensuring that there are sufficient systems in place to support your people will help them to do what they do best, while you focus on what you do best: including improving your team’s communication, building trust, and approaching failure constructively. 

This might be your first rodeo, but we have full confidence that you’ll totally crush it!