Congrats - you're the new boss. Now what?

Tips for ruling that new empire you've been handed.

By Sam Grobart, Money Magazine senior editor

NEW YORK (Money Magazine) -- So you put your time in, did a yeoman's service to the company, and you've won a senior management position. Way to go, tiger.

But it's funny, isn't it? After the celebratory steak dinner, the pat on the back from colleagues and friends, reality sinks in: You have absolutely no idea how to be the boss.

Welcome to the wonderful world of the Peter Principle. If you're really good at, say, sales, and you bring in a bushel of cash for the company year after year, your employer is likely to reward all that effort and talent in sales by - guess what? - taking you out of sales and putting you into management.

The result is that almost everything you know when entering into a supervisory position is, if not meaningless, then secondary to your new, primary function: managing a staff.

And to make things worse, unless you have a mentor, there are few places (if any) in your company to turn to for advice and guidance. Unlike departing U.S. Presidents, not every boss leaves a note in his or her desk for the replacement.

You can always sign up for one of those courses at the American Management Association, like "managing difficult employees" or "delegation boot camp."

But that takes time you may not have because, well, you have a job to do. Instead, think about the following three rules other bosses have discovered. You can put them into effect immediately.

Don't be friends

It's nice to be nice. In fact, it's more than that. Being a pleasant, fair, compassionate boss not only scores you karma points, it can keep your staff motivated, loyal and productive.

There's a difference between being nice and trying to be everyone's friend, however. You're not your employees' friend. Friends can't fire friends. You can. You're not there to make your staffers happy, you're there to help them help you get the job done.

Susan Shopmaker, who has been running her own casting agency in New York City for 17 years, says that in the beginning she let friendship get in the way of management decisions.

"I had this idea that I was going to be unlike other bosses and not run my business as a business, but as something different." The result: too much time spent tending to issues such as staffers' relationships or family problems, which took her focus off the bottom line. "What I came to realize was that it's not personal, it's business," Shopmaker says. "Once I made that distinction, I was able to get my company on a much stronger footing."

Let them do it

When you were responsible for your own work, you were thorough, exacting, precise. And those qualities probably helped land you that corner office. But now what you used to do is your employees' job.

So let them do it.

Set clear goals, lay out the ground rules if necessary, encourage them to speak up if their work or projects are going wrong, and then let them go.

"It comes down to trust," says Noah Kerner, CEO of Noise, a marketing firm in New York City. "Do you trust these people can do their job?" You're not there to do their job, and if you try to, three things are likely to happen: You'll burn yourself out, your staff won't feel any real ownership of their jobs and they won't do their level best. Officious intermeddling gets even worse when you're the one who's hired people and you still can't delegate effectively.

"Micromanaging your own hires is like shooting yourself in the foot," says Kerner. "You hired them, so not letting them work independently means you don't trust yourself."

Sure, you want to be kept abreast of your staff's performance, but holding a weekly update meeting or spending some time wandering around the bullpen is far more effective than wading in and getting involved with - or even doing - someone's project.

Become invisible

"The art of management is separating yourself from the job," says Carol Walker, a management consultant in Boston. "You don't want your employees running around trying to figure out how to please you. You want them running around thinking how they can best benefit the company."

One practical way to achieve this is to externalize your goals for your employees. Put them down in a memo or up on a whiteboard in a meeting. That way, you're not the sole intermediary between your staff and their goals.

"That lets you focus on the bigger-picture stuff," says Walker. And when you get right down to it, isn't the bigger-picture stuff what your whole new fancy job is supposed to be about? Top of page