Leading a team is only a fraction of a manager's responsibilities. When I became a manager, my world revolved around my product and my team. I was constantly thinking about the needs of our users. Delivering on promises and creating value for customers with the resources available were my primary concerns.

Over time, however, I realized that managing isn't just about customer focus. It's equally about nurturing your team's growth and satisfaction. It's a hefty role; the team isn't your only concern however. Sometimes, it's crucial to focus 'upwards'—towards your manager. This perspective can greatly benefit you and your team.

Your manager doesn't just oversee your team; they're an enabler, shielding you and supporting your team's growth. They're the key to giving your team autonomy. Everyone craves creativity and freedom to make decisions in their work, especially in knowledge-based fields. We want to be more than just cogs in a big machine.

A good manager's confidence in their team's abilities can increase their autonomy. I believe autonomy is an important professional goal that deserves its own discussion.

These are the four takeaways to keep in mind when starting out as a new manager:

  1. Set clear expectations: Understand the benchmarks for you and your team. Without clarity, you're navigating blindly. Knowing what you're being measured against helps you focus your efforts and build a track record, which in return builds trust.

  2. Minimize their workload: Strive to make your team self-sufficient. You should be on a steady upward trajectory, meeting agreed-upon metrics. Always be prepared, understand your needs, options and trade-offs. This shows not only control, but respect for your manager's time.

  3. Showcase team contributions: Remember that you're part of a team, not a lone wolf. Transparency is key. Acknowledging individual strengths and weaknesses can highlight areas where your manager's guidance can be invaluable.

  4. Be open about challenges: It's not all positive. Acknowledge when things aren't great. Addressing problems is the first step to solving them. But balance is key - be a realistic optimist.

Remember that leading a team is only part of your role. Looking in all directions, especially upwards, can bring significant benefits. And never overlook one of the most important "users" of your team: your manager.