You come into work one morning and your manager says to you ‘Congratulations! You have just been promoted to manager!’ How you feel about this change could range from ‘terrific, this is something that I have been working towards’ to ‘holy crap – now what do I do?’ The transition to management is not easy under the best of circumstances. Typically, what has gotten you the promotion is the excellent results you have delivered as an individual contributor. It is therefore quite a switch from being the one delivering excellent results to being the person who has to motivate and get those excellent results through influencing other people.
It can be daunting and frightening – and, it can also be exciting and rewarding. My first real management job included 25 men operating and maintaining a 24/7 chemical process in a contentious labor union environment. I can honestly say that I hated the first 3 months of the assignment – it was extremely difficult. I can also say that in my 25-year career, I learned more about myself, people in general, and how to manage a team in that assignment than in any one since then.
Today, I see a many people being given management responsibilities without any training. They are being sent ‘to war with a pen knife’. Frankly, it is abusive – the new managers who care will take out their frustrations on themselves. While the new managers who don’t care will take out their frustrations on those they manage. It also causes problems for the business as results take more effort and more time to deliver. It takes a different mindset, a different set of skills, and different behaviors to be a successful manager. Here are some of the top items to consider:
- Reinvent Yourself! You have to consciously think about how a manager would behave vs. ‘one of the folks’. This is critical and especially true if you were a member of the team that you are now managing. Your responsibility, as a manager, is to get the job done and the results delivered. You have the freedom as a manager to determine the ‘how’ of getting the results. If you behave like ‘one of the folks’, you’ll be seen and treated that way – undercutting your authority. Without using all of your authority you will not be able to influence the team’s behavior to deliver the results.
- Relationship Development! You have to develop a relationship with each team member – and, you must let go of wanting him or her to like you. You must have enough relationship with each member that you understand why they are on your team, what they want/don’t want, what gets them energized, etc. They don’t have to like you – having them respect you, trust you, and get the results – is the prize. If they like you after respecting and trusting you – that is icing on the cake. If they like you in place of respecting and trusting you, then you have won the booby prize.
- Boundary Setting! You have to have boundaries in your relationships with your team and with work. There should be a distinct boundary between you as the leader/manager and them as the team. This does not mean that you can’t be friendly, but being social friends and managing them simultaneously is difficult. There are times when you have to say something to your team member that you would not say to a friend. This can also turn into situations where a friend is seen as getting preferential treatment. If you are seen as unfair, the team will not trust or follow you. Additionally, you need to keep in mind that you are responsible for their performance reviews and coaching. What boundaries are needed on your relationships so that you can effectively do this part of your job? Lastly, what boundaries are needed so that your work day stops? It is easy to get sucked into all issues as a manager – finding yourself working a full day and then doing email again for 2 hours late at night. This is a sure way to burn yourself out, and find yourself hating the role.
- Performance Process! You need a clear method for setting expectations, confronting poor performance, and rewarding good performance. It sounds so simple, but is rarely done well and/or consistently. People need to know what you expect from them, upfront. It needs to be behavioral and measureable so that they can self-monitor and determine if they are meeting your expectations. With this process, ongoing coaching and development is easier and, there are fewer surprises when doing formal performance evaluation. Bad performance confrontation and good performance reinforcement must be visible. Not confronting poor performance is one of the critical mistakes many young managers make. If poor performance isn’t confronted, then what motivation do the good performers have for continuing their good behavior?
- Resolve Conflicts! You must be an ace at resolving conflict. There will be times when you will feel like the parent of a bunch of 4 year olds or, you will feel like the Secretary General of the United Nations negotiating a treaty. Regardless of the specifics, the faster that you are able to identify, surface, and then resolve conflicts – the better manager you will be and the better your team will perform. Unresolved conflicts fester and ripple out, growing into much bigger issues than if they been resolved earlier. Left unresolved, people tend to make up reasons for why the situation hasn’t been handled, and then they assign motivations – all leading downhill fast. It is much easier to handle the conflict early than to have to recover from it.
These are all things that can be learned. So, if you find that you aren’t satisfied with what you are doing – get some additional training. Or, if you find that managing other people just seems ‘too hard’ – get some additional training. Managing people may never be easy, but with training, practice, and time – you will get better and it will get easier – enabling you to deliver, through your team, higher results than you could have achieved as an individual contributor.
As you take this incredible journey to become the manager you know you can be, don’t hesitate to contact us with how we can support you.