If you are like most people the decision to be given the opportunity to manage is more than likely based on your past performance and the belief that you can achieve much more in a new role.
In my experience promotion of the best sales person, the best support person or the best technical person to a managerial position is something that the hiring manager/recruiter and prospective candidate should think really long and hard about.
A person that performs well in a particular individual contributor role may not be the best candidate for a manager.
Many people successfully make the transition to management but an equally large number struggle and periodically fail. The skills required by a manager, to be successful are fundamentally different from those of the individual contributor and even if the candidate has the aspirations of management, they may not have the ability.
Consider some of what I believe to be home truths about successfully transitioning into a management role and being a successful manager.
It has to be said that if you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else? Getting a new job title, work space, goals and job description are just that, acquisitions. You still need to make the psychological shift. This means that you need to continue to be approachable but extricate yourself from your previous function and role. That’s hard to do if you have been internally promoted within the team. You must change your thinking about your work and those around you. While a manager that can do the job of his team is a great asset, your new role would typically remove you from that responsibility and place you in a new position where you have to manage and motivate a team of people to work as hard as possible to successfully meet your teams goals. As a manager you now need to act the part.
The change is often a challenge and initially you may lack confidence in your ability to perform. Ones’ confidence is often the first thing to flag and it can come as a major trauma to realize how little you understood the relationship between your work and that of your colleagues and other entities, business units and business partners. If you were a high flying member of the team, your ability to shine dims as a direct consequence of no longer being an individual contributor in your past role. Prepare for this eventuality and instead look to how you can elevate your game in your new role.
In your new role, understanding what you expect from your team and what your own manager or boss expects of you is key to being successful. If you are unsure about what your boss expects from you, you need to ask, often-times you will be asked to set the expectations yourself. This may be a test of your understanding of the role but it could also be that your own manager is not entirely sure what he can or should expect from you. Consider your role as an individual contributor and understand how those tasks fed into team success and ultimately kept your manager or supervisor off your back. Align those with role and abstract that into something that translates into overall organizational goal setting and you are well on the way to setting expectations.
In any new role, you are likely to be eager to please. There is an implicit expectation that in your new role you will likely make some changes to how things get done. Simply moving into a role and doing exactly what those before you have done, is unlikely to win you any accolades. Everyone wants to be liked but no-one wants to disappoint. Being reliable and dependable, mature and considered in your role is important and part of that is making pacts with your direct reports, peers, partners and managers. This means committing to reasonable requests and demands but not over promising or over committing yourself especially around tasks, objectives or deliverables. Consider your pacts carefully, in the long term you need to be trusted and trust begins with making promises that you can keep.
In for the long haul
Every new manager wants to be a success and as I said already, there is often the expectation that you will bring evoilution and change in the team and the work of the team. Change doesn’t need to be immediate and fact high velocity change can be problematic, it can introduce team anxiety, volatility and destabilize. Consider the changes you want to make carefully, evaluate their need and impact and formulate a transition plan. Start slow and steady and grow the changes, sweeping changes overnight are unlikely to be a popular decision. Remember that you’ve changed your role and you are now in for the long haul.
You’re not alone
Newly appointed managers often fall into the trap of believing that they are alone in their role but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Often your manager will have done your job before you or there may be someone who has moved to a new role in the organization that was previously in your new position. Seeking out a coach is a good way to sift through your thoughts and challenges in your new role. A coach can be a mentor, a buddy and a confidant – they may be a peer or a group of peers. Don’t assume it always has to be someone in your organization, look outwards to, to people you have worked with and admire. Such people can reflect your thoughts and act as sounding boards especially if you’re a manager in a larger enterprise.
Whatever you do in the end, have fun doing it and remember – your work life is your life work – enjoy it or do something else!