Is it a promotion when you’re being reassigned from being an individual contributor to a managerial position? Having recently discussed the role of a manager with several people about to step into it for the first time, it looks like too often people think that it is. I’m here to tell you (as I told them) that this isn’t necessarily the case, and the sooner you understand it, the better off you’ll be. The one thing that’s universally true about becoming a manager is that your responsibilities change. Whereas before you were responsible for your own work, now you’re responsible for the work others do. The criteria for your success and failure are now different.
So how do you adapt? How do you take your first steps as a manager without falling down (too many times)? In this post, we’ll discuss the transition to a management role within your own team/organization. Some of these tips can also be used if you are starting a new role in a new organization, of course, but that comes with its own unique challenges.
What has changed?
You are no longer just handling the execution. You are now a leader and a mentor, and as such, you have to pay attention to your team beyond assigning tasks. Each of them has things they want to achieve in the near future, long-term goals, strong and weak points — you’re there to help them on their professional journeys while balancing their needs with those of your company.
You can’t do everything by yourself anymore. Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks you used to do alone. It will free up the extra time you’ll need —- and you will need it — for your new tasks. Delegating also enables you to create growth opportunities for your team, which should always be your highest priority.
Relationships have changed. People who just yesterday were your colleagues are now your reports, and it might feel weird at first. This is natural, and you all need time to adjust. The important thing is to be aware of the change and not ignore it. You’re now a manager, and your voice and opinion must get different amplification. Remember that both you and your reports need to get used to the new situation, and change takes time.
Where should I begin?
Build trust. Your team needs to trust you, and you need to trust them. Scheduling regular one-on-one meetings with your direct reports is beyond recommended — it’s crucial. These meetings are your opportunity to talk about their professional goals and how you can help them get there. If you invest in their future, it's likely they'll feel more invested in the work they do.
Show empathy. In your new role, you will face situations you’ve never experienced yourself. Some of them will be difficult for you to relate to. Try anyway. Be empathetic, offer support or help if you think a team member is asking for it — even if you don’t understand it. Your team’s well-being is important when they’re your colleagues, but even more when they report to you.
Constant feedback is essential. Both for you and for them. Don't wait for an annual review to let your reports know what they are good at and what they can improve. It is vital that you also make an effort to assess your own strengths and weaknesses, helping yourself grow over time. Don’t be afraid to ask your employees for constructive feedback so that you can identify areas where you may need to improve. This will not only help you set goals for yourself, but it will also show your employees that you value their input and care to grow.
What should I avoid doing?
Don't act as if you have all the answers. Even if you think you do, you're probably wrong. The key is to listen before you act. Especially when you just entered your new role.
Don't rush into changes. Try to read the situation, and understand what works well and what needs to be changed. Most importantly, try to pinpoint the anchors of your team and avoid breaking them. When you've done collecting your observations, come up with a plan, and try to get your team’s feedback. There's no weakness in looking for ways to improve.
It's all about setting expectations
With your manager
It's vital to have a conversation with your manager about their expectations of this role. You can also learn about your new targets or issues that need your immediate attention. Make sure to have a scheduled meeting with your manager so you can receive feedback and see if you're heading in the right direction.
With your team
During your first meetings with your direct reports, understand their immediate needs and things they want you to be aware of. You should also ask them what they think you should be focusing on. Write some notes; those would probably be your tasks for the near future.
Another thing you need to understand with each of your reports is how they like to be managed. There are different types of management styles, and not all are suited for everyone. Try to spot who requires a more micro-management approach and who will thrive just by setting clear goals.
You’re not expected to know everything. Ask for help when you need it, own up to mistakes, and graciously accept any feedback. Remember that you got this job for a reason. You are capable of dealing with the challenges along the way. Believe in yourself. It's also recommended to find yourself a mentor that can advise and help you grow into your new role. Their advice will be priceless.
Being a manager and a leader (which are not the same things) requires you to care about your team, listen to their thoughts and wishes, set your goals and run towards them.
You'll sometimes fail or will make mistakes; it's okay. Don't let it take the wind out of your sails, but use it as a growth opportunity and make sure you learn from it and become a better leader.