The Road to Management
There are many different ways that people become managers.
Unfortunately, many companies don’t go through a very thorough process in choosing those who will be moved into a managerial position. Often the judgment is based solely on how well the person is performing in his current position. The best individual contributor doesn’t always make the best manager, although many companies still make the choice on that basis. The theory is that successful past performance is the best indicator of future success. However, management skills are very different from the skills one needs to succeed as an individual contributor.
So the fact that an employee is a good performer, even though she demonstrates a pattern of success, doesn’t necessarily mean the person will be a successful manager. Being a manager requires skills beyond those of being an excellent technician. Managers need to focus on people, not just tasks. They need to rely on others, not just be self-reliant. Managers are also team oriented and have a broad focus, whereas non-managers succeed by having a narrow focus and being detail oriented. In many ways, transitioning from the role of an individual contributor to a manager is similar to the difference between being a technician and being an artist. The manager is an artist because management is often nuanced and subjective. It involves a different mindset.
Don’t believe that everyone is happy about your promotion. Some of your coworkers will feel they should have been chosen. They may be jealous of your new position and secretly hope you fail.
Others, the office “yes people,” will immediately start playing up to you. As the chosen one, you can be their ticket to success. Their objective isn’t all bad, but their approach is unfortunate.
Some coworkers will put you to the test early. They may ask you questions to see if you know the answers. If you don’t, they’ll want to see if you’ll admit it or if you’ll try to bluff your way through it. Some may ask you questions you cannot possibly know the answers to, just for the sheer delight of embarrassing you.
Most—you hope the majority—will adopt a wait-and-see attitude. They’re not going to condemn or praise you until they see how you perform. This attitude is healthy and all you really have a right to expect.
This is a good time to make an important point about your own attitude. Many new managers communicate rather well upward to their superiors, but poorly downward to their direct reports. However, your direct reports will have more to say about your future than your superiors. You are going to be judged by how well your team functions—the results your team delivers—so the people who now work for you are the most important people in your business life. Believe it or not, they’re more important to your future than the president of your company. This bit of knowledge has always seemed obvious, yet many new managers spend almost all their time planning their upward communication and give only a passing glance to the people who really control their future.
Building Trust and Confidence
In addition to allowing mistakes and helping individuals see their errors, giving praise and recognition, involving others in the decisionmaking process, and avoiding perfectionism, you, the manager, can build trust in many other ways.
You can share the vision of the organization and the department with your team members. Doing this gives them a clearer picture of what the goals are and how they are helping to meet them.
You can give individuals clear directions. This shows that you know what you are doing and are keeping things on track.
You can share examples of how you have succeeded and what mistakes you have made. Doing that builds rapport and makes you real to your team.
You can talk to each of your team members to learn what each one wants from the job. By doing this, you are demonstrating that you really care and you are serious about helping them advance professionally.
Show Your Appreciation
There are many managers, especially newer ones, who are uncomfortable giving praise. This is to be expected because it may be a new skill for them. In order to become more comfortable expressing appreciation, you have to do it. The more you practice it the easier it will become. Consider some of the following points when giving praise or showing appreciation:
Be specific. If managers want certain behaviors repeated, they need to be specific in the type of positive feedback they give. The more detailed the manager is, the more likely the behavior or action will be repeated. Don’t just say, “Great job last week.” Say, “You really handled that difficult situation last week with diplomacy and good judgment.”
Describe the impact. Most team members like to know how their work ties into the bigger picture or the larger scheme of things such as meeting the objectives of the unit, department, or organization. If it did, let them know how their contributions had a positive effect beyond your team.
Don’t overdo it. Some managers go to extremes and give their team members too much positive feedback. When this occurs, the impact of the feedback is diminished and the praise may seem insincere. Make sure the praise is on target and deserved or it will lose its value.
Being an Active Listener
Active listeners possess several traits and skills, all of which can be developed over time. For one thing, they encourage the other person to talk. When active listeners finally talk, they don’t turn the conversation back to themselves. They continue the other person’s line of communication. They use certain phrases or gestures to signal that they are truly interested in what is being said.
Looking at someone who is talking to you indicates that you’re interested in what the person has to say. Occasionally nodding your head affirmatively indicates that you understand what the talker is saying. Smiling at the same time indicates that you are enjoying the conversation.
The height of active listening is restating what you believe you’ve heard. Restating is powerful for two reasons. It sends a clear message that you are engaged in the conversation and it significantly reduces the chance that you are mistaken in your understanding of what is being said.
To utilize restating, you simply inject yourself after an important point has just been made by saying something like, “Let me see if I understand what you are saying,” then provide your version of what you think you just heard. Once stated, you then ask the person you’re listening to if you got it right. By doing this, you are sending a clear message that you are placing value on what the person is saying.
The New Manager’s Job and Pitfalls to Avoid
Most management experts agree that managers have certain main responsibilities no matter where they work or who works for them. These chief responsibilities include hiring, communicating, planning, organizing, training, monitoring, evaluating, and firing. The better and more comfortable you become with these responsibilities the easier the job of managing becomes. These eight responsibilities are
1.Hiring is finding individuals with the skills or potential skills and commitment and confidence to succeed on the job.
2.Communicating is sharing the vision, goals, and objectives of the organization with your employees. It also means sharing information about what is happening in your department, unit, group, or business community.
3.Planning is deciding what work needs to be done to meet the goals of your department that, in turn, meets the goals of the organization.
4.Organizing is determining the resources that are needed to perform each job or project and deciding which staff members do what.
5.Training is assessing the skill level of each of your employees to determine skill gaps, and then providing instructional opportunities to close these gaps.
6.Monitoring is making sure that the work is being done and that each of your employees is succeeding with projects and assignments.
7.Evaluating is assessing the performance of individual team members, providing them with valuable feedback, and comparing their performance to the levels needed for that person and the team to be successful.
8.Firing is removing people from the team who are not able to make the contributions necessary for themselves or the team to be successful.
Dealing with Your Superiors
Loyalty to employers has become less common. Blind loyalty has never been a good idea, but being loyal doesn’t mean selling your soul. Presumably, your company and your boss are not out to rip off society. If they are, they’re not worth your loyalty. More important, you shouldn’t be working for them.
So let’s assume you’re convinced that your company’s purpose is honorable and you’re pleased to be associated with its goals. The kind of loyalty we’re talking about has to do with carrying out policies or decisions that are morally valid. Let’s assume your position with the company allows for some input into decisions having to do with your area of responsibility. You must make every effort to see that such input is as thoughtful and broadly based as possible. Don’t be the kind of narrow-sighted manager whose recommendations are designed to benefit only your own area of responsibility. When this happens, your advice will be discredited and eventually will no longer be sought because it does not reflect a broad perspective.
If you make recommendations that are broadly based and consistent with the greater good of the company, your advice will be seen as more valuable and be sought more often. The important thing here is that your contribution to the decisionmaking process can go beyond your own managerial level.
Choosing a Managerial Style of Your Own
As a new manager, you should use the “awareness approach” when selecting an appropriate managerial style. In order to be aware, you must use the right amount of control and encouragement for each of your employees.
- Telling employees what to do
- Showing them how to do it
- Making sure that the work is done
- Running interference so employees can do what is expected of them
Some employees need high amounts of control and encouragement, and others need little. Then there are those who fall somewhere in between. In order to use the awareness approach in selecting a managerial style, you have to determine what each of your employees needs from you. That is, how much control and encouragement do they need from you?
The amount of control or encouragement each employee requires will depend on what she is working on or what is occurring in the department. For example, if an employee needs to learn how to operate a new piece of equipment, she will need a lot of control. If there are talks of downsizing and cutting back throughout the company, your team members will need a great deal of encouragement.
No single management style is always appropriate. A situation you are facing may dictate a different style than you would commonly use. When you are confronted with a short deadline emergency for which absolutely no defects are acceptable, you may need to be more directive than usual. By contrast, the start of a major project where you need all team members to agree to the methods that will be used may require you to be more hands-off than normal as you allow a consensus to surface. While you will develop a baseline management style with time, you will need to adapt it in some situations based on the nature of the challenges you are facing.