First line manager is the first formal leadership position an individual contributor is promoted into. As you get promoted to this role the first time, you will have mixed feelings. First you will be elated by the promotion, soon the reality of higher responsibility sink in and do realize how tough that transition can be.
Many organizations let people who move into managerial positions, figure out how to swim on their own. When new managers are not supported or developed into this role, they suffer, and so do their teams, then the organization. First time managers are an important part of an organization’s talent and succession management. They are responsible for keeping the culture of the company intact.
Managers are crucial to the success of any organization; but in too many cases, managers are chosen by seniority or how well an individual contributor has been in their current role. However not everyone is intrinsically ready for a management role, excellent individual contributors may not necessarily make good managers.
This article tries to give tips to you to enable you to slide into the managerial role effectively. Good news is that though everyone is not intuitively skilled to manage teams, it is an art that can be learnt and even mastered.
First you need to understand the basics of the managerial role. It is not just to direct people and be their boss. Here are some of the important aspects of management that a new manager should become familiar with. These should help a new manager to settle in quickly.
As a new manager you need to think differently and behave differently compared to your previous role as an individual contributor role. It is important to note that you need to rely on others in the team, not just be self-reliant as you used to be in your previous role. Managers need to be team oriented and big picture oriented, whereas non managers succeed by being individually oriented and detail oriented. In the initial period as a manager it is very easy to get dragged into details and into a do-it-yourself mode especially in the areas that you owned in the past. People with this attitude rarely make good leaders or managers because they have difficulty delegating responsibility. So first rule of a manager is to learn to delegate with appropriate control. Though some junior team members may need hand holding, hence more control and supervision is required while managing junior team members.
Don’t believe that everyone is happy about the choice of you as the new manager. You will be measured initially against your predecessor in the position. If that person’s performance was below par, yours will look great by comparison even if it’s mediocre. If you replaced a highly capable manager, your new role will become that much tougher. Sometime during the first two months on the job, you should plan on having a personal conversation with each of the people in your area of responsibility – not just your team, but also the other cross teams that you need to work with. Give your team a chance to get used to the idea that you are there for them.
It is important to take time to settle in to the new role. One of your first decisions should be to refrain from immediately making changes in the team or its operation unless you have been instructed by top management to go in and make certain immediate changes because of the seriousness of the situation.
Many new managers communicate rather well to their management chain, but rather poorly downward to their direct reports. Be transparent whenever possible, it is very important to keep the team informed about things that they need to know. Don’t share information only with few of the team members. This will make you biased. Do not start acting like ‘the boss’ and begin issuing orders and other directives. That is the first sign of bad management.
Do not use your new authority needlessly – as manager your request carries weight of authority.
If you are not heard, then you may use little bit of authority. Have regular team meetings and use this to get the status of work in your team and also to pass information (if any) from management chain. Also have regular 1×1 meetings with the team members.
One of the initial tasks that a manager has to carry out is to build trust and confidence in the team. The team should trust you and you should trust the team. The initial few weeks should be spent on understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each of the team member. But don’t do it in a hurry. Making the team trust you is far more difficult than you trusting the team.
Making the team a cohesive one that works with one aim, one mission should be your primary goal. It has challenges; you may have come into the team from outside or from within. In the former case, the team would have been in existence and you are an outsider, hence it takes time for the team to understand you and for you to understand the team. Spend more time to get to know the team’s strengths and weaknesses and work on reducing the weaknesses. In the latter case, you might have been a member of the same team and have been elevated to the role of managing the same team that you were part of. In this case the challenge can be higher in getting accepted as a manager as many of the team members would have worked as your peers few days earlier and may not be happy seeing you as their supervisor. In this case you should have open discussion with your earlier peers to make them feel that they are still the assets of this team and you are all still their colleague but with a different responsibility. Your primary aim should be to build a team that is cohesive without internal squabbles. There should be no room for politics in the team.
The new responsibilities that follow you as you become a manager is that you now become responsible for team performance and deliveries; and not just yours. That essentially translates to additional tasks. They are setting goals for your team members, measure performance against these goals. Give feedback on the performance on a regular basis and in a timely manner and not at the end of the year appraisal time. To help your team achieve its targets you need to keep motivating the team. Another very important aspect of a good manager is to be an active listener and make use of these inputs that you receive with your judgment. As a manager you need to learn to deal with change and resistance to change. Managing a diverse group of individuals is another skill that you need to develop as you mature as a manager.
In an enthusiasm to be a good and efficient manager, you may tend to micromanage your staff. Allow your team to do their job without checking on them on a regular basis. Some junior folks who may need hand holding and may also require micromanagement, do it only for them and only for a short time. Micromanagement is sheer waste of your time. And seasoned team players will certainly feel that they need freedom to do their allocated work in peace and don’t want to be asked about status every hour. Of course if someone in the team is not delivering results in a timely manner, they need to be micromanaged. Hence use your judgment.
Personal touch and limits:
Your behaviour with the team members will change once you become a manager even if it is the same team that you worked for before the promotion. You cannot be a person who is jovial with the team and be the boss too. That does not mean that you need to be isolated from the team. But don’t be around them all the time. The team needs time without you being there. And do not involve in any sort of gossip while you are with the team. Although the employee’s personal concerns are important, it is preferable to restrict the discussion to work-related topics. Even if you discuss personal matters, you must avoid getting into a situation where you’re giving personal advice. Having too much of personal touch may weaken you as a manager when you are needed to take tough decisions that are right for the project and the company. Hence it is advisable to keep personal interactions to a minimum.
All in all a managerial role is quite different and challenging from that of a team member and once you understand the subtleties, you can become a successful manager.