October 23, 2008

Transitioning to Management

As an HR and management consultant, I am often asked about the transitions that a person who is promoted to manager must go through. To help as many new managers as possible, I have taken the advice I typically share and compiled it into my new book The Management Map: Navigation Tools for the New Manager. The paracrgahs and bullets below are selected excerpts from chapter 1 to help you understand that others on the journey to management experience the same concerns and doubts that you do.
The job change from individual contributor to manager may seem as if it occurs instantly, with no time to adjust. On Friday you were on the team, “one of the guys,” so to speak. On Monday you are the manager of the team. This situation is very typical and presents a number of interpersonal challenges as you interact with your team members. You have been given the responsibility and the power of authority based on your position. Although you have this power, you may not be quite sure how to handle it.
Here are a few traps many new managers may experience:
  • Carrot and Stick: Many managers believe that to get their team members to do something they must either offer an incentive (a carrot) or threaten them (a stick). It is important to remember that as their manager you have the power and authority and can merely ask your team in a respectful way to get the work done. There is an implicit understanding that when a manager asks for an assignment to be completed, it must be done.
  • Apologetic: If managers are uncomfortable with their authority, it may lead them to apologize when giving assignments. There really is no reason to apologize in this case because as a manager one of your roles is to delegate work and assign duties and responsibilities. Your team members might see your apologies as lack of confidence. Simply use a professional tone of voice and provide a good explanation; your authority to give the assignment is inherent in your title.
  • Buddy and Pal: Buddy and Pal behaviors typically occur when new managers are promoted from within the same department where they previously worked as frontline employees. As a manager, you are privy to confidential information that cannot be shared with others. Also, if you treat your friends differently from the rest of your team members there may be a perception of favoritism, which will impact trust in your department. It may be helpful to have a private discussion with friends in your department and ask for their cooperation in your new assignment. True friends will adapt to the change and do everything to support you in your new role.
  • Do-it-Myself: You may have been promoted because you had the best skills in the department. The trap this presents is the tendency to want to continue to do the work yourself. You may have thoughts such as “By the time I tell him how to do it, I can do it myself,” or “If I want this done right, I must do it myself.” The long-term consequence of always doing it yourself is your team members will not have the opportunity to develop their skills. In addition your team members may not take the initiative because they know you will just take over the task. Doing the work that should be done by your team members also doesn’t allow you time to develop your new managerial skills.
If you find yourself in one of these traps, don’t worry, you are not the first manager to encounter them on the management journey. With this new awareness, you can begin to climb out of the typical new manager trap and take positive action to substitute other behaviors and become the role model you envision.

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