'Making the big leap to management' as featured in the Sunday Business Post 'Career Moves' section

Enjoyed writing this piece for the Sunday Business Post, 'Career Moves' section.

'Making the big leap to management'

Creating a good momentum within the first few weeks in a new management role is critical, small strategic action steps in the short term can make a significant impact on long term goals and quality of results. Often new managers, struggle with a number of aspects including, getting up to speed with the company culture, understanding departmental processes, diagnosing current challenges and long-term opportunities for the organisation.
The first 3-6 months are a crucial period in establishing yourself as a credible and influential leader within the organization and gaining the respect and support of your team. How you handle both yourself and key relationships plays a big factor in management success or failure.

The team dynamics change and it’s important you make the transition from peer to manager as smooth as possible to engage your team and maintain confidence in your new role as their leader.  One of the best ways to quickly establish your credibility as a manager is to meet with your team initially as a group and schedule 1-to-1s with each individual member. While it’s important to translate your vision and your plan to manage the team, initially thread lightly, it’s vital to really listen to your team from the onset and recognise individual effort. There may be disappointed competitors who now feel de-motivated working for one of their former peers. Clearly indicate how you value their expertise and that you will support their further development and genuinely have their best interests at heart. Be authentic and nurture existing relationships on the team, simple recognition coming back to people regularly acknowledging their good work, builds trust and support.  

A shift from ‘doing’ to ‘managing’ starts with setting clear expectations for both the team and yourself. New managers often forget they have a team of highly skilled people they can assign tasks to but instead they often continue to do everything themselves. Some managers also experience the fear of losing control or authority; this approach unfortunately leads to burnout and micro management. Remember the team are also adapting to the change in management style. Your team and the success of it are often a direct reflection of yourself, take responsibility, manage and lead with clear expectations and your team will respect you for it. Recongise good work and find ways to let people help you. Delegating tasks to the appropriate people is one of the most important skills you can develop as a new manager. Identify team members who have relevant skills to complete a variety of tasks easily and quickly and let them know how much you appreciate their help. This frees up your time, particularly in those early weeks for high level activities such as planning, thinking, networking and reading, which are often pushed to the side when you’re ‘too busy’ getting to grips with the new role.

One of the main things I hear from managers is they are focused on the short-term ‘to-dos’ at the detriment of long-term strategy. I suggest clients conduct a regular ‘Check-in’ every 3 months; ask yourself questions to monitor progress, reflect on achievements, build strategic networks, explore next steps aligned to business objectives, define actions required and engage the help of others. This allows you to both reflect on your successes to date and strategically plan ahead.
One of the models I recommend for managers taking over a new team or a poorly performing one is Bruce Truckman’s five stages of group development including ‘forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning’. This model assists managers understand what stage their team is at, what they need to do to move the team through the various stages and identify actions to optimise the team’s performance. The model can also be used in conjunction with your team, allowing for open and honest communication, collective idea generation and overall team recognition and goal achievement at each stage.
As the Storming stage suggests, there is often tension, conflict and confrontation between people during this phase - I encourage managers to focus on the task at hand, while increasing both their own and the team’s levels of Emotional Intelligence (EI). Responding appropriately to the emotional needs of others, determines your self-awareness as a manager, resolves conflict, and increases collaboration and co-operation.  

Have some fun – managing a new team is serious stuff but it’s also important to add some humor. It’s OK to be witty once it relates to the job, never make it personal. Humor is a leadership character trait, which used professionally can put people at ease particularly where there is tension on a new team.

Moving into management isn’t easy; it takes responsibility in raising standards for yourself and others, continuous reflection on your development and the ability to inspire others - good Management development essentially creates great Leadership. 

Louise Nevin is a Career & Executive Coach – helping professionals and executives transition successfully into Leadership and Senior Management positions– see www.louisenevin.com


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