You have been consistently climbing the hierarchy at your job, demonstrating your technical proficiency and distinguishing yourself as a rising star. Once that rising star ascends into the management constellation, what should you expect? According to Dan McCarthy, “40 per cent of internal job moves made by people identified by their companies as high potentials end in failure.”
All those hours of coding, executing assignments and producing whatever deliverables were asked of you have paid off: you are a “high potential” and now you get to run the whole show. What will be different? It is time to draft a plan and mobilise your resources. As you prepare to lead, consider:
Administrative tasks will demand your time
There will be the new component of increased administrative work, such as status reports, human resources forms and audit compliance tasks. These tasks will always be part of your job description. Now that it is here, know that this administrative work is a necessary part of keeping the gears moving within your organisation. (And now you know that someone was doing it on your behalf all those years before now.) Viewing it as a task to check off early in the day when your energy is high is a more potentially successful and satisfying strategy than squeezing it in when all you want to do is call it a day.
In addition, as someone freshly arrived to the administrative component of your new position, you may unearth obstacles to efficiency or opportunities for consolidation of outmoded processes that others have stopped “seeing.” Share your feedback with your leadership; yours may be the prompt they need to reassess some time wasters.
People management demands will multiply
When the names in the boxes on the organisational chart turn into real live people depending on you for guidance, evaluation and direction, you have found the heart of the difference between your previous position and your new one. Now that you are managing, the demands for you to relate are many. Deborah Ancona, Thomas W. Malone, Wanda Orlikowski and Peter M. Senge say the following about relating: “Traditional images of leadership didn’t assign much value to relating. Times have changed… and in this era of networks, being able to build trusting relationships is a requirement of effective leadership.” The number one piece of advice to heed when it comes to people management is: do not allow situations to fester in airless darkness. Be direct, be proactive, value the fact that relating brings with it as big a return on investment as many of your tangible business efforts will.
You may not get to do what you love most You don’t have to let the requirements of all that administrative work and people management completely displace your connection to the work you love that got you to this place. Paul Glen recommends allowing “indulgences,” meaning you should allow yourself to continue to dabble in the topic that propelled you up the leadership ladder. He continues, “New managers need the opportunity to occasionally dabble in their former work. Let them code just a little” and “revisit the glory days.”
Everyone wants something from you
Being in a position of leadership puts you squarely in the middle of various sets of expectations: your employer, your employees, your vendors. You may feel like an impostor, with a spiffy new title on the outside and the same old practitioner mindset on the inside.
Your former peer now wants a day off when you need him or her to be heading up a new initiative. A subordinate is upset that the revised office floor plan results in less window space. There are rumbles of dissatisfaction from various corners of the building about matters from the trivial to the serious. You may be feeling “this is not what I signed up for.” When encountering issues based on people’s needs, address them while they are small. It is natural for some first-time managers, especially if they do not have formal management training, to think “it will sort itself out” or “it’s not that big a deal.”
There is a component of management that is not delineated on the strategic plan in black and white: the discipline of building connectedness. As Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner say in Encouraging the Heart, “We need to feel connected to others and, in turn, they to us, because greatness is never achieved all by ourselves alone.” Fostering connectedness is as critical as bringing in a new client, writing the perfect program, or staying within budget. If nurturing connectedness makes you anxious, engage a mentor who can help you figure it out.
Remember who you are
Despite the additional administrative work, the challenges of managing people and the distance from being able to practice your skill set, you still owe it to yourself to keep the spark of your individual assets alive. It is easy to get subsumed by the cascade of competing demands. Be deliberate about remaining true to the professional and personal identity you are carving out for yourself.
Many management development workshops offer the opportunity to work on one’s brand or image. Take a few moments to think about what you want to be known for as a manager and how you might operationalise or take specific action on that. If you have a brand to uphold or an image to strive for, and clearly let others know your expectations, there is a better chance your team will feel stabilised and function more effectively and efficiently.
“Tell them what you’re gonna tell them, tell it to them, tell them what you told them” is a famous phrase in presentation training. The reason for it is because people only remember 30 per cent of what you say. If you say it three times you have a better chance of your team remembering… I believe the “tell them” methodology also applies to how a manager should function with their team. Explanation, clarification and setting expectations are critical to ensuring alignment in the team and in achieving deliverables.
A practical way to do this is to have regularly scheduled one-to-one meetings with staff and team meetings as a group. Check in and ask how people are feeling, give regular status updates particularly anything that needs to trickle down from top management. Pre-meeting prep is important to ensure buy-in and to save time in the meetings, and post-meeting follow-up will ensure deadlines are met.
I’m not suggesting you communicate more often, pounding out 80 more emails day (although that may help), but I am recommending that you communicate more thoroughly and consistently so that no information is radically surprising to your colleagues.
Think and act globally
In an ideal world, every manager would do a six-month “study abroad” in a country other than his or her home nation. There is nothing more eye opening than being in another country and realising how differently things work. As much as we might like to believe that the internet makes these kinds of experiences unnecessary, this kind of enriching experience is invaluable in understanding how cultural differences shapes business and purchasing decisions. Anyone who thinks the internet has made the world completely homogenous has probably not spent six months in a country other than the one he or she was born in. Opening your own mind to the differences in cultures will help you understand what kind of perspectives you might encounter in global expansion, international sales negotiations or hiring discussions for a new regional vice president.
Luckily, many firms are creating leadership exchange programmes, mandating the experience and tying performance reviews to international competence. Whether or not your firm has a programme in place, take advantage of opportunities to work abroad. Six to nine months is the norm, but Gene Dul, president of Schreiner Medipharm recommends two years minimum to understand the market. In our book, Business Success in the US Market: Strategy, Market Entry, Culture, he says the following:
“We have intentionally created a mixture of expats from Germany and American employees who have the customer interface. Understanding cultural differences has been very important, recognizing them has been critical for communication with our parent company. My initial thought process was to phase out the expats over time and just have Americans working in the subsidiary but it was quickly evident that we needed to leverage both cultures and now I make sure there are a certain number of expats working in the US facility at all times. And when they sign-on I tell them they need to be here for a minimum of two years. Any less than that just isn’t useful, they don’t have time to understand the culture nor the business in the US.”
Manage up effectively
Too many professionals labour under the same myth: they assume that if they work hard and perform well, their boss will notice. The truth is, every boss has big responsibilities and may be too busy to notice everything their reports accomplish. The boss-employee relationship is a two-way street. Rather than passively wait for recognition, praise and direction, smart employees will proactively build a productive relationship with their bosses.
A few tips here are:
- Regularly schedule time with your boss and hold them to it
- Find opportunities to connect with them on topics outside work
- Learn the art of saying “No”
How will 2016 look for you? It doesn’t hurt to think ahead, especially when it comes to your career development. Ask yourself what you want the people you are now managing to feel about their first year in review as your employee. There is every reason to believe they can feel inspired, motivated and engaged rather than demoralised, deflated and disconnected.
That begins with you. Why not start the moment you finish reading this article, ask your team to share a sentence about how 2016 would look in their ideal world? The information you gather will be the perfect starting place as you plan your next managerial year.