The shift into management is an exciting and rewarding change, yet with it comes pitfalls that you need to avoid, and skills you might not be aware of that are crucial for success.
A few years ago a very close friend of mine received a well-deserved promotion to management. He went from being part of a well-oiled software engineering machine to assuming responsibility for, not only the well-being of the technical work in the department, but the management of the team as a whole.
He is very smart, capable, clever, and has a keen eye for both the big picture, and the details, required to support the success of the overall goals. It was an exciting direction for his career....
And yet, he failed...miserably.
The big question is "Why"? He came with an abundance of skill, he knew his team, knew their strengths, but a year later he chose to step out of the management role because it just wasn't working. What follows are lessons that my friend shared with me about what he learned - after the fact - that would've made all the difference.
Prepare for Status Shift
If you have been promoted within your team your former co-workers are now no longer your peers. It is important to re-negotiate your working relationships and establish new boundaries. Some of these people may have been up for the same job and now they 'work for you'. Navigating these relationships requires finesse, skill, and sensitivity. Do this right and you will establish a team on which you can count, and provides support.
Additionally, you may find that you face inner challenges with addressing your new peers - other managers and directors - as equals. Changing status with grace and ease requires an awareness of yourself and how you relate to status in general.
Enhance Communication Style
As a manager it is your responsibility to find effective ways to communicate with each member of your team. The best managers know how to discover what motivates each person and adapts their communication style accordingly.
For example, if some members of your team are introverts you may find that patience combined with direct questions is effective. Versus extroverts who may need a little space for expression combined with directives to help them find focus.
Find out what you need to know to reach and connect with each individual, and learn how to navigate and clear up communication breakdowns within your team as well.
Embrace Decisions & Delegation
Your new role as manager includes being the decision maker as well as delegating responsibility. How do you make decisions? This is vitally important for you to know. What's your process? What do you need to know, specifically, to make a decision? And, just as important, how are you at delegating? You need to delegate successfully - maintaining responsibility while the accountability lies with someone else. Delegating can be extremely difficult for new managers; letting go and trusting that tasks, projects, activities will get done properly. You need to know how to create a culture where you inspire your team to do things the way you want them to be done, because you can't, and shouldn't do it all yourself.
Hire Well/Fire Better
Finding the right employee is an art - similar to finding the right customer. As a manager you need to know what to look for in an ideal employee candidate. This refers to not just the appropriate skill set, but also the characteristics that makes a good fit for the team and company. And, most importantly, how to recognize a star when you see one.
You are also responsible for creating a culture that supports and nurtures great performance. Likewise, you need to know when it is time to cut someone loose, not on gut level, but with clarity and decisiveness.
Give Effective Feedback
Clear and effective feedback for those who report to you is at the cornerstone of great management. You need to create an environment that is open, safe, and respectful, and allows for the flow of effective feedback. It is vitally important to know how to give, both positive and challenging feedback in a way that others will look forward to receiving - regardless of whether it is positive or negative. If you don't know how to do this, find out how.
Find a Good Mentor
In your role as manager it is important to seek out and find a mentor. We all need guidance and a way to share ideas and ask questions. A mentor provides an opportunity to do just this.
The right mentor (someone outside your direct line of command) can help you step into your new role more easily, and allow you to express your fears, confusion, or frustrations without being directly connected to your performance.
Navigating the role of manager is an ever changing experience; having someone that can help you to continue to learn and grow, as well as provide guidance through new challenges can mean the difference between success and failure. Choose wisely.
Each one of these skills is vital to your success; consider each one carefully. At the end of the day it's the challenges you face, the risks you take to learn more, and intentional preparation that brings you closer to your goal.