- Wise Words -
First Time Manager?
here's how to lead the way...
by Lucy Warman
So this is it, you’ve been working hard in your career and you’re great at what you do. People know that you’ve earned your spot on the team. You’ve become the master of your craft and promotion is inevitable. Promotion invariably means leading people and an increase in responsibility; both come with their own challenges.
In this column I want to talk about how best to make the transition from being a fabulous individual contributor to being an effective first time manager.
The Good In A Bad Manager
We’ve all worked for at least one manager with poor leadership skills. I can honestly say that I probably learnt as much, if not more from the bad managers I worked for than the good. One manager I worked for would bellow at the top of his voice as people walked past his office “GET IN HERE NOW” (I used to take an alternative route so I would avoid his office!) He would shout and scream if he was unhappy. He didn’t give clear goals and none of us really knew his expectations and goals.
I just kept my head down and stayed out of the way of him and thankfully he left me to it most of the time. Luckily I was able to motivate and drive myself, as there was no motivation from this guy. Put bluntly, he was a bully. A power hungry bully. Thankfully he didn’t last long, not surprisingly he wasn’t getting the financial results expected due to there being no alignment in the team.
While this was a negative experience, I learned from it. I learned not to shout at people, but motivate them, I learned the importance of setting new goals. I learned that treating people well meant that they would perform.
Nature vs. Nurture: Management Edition
There has always been much debate over whether leaders are born or created. There is no doubt in my mind that there are “Natural leaders” among us, as well as those that may occupy leadership roles, but are far from natural at it. Not all natural leaders are the same, nor do they lead in the same way. Bill Gates, renowned for fostering innovation and creativity in his team was quite authoritarian in his leadership style. He was in charge and everyone knew it, but he always recognised achievement. Conversely Nelson Mandela, another notable leader whose style was transformational, led with honesty, integrity, unity, sacrifice and positivity at the fore. I believe that leadership skills can be honed and developed.
Making the Leap
Seeing the bigger picture of the organisation is the first hurdle when you become a leader. Previously, day to day, you would have been immersed in the detail. Stepping up requires a deeper understanding of the organisations culture, mission and values. A good knowledge of the processes and management structure, as well as who the main stakeholders are will ensure the foundations are in place. A good understanding of the expectations of both you and your team, of the outputs required is essential in keeping you on track.
Another challenge that is best mastered immediately is that of learning how to lead and manage former peers. So many leaders fail because they are unable to make the distinction between a peer and a leader. Being too friendly with the team can make it hard when difficult decisions needs to be made and communicated to the team. The focus is no longer on being popular, more about being respected as a leader. Conversely, being too “bossy” in an attempt to step up as a new leader will result in the team resenting you.
Be humble, accepting that you may make mistakes but also set clear boundaries and expectations. Having been a part of the team, you will know them well which is a bonus, but the balance of power has now shifted and earning respect as a leader takes effort. Realising that you cannot do it all, and need to delegate is also important. People feel trusted and valued when you delegate tasks. Likewise, it is important not to become too hands off, as this will alienate the team. Like everything in life, it’s all about balance! Communication is imperative – ensuring you maintain an open and honest dialogue with the team will encourage them to respect your new leadership role.
Getting the Basics Right
Here are keys to being a successful first, second and hopefully enduring people manager...
Make time for your team: If you don’t already know much about all your team members, get to know them, understand what motivates them. Having empathy as a leader is important and knowing the basics of their life (who they live with, what they enjoy out of work, who is important to them) means you can engage with them as a person as well as an employee. A simple “Hey Dan, did you go surfing at the weekend?” on a Monday morning shows Dan that you take an interest in him as a person and that he is more than just a payroll number.
Set goals, communicate them and provide feedback: To ensure everyone is working as part of the team and towards the bigger picture, it is important to set goals, ensure they are effectively communicated and that you provide feedback on the work and the outcome. This will not only improve productivity but ensure your people have a sense of achievement and team spirit.
Lead by example: Role modelling the behaviour you expect from the team is crucial. Stick to the rules yourself and stay positive. If you talk negatively about the organisation or grumble about a process, your team will think that’s the way to behave. Set a professional standard with your own behaviour. Be careful about what you say. As a leader you may not be able to be as open about your opinions as you were before as this may influence others in a negative way.
Communicate well and establish boundaries: Talking and listening to your team will be key to your success as a leader. Consider what your objectives are and how you will communicate these to the team. Will you have daily briefings, or weekly meetings? Will your door always be open? How often will you have individual coffee chats with your team? Establishing the boundaries is important, ensuring all team members get equal amounts of your time, that there are no favourites and except that the relationships you had are likely to change.
Learning from other leaders you respect and asking for coaching and training will aid you on your journey to becoming a great leader. It’s important to remember that being respected is more important than being popular and that relationships need to evolve as you move up the career ladder.
I hope that this short column is helpful to you either as a first time manager or for the time that you get promoted into the role... good luck!
Related columns: "How to welcome new employees your team", "Surprise your manager. Instead of a raise, ask for a growth plan", "Don't get promo FOMO", "Questions to ask your new manager",
Lucy Warman is Founder of Surge Ahead, a HR & Leadership consultancy.
She is passionate about both the hospitality sector and people, and provides HR, recruitment and leadership coaching support to hotels and restaurants.
Key areas of interest are recruitment, employee engagement and development.
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