You have been performing very well at your job for quite a long time. You were hired to solve problems in your area of expertise. And you did it.
You’ve got the respect of your colleagues, managers and, maybe, your external Customers and suppliers as well.
You’ve been committed to your job. You’ve dedicated precious personal time to excel at what you do, long working days, many discussions, and, perhaps some frustrations along the way.
You have become better and better at your role. You have learned a lot and have become what many people in your organization would consider being an EXPERT.
One day, your manager, or HR partner, calls you and say what you may have expected for some time:
“Congratulations! The company wants you to take the role of Manager of…”.
You are excited.
You anticipate the benefits of higher salary, different status, more opportunities…but a strange emotion start building up in your belly: you feel alone.
I compare that feeling with what I experienced during my first solo flight when I was in training for my pilot license: “I’m alone up here and I have to manage properly if I don’t want the plane to crash. Nobody can help me now.”
With different variations, this is the feeling we experience when we are first appointed manager, team leader, or supervisor. We have to manage people, and we never did it before.
And it’s in this transition where many people get stuck, since it involves developing a total different approach to what we do: we have to stop thinking about being the expert and start thinking about achieveing results through others.
When you Manage people, you have to become an expert at Managing people
And this is something nobody taught us before. In high school, technical schools, or universities there are not subjects like ‘How to Lead People’, or ‘The Basics of Managing a Team’. So you have to learn it by your own.
To help making this transition as least painful as possible, I’m sharing three areas you might consider approaching differently:
1. Be conscious about your role has changed
This is far easier said than done. You have succeeded, up to this point, by focusing on the technical part of your job, by becoming better at what you do. And that focus has brought you the possibility of progressing in your career.
By continuing trying to show up as the expert, you will tend to micromanage your team, with all the negative consequences that will bring, like demotivation, limiting their growth, and increasing employee turnover.
Approach your new role as an opportunity to add new skills. The sooner you realize that you need to grow personally and professionally, and you keep open for advice and guidance, the easier this transition period will be for you.
2. Ask for support since the beginning
Not everybody’s example and advice is to be followed, but you are the one who can choose.
Look for a senior person in your organization who is well respected and recognized as a successful manager. Talk to him or her, and ask for support and guidance on your new managerial role.
Sometimes we are too proud, or too shy, to ask for support. It’s not expected from us to know everything, everytime. We all need to learn and grow. Measure your success as your own evolution. Compare yourself with who you were a month, six months, or a year ago. And track your progress.
3. Start developing the new skills required
Like in everything, developing new skills requires a conscious decision and a commitment to a continuous action.
The professional tennis player is developing his or her skills by constant, daily repetition guided by a professional coach. Same as any other sportperson, singer, actor, writer, or public speaker.
Learn from them. Make your intention to improve your missing skills, instead of trying to hide your weaknesses by inappropriate behavior, or micromanagement.
Have always a list of areas you would like to improve on and, purposely, work on the priorities. Only by conscious skill development work you will make your progress into successful management.
With this new mindset, you will be better off than the majority of other people in your same situation.
Action steps for you:
Make a list of improvement areas you need to work on
Order by priority
Decide who you want to approach for support