Were you recently promoted to a management position?
If the answer is “yes”, your promotion may have been based on your stellar record as a technical expert. And while it likely feels great to be recognized for your accomplishments, the experience can also be both overwhelming and stressful since many newly promoted managers don’t yet have the experience, tools or knowledge to support, guide and develop a team effectively.
Before your promotion, your education and acquired skills were directly applicable to what you were being asked to do in your day to day but all that’s changed. Now you’re faced with “less tangible” challenges for which you may be feeling ill-equipped to address. Things may have seemed straightforward on the surface but you’re not achieving the outputs you need. You’re coming face to face with the fact that your promotion was much more than a simple change in your title…
Take a pause and reflect a moment. Remember that you were promoted because of your POTENTIAL. In other words, you have a set of strengths that were deemed important by your leadership for your success as a manager. The first thing to do is take stock of those strengths and play to them…
What are yours? Are you a good problem solver? A good listener? Do people tend to trust you and open up? Do you think critically? Are you analytical or are you adept at seeing the bigger picture? Whatever your strengths are, the find a way to leverage and express them in YOUR unique approach to leading. Start by thinking about what got you where you are now. For example:
· You likely figured things out on your own rather than running to someone else for answers. Likewise, not only are you not expected to have all the answers, by allowing your team members to work through problems on their own first, discovering at least parts of the solution--you’ll be giving them an important opportunity to develop.
· What’s your approach to parsing out the work? Are you someone who takes a directive approach and tells people what needs to be done? Or are you more hands off? Some think that delegating is about telling people what to do and waiting for them to report back. If you’ve tried that you’ve likely been sorely disappointed. Delegation is another great development opportunity. But there are a few bases you need to cover first:
1. When defining the outcome, invite your direct reports to weigh in and be part of the process.
2. Make sure you are crystal clear about what you expect in terms of periodic check-ins (when, how, how often, under what circumstances…)
3. Communicate, discuss, define and align around any other expectations (behaviors, conflict management, deadlines…)
4. Dare to trust. This is fundamental. If you fail to let your team know you trust them to deliver, they will likely fail to deliver. Even worse, they may not trust you in return. So assume the best intentions and if things go awry, you can address it then.
5. One thing the most successful leaders do early on is begin grooming a successor. I know that may seem like a strange thing to be thinking about, but you’ll need someone good under you to be able to move up more easily when the time comes, or free you up to address more strategic issues, or even help maintain the status quo when you’re out of the office. Somehow, thinking about how your team will run without you helps gain perspective on what needs to be done, and what the team’s potential actually looks like.
6. Don’t forget to focus upward too. You were likely an influential force before you were promoted so make sure to continue leveraging that skill as you “manage up”. Behave with your direct manager in the same way (you hope) your team members will behave with you.
· Don’t lose faith. This is an important stage in your professional development—one that requires you to think differently and deeply about your core strengths, your values, and how you want to show up to your leaders, your peers and your employees.