On Becoming A New (Great) Manager
You have spent years honing your skills and mastering the routines of your profession. You are up for promotion to management and about to step out of the trenches of tedium and into a new role with new responsibilities. While you will parlay your previous experiences into this new role, there are many new responsibilities you will inherit, some of which, you may lack the experience and expertise to execute effectively. Now what?
Understanding the Value of the Manager
Understanding the value you will offer in your new role is vital to you and to the success of your team. Studies indicate that less than 1/3 of employees are engaged in their jobs and found that companies with the highest engagement, came from employees in teams where their managers shared daily one-on-one communications. By providing reliable and meaningful communication with your team, you can improve the overall effectiveness of the team.
‘Vast numbers of employees are disengaged. By “disengaged,” I mean not emotionally committed to the organizations they work for, and therefore in all likelihood not highly motivated and fully productive.’ — Victor Lipman
In addition to engagement, employee retention is crucial to the success of any manager. It is often heard, “people leave managers, not companies”. If you are looking to quantify and qualify value, look no further than this. When people are unhappy they will leave. The cost associated with losing an employee can range from “tens of thousands of dollars to 1.5–2X annual salary”. This can be compounded when the flood gates open and other team members begin leaving. Your job is to make a hospitable place for everyone, to make people feel comfortable being a part of a team, and to make people feel as if they are contributing.
‘…we have to remember that people are what we call an “appreciating asset.” The longer we stay with an organization the more productive we get — we learn the systems, we learn the products, and we learn how to work together. ‘— Josh Bersin
Styles of Management
I like to think that there are three styles of management employed by managers, those that favor:
- their bosses
- their employees
While I believe there are circumstances that require all three styles of management, I personally prefer managing to favor my employees. What this means is that I make a conscious effort to make decisions and conditions that include benefit for my employees first. I firmly believe that this approach produces a bottom-up result where all members of the chain of responsibility enjoy credit. Whereas, managing up, or to yourself only produces value for one’s self, and limits the scope of those who were involved. Of course, when things are not going well, limiting scope to yourself and taking the responsibility for the actions of your team goes a long way to establishing respect, commitment, and a resolve from your team not to put you in that situation again.
“Covering for employees can be painful and risky for a boss, but it can be remarkably effective. It engenders loyalty by demonstrating that you aren’t just spewing out hollow rhetoric about trying to protect them.” — Robert I. Sutton
You’re now responsible for the personal and professional lives of others. Personal lives? Yup. You’re part counselor, part coach, and part ringmaster. The percentage of responsibility of each depends on the day, the alignment of the stars, the cycles of the moon. A good manager acknowledges the individuality of their team and uses that to promote a harmonious work environment.
From time-to-time you will encounter employees going through personal issues that, no matter how hard they desire it, they can not leave them at the door. This requires strong empathy and patience on your part. These issues may affect their performance and attitude. Your ability to support them and create an environment where they can communicate with you will strengthen the trust and confidence in your relationship.
Hold regular one-on-ones. Schedule them in advance and block them on the calendar. You do not always have to meet, but carving out the time and making your self available is important to your team members. Prepare questions in advance that allow them to convey their own thoughts, concerns, and ideas. ALWAYS ask for feedback, ask them how you might improve as their leader or mentor, and then demonstrate improvement from their feedback.
“one-on-one meetings aren’t just about checking in on daily work. They’re about getting to know the people you work with better. They’re about discussing higher-level things: feedback, career goals, professional development, and the like” — Eric Greenawald
Help grow your team members by strengthening their experience and skill set. Build a roadmap for them to succeed with distinct waypoints. Be explicit and transparent in the process they need to reach the next level. At every moment, help make them more valuable to their future opportunities — inside or outside the company. The more you take care of them, the more they will take care of you. And, hey, who knows, you may want to leave someday and they might need a new manager at their next company.
Find a Mentor
Are there any leaders in your social or professional circle that you admire? Reach out in-person or through linkedIn and ask if they willing to mentor you. An integral part of the growth of a leader requires that they help mentor others. More than likely, they’ll be flattered by the offer and will begin working to help improve your knowledge and experience.
86 percent of executives say having a mentor is important for career development — Business News Daily
Business News Daily offers the following five tips for fostering mentor relationships:
- Choose the right one: When searching for a mentor, think about those you want to emulate. Individuals within your own company may be better-suited to explain office politics and the differing personalities in your organization, while external advisors can serve as a sounding board and help teach you about industry trends.
- Follow up: In order for the relationship to work and grow, you need to make it a priority to stay in regular contact with your mentor. The key is finding a frequency that works for both of you. Contact doesn’t always have to be made face to face. Try sending occasional emails to update your mentor on how things are going or to ask a question when you run into a problem.
- Be prepared: When you do meet with your mentor, the last thing you want to do is waste his or her time. To ensure you cover the ground you want to, consider setting an agenda before the meeting. The more specific you are, the better the outcome.
- Be appreciative: It’s important to let your mentor know you are grateful for the guidance. Mentors want to feel like they are providing value. Be sure to frequently tell your mentor how his or her assistance is helping you.
- Know when it’s time for a change: Mentor relationships don’t have to last forever. Schedules, new career paths and major moves could all change the dynamics of the relationship. When you see signs that the mentorship has run its course, it’s OK to find someone else. It’s important, though, to avoid ending on bad terms or severing ties completely. Your mentor can always serve as a valuable contact.
Become a Mentor
One of the best ways to be held accountable to improving, is to be accountable to someone else. Become a mentor to someone else. You have wisdom and experience that has brought you to where you are. Use that to bring others forward. The value of this is immeasurable for you and the mentee.
Forbes offers the following 7 ways to be an effective mentor:
- Develop and manage the mentoring relationship: Initially, this involves assessing your own readiness and interest, selecting someone to mentor and getting to know each other. Over time, it means working to build trust, set goals and keep the mentoring relationship on track.
- Sponsor: Opening doors and advocating for your mentee can allow her to develop new skills and gain meaningful visibility. You can create and seek new opportunities for her and connect her with people in your network.
- Survey the environment: Mentors keep a watchful eye on the horizon, looking for both threatening organizational forces and positive opportunities. You want to be on the lookout for include rumors, people taking an adversarial position relative to the mentee, shortcuts through the system, low-visibility or no-win assignments and high-visibility or win-win assignments.
- Guide and council: You may serve as a confidant, sounding-board and personal advisor to your mentee, especially as the relationship grows deeper over time. You may help your mentee understand conflict or explore ways to deal with problems, for example. You also can warn your mentee about behavior that is a poor fit with organizational culture.
- Teach: Many mentors enjoy the teaching aspects of mentoring, which mean not only imparting their knowledge but also sharing their experiences and recommending assignments.
- Model: Just while observing you mentees pick up many things: ethics, values and standards; style, beliefs and attitudes; methods and procedures. They are likely to follow your lead, adapt your approach to their own style, and build confidence through their affiliation with you. As a mentor, you need to be keenly aware of your own behavior.
- Motivate and inspire: Mentors support, validate and encourage their mentees. When you help your mentees link their own goals, values and emotions to the larger organizational agenda, they become more engaged in their work and in their own development.
Leaders are not birthed from the womb, they are learned throughout their lives. One of the best things you can do for your own experience is to read, and to read everything. Read books, newspaper, magazines, blogs, even cereal boxes!
Don’t have time? Everyone has time. According to Medium, my last post reads 4 minutes. You cannot find 4 minutes in your day? C’mon! There are countless pieces of content that can be read in mere minutes. Do you commute? Do you walk from the parking garage to your desk? Try an audio book or a podcast. There are no excuses!
Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it. — Warren Buffet
Reading does several things; while it brings new content and perspective to your life, it also improves vocabulary, writing, thought construction, and has been shown to reduce stress. You’re going to need all of that in your new role. Being well-read will round your character and make you a more effective leader and communicator.
Simply, reading gives you tools in your analytical toolbox. It helps make you a better thinker. — Kenna Griffin
Books I highly recommend:
- Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
- First Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
- Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman
- Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Seek out training, seminars, or meetups that focus on leadership. Find ways to learn to be a better leader. More than likely, there’s a leadership meetup somewhere in your own backyard. Learn how leaders in similar industries are managing and growing their teams. Too often, people are promoted to the title of manager and forget (or never learn) that management is a profession, it requires continued education.
If you are a leader, you should be striving to develop knowledge to improve yourself, your company, and the people who work for you. To do anything less is to shortchange your ability to lead. — Kelsey Meyer
Pardon my rudeness, all these words and I haven’t even congratulated you yet — Congratulations on your recent promotion! I wish you well on your journey. Keep learning and improving and remember that to be a manager is more than a title, it’s a profession and it’s a responsibility.
“Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination.” — Drake
Do not be stagnate. Be bold and be honest. Be assertive and be compassionate. Be the manager that you have always wished that you had had. You are culturing future leaders yourself. So, lead them by example. Be approachable and be vulnerable. Be reasonable and be helpful. And, above all else, have fun while doing it — it is contagious!