No matter what a person’s prior education or experience is, transitioning into a management position is a major challenge. As a new manager, you must think strategically, paying attention to big-picture factors that determine the success of projects, like deadlines or the strengths and weaknesses of your team members. Becoming a manager is the start of an exciting new chapter in your career. With the right strategy in place, you can set yourself up for success as a leader at your company.
The first step in establishing a proper management mindset is to rethink everything you do.
- Task Distribution: To be an effective manager, you need to be more hands-off than in your previous position. You were promoted because you were skilled — technically good at something. However, your role as a manager is not to do the work, but to make sure things get done. Split tasks up among people on your team, assigning duties based on everyone’s strengths. Once tasks are assigned, have faith and confidence in your team. Avoid micromanaging, but keep lines of communication open and be available to help if any issues arise.
- Resource Allocation: As a worker, your responsibility was to use the resources available to you to achieve success. As a manager, your responsibility is to allocate resources to your team in a way that will best ensure its success. Before beginning a new project, make sure everyone has what they need to carry out their role, whether it’s a computer, a specialized app, or piece of equipment. Once your project is under way, issues can arise — be prepared to re-allocate resources and come up with solutions for unexpected problems.
- Your Assumptions: After being put in charge, there is no value in making assumptions about team members based on past performance and interactions. In your new role, you need to set those assumptions aside and be a leader to all the employees who work under you.
- Process for Achieving Success: Lastly, you need to move away from the fixation that revolves around individual achievement and concentrate on one that centers around group success. As a manager, a win for your team is a win for you, because it reflects your effective leadership and ability to get things done.
Once you evaluate how you will approach your new role, you need to answer a series of questions that will inform the framework in which your leadership style functions.
- What do I want my direct subordinates to accomplish? This refers to not only what you want your direct reports to accomplish individually, but also what you want your team to achieve as a whole. Having clear goals in mind will help you more effectively allocate resources and implement a precise plan of execution.
- What do I need to do to achieve those goals? As a manager, it’s your responsibility to allocate resources, assign responsibilities, and make changes to workflow and staffing that ensure project success.
- What is the level of accountability for yourself and your team? A business needs to hold both its managers and workers accountable in order to thrive. That means both sides commit to uphold clarity, honesty, trust, flexibility, and communication as core values. Never scapegoat anyone on your team — understand that as a manager, you are responsible for your team’s output. Just as you’ll be congratulated for a successful project, you will be held accountable for any shortcomings.
The next step in implementing a successful management strategy is to assess the strengths, areas of opportunities, and goals of both yourself and your team.
- Understand Your Skills. Since you are responsible for the life cycle of a new project, you have to understand your strengths as well as your limitations as a manager. If you have specific deficiencies that might result in the project’s failure, you need to work with your superiors and subordinates to overcome these issues. As a manager, you’re not expected to know how to do everything, but you are expected to get creative, ask the right questions, and find solutions for the problems that you can’t solve yourself.
- Understand Your Team’s Skills. You should assess the skills of all of your direct reports in relation to your short- and long-term goals. One effective way to do this is to perform skill inventories for each of your team members.
- Communicate With Your Team. You should have conversations with your team members about what you can do to help them succeed. Don’t just find out what resources they need, but also what impediments are keeping them from doing their jobs.
Expanding And Refining Your Skills Set
During the process of taking a project from conception to fruition, managers should strive to continually expand and refine their leadership skills. The following is a list of suggestions for effectively leading and communicating with direct reports as a manager.
- Set goals. Take time to properly figure out exactly what your goal is and how it needs to be accomplished before bringing it to your team.
- Make meetings constructive. Make sure your individual and group meetings are focused and goal-oriented, not directive-driven.
- Work to defuse interpersonal conflicts before they arise. If that fails, endeavor to resolve these problems quickly and definitively.
- Prioritize clarity in all interactions. The perception that management lacks a clear vision for the future is a key driver of employee disengagement.
- Be approachable and welcome feedback at every step of a project. Soliciting your team for ideas can have a positive effect on everything from productivity to engagement to sales.
- Ask lots of questions. While it’s important not to second-guess your subordinates at every turn, making inquiries that drive things forward, disrupt reflexive assumptions, and highlight problems before they become intractable is mission critical.
- Learn to let go. One particularly challenging aspect of management is accepting that many of the tasks you once took pride in tackling as a worker will no longer be your responsibility. They have been superseded by your responsibility to manage your own time as efficiently as possible.
- Understand that delegation should be a teaching tool, not a form of punishment. Managers should strive to delegate certain tasks to certain workers with an eye toward building up their subordinates’ skills sets.
Suddenly being thrust into a management role can be very challenging, even if it’s something you’ve wanted for a long time. However, by taking a strategic approach to your new responsibilities, you’ll find that they aren’t as overwhelming as they first seemed. In the end, the key to being a good manager is putting yourself in the best possible position to succeed.
By Dr. Lee E. Meadows, Professor of Management at Walsh College
Learn more about Walsh College, Detroit’s all-business school.
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