Perhaps you're about to become a new manager — or are already in that role. As you think about your
challenges, what are your expectations? Do you plan to leverage the skill set that defines your expertise and propelled you into management? Will a place in the organizational hierarchy mean more power and influence? While each transition into management is unique, a universal truth applies: Your new role will likely be different from what you expect!
Consider your skill set. You've had years to develop your skills as a doer and can draw on that knowledge to mentor others. But to be an effective manager, you will need to develop new — and
different — skills.
Also, you may have the trappings of authority, such as control over budgets and staffing. But to wield influence and gain the power to make a difference, you will need to earn respect as a manager.
New managers report that the transition into management was more difficult than expected — but
with a definite payoff at the end.
Let's look at five guiding principles to help you cope while making this challenging transition. As
you become a manager, you will need to learn to:
Balance conflicting expectations
Build networks outside your group
Frame problems from an organizational perspective
Measure your success by your group's success, and
Learn to cope with stressful new emotions
How does this play out in practice? Let's take a peek at a new manager, Rajid, on his first day in his new role.
After greeting his group, Rajid opens the door to his new office. The experience of having a knob to turn is, in itself, strange. As an individual contributor in another unit, he had always worked in a cube. Rajid sits down and begins to make a to-do list. First on his list is to follow up with Martin, the senior team member. When Rajid's promotion was announced, Martin asked to meet with him to make an urgent case for purchasing a cutting-edge tracking system. Martin believes the system is essential to successfully managing their complex new initiative. Rajid looked into the matter and has to admit that, although expensive, the tracking system could mean the difference between success and failure. He wonders what Tom, a valued colleague in his old unit, would do.
As Rajid continues with his list, another manager in the unit, Sarah, invites him to go with her to their management meeting and then join her for lunch. During the meeting, Rajid listens as his new boss and other managers discuss the allocation of scarce resources. He can sense the tension as they debate the best ways to respond to recent changes in company strategy. Rajid begins to feel as though he has walked through a door into an alternate universe. He can see that management will be far more complex than simply delivering work. And he wonders if he's up to the task.
As an individual contributor, Rajid was evaluated on the work he did. But now, like other managers in the room, his success will be based on his group's success. He thinks to himself: "No wonder all the
managers are vying for resources!"
Rajid has always been willing to take on more work to get something done. But now it isn't a question of just working harder. He needs to support his group — for example, in this meeting! As the debate
continues, Rajid wants to bring up his group's need for the expensive tracking system. But he can't muster the courage to speak up. He can see that his new boss is concerned about the budget. And he wants to be careful how he comes across on his first day. Rajid has a fleeting thought: "Who do I represent here?" And then he realizes that he must respond to the needs of everyone: his group, his boss, and the organization.
On his way to lunch with Sarah, Rajid regrets his silence. They pass by Martin's cube, where Martin and another group member are talking. They look up, frustrated. Martin explains, "Rajid, this is going to take us months to work out without that tracking system. We could miss our delivery date." Rajid responds, "I'm working on it" — and vows to do so. But how? He knows from the meeting that
resources are tight. He will need to present the organization's changes in strategy and budget constraints to his group. Yet he wants to make a case for his group's needs to his boss. Suddenly, it strikes him that his group may be at a disadvantage simply because he's new. He worries if he'll be able to get up to speed fast enough to give them the support they need.
During lunch, several of Sarah's colleagues stop to chat. It appears that they have volunteered together outside work — and are also working on a cross-company initiative together. Momentarily, Rajid misses his colleague Tom. Then, observing Sarah, Rajid thinks, "People. This job is about people and networking: talking to people, making contacts, working with and through them — as well as
managing a team and running meetings."
By 4 in the afternoon, Rajid is feeling harried — he's barely touched his growing list of to-do's. And
the threat of missing his first major deadline hangs over him like a black cloud. Rajid notices his calendar is filling with meetings — how will he ever get his work done? He's not
used to so many conflicting demands. He thinks: "This is going to be a real balancing act: Managing my time. Managing different expectations. My boss needs to work within a budget. My group needs this expensive system..."
That's when the thought hits him. He calls his colleague Tom and explains the situation. "What can I do to meet this deadline without the system we need?" "Hold on," Tom says. "Don't make any assumptions. I know people at the company that produces that software — they might be interested in
some early adopters. I'll give them a call and get back to you."
At 8 p.m., Rajid closes the door to his office and heads home. His wife is surprised to see him in his work clothes: "You didn't go to the gym after work?"
Rajid explains he won't have time to do that anymore. His wife rolls her eyes. "You're less stressed when you exercise regularly. You may have a group to take care of now — but you better start by
taking care of yourself."
Rajid thinks back on the day, the people, networking — and exercise: "Tomorrow I'll take my running
gear and see whether anyone wants to go for a run at lunch."
What did Rajid learn in his first day about becoming a manager? He quickly began to understand that his new job would involve balancing conflicting expectations, building networks and working
through people, framing problems from the organization's perspective, and measuring his success
by his group's success. And by the end of his first day, he realized that, to take care of his group, he would need to look for ways to take care of himself as well. And so will you.