If you are like the rest of the world, getting promoted to the managerial level is probably part of your career plan. You may or may not have everything in life figured out, but it’s pretty straightforward when it comes to climbing up the corporate ladder: you manage your work extraordinarily well and you make evident contributions to the organisation’s overall success. With extensive experiences in your previous role, your strong relationships with the team, and outstanding achievements after years of hard work, you know that you are ready for this new chapter of your career.
While there are many different criteria to determine your leadership capability, you’ll only get to learn and develop your skills more thoroughly when you actually walk in a manager’s shoes. Being a great employee is very different than being a great boss. Here are the main challenges facing you in the transition to the higher level.
Delegate work effectively
Just because you make a great employee doesn’t mean you have to continue handling all the work as a manager. That’s not leadership, that’s knowledge (or tasks) hoarding. You may think that it’s natural to do what you’re good at but failure to give your inferiors equal opportunities to progress will eventually stifle the team. You need to approach an assignment from a leader’s perspective, stop trying to do everything yourself.
Start by learning about the players in your team, discover every individual’s strengths and weaknesses, working styles and expectations. From there, you’ll be able to assign tasks in a way that will enhance the workflow and maximise the team’s productivity. Oftentimes, it is expected of you to provide adequate training to ensure that everyone is able to perform the given tasks even better than you do.
Define clear goals and give directions
When you switch from being a follower to a leader, a lot of things will (and have to) change with you. It is now upon you to create new goals for the team and make sure that things are done properly. You may find it awkward to give directions to your colleagues as their new boss, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. A manager’s job is not just setting rules, they grow the company by setting goals. Smart goal setting is also the key skill that differentiates extraordinary leaders from the mediocre ones.
First things first, discuss with your supervisor on their expectations for your team, not just for you, so that you’ll understand where an individual team member would fit in the bigger picture. Also, be mindful of your language when requesting for something. New managers certainly don’t want to come off as bossy, so their directive often sounds like an advice: “It would be nice to have it done latest by Monday”; but an impactful leader would say: “Please submit the clients list by 4 pm on Monday so that the marketing team can plan out the first proposal.”
Develop your own management style
As mentorship is the most important factor contributing to a successful leader, new managers often seek to emulate their mentors while manoeuvring through the early stages of the role. However, if you restrict yourself in that mould for too long, you won’t be able to drive success in the team with your leadership. In order to see improvements, there must be a difference in the first place. It’s important to discover a management style that works best for everyone as well as for yourself. The way you manage your team will also set the stage for work culture. Your role as a manager is less about monitoring performance but more about empowering people and helping them accomplish their goals.
So don’t be afraid to implement new things, say a new work-from-home policy or new team activities, as you’ll only hold yourself back if you keep following a well-trodden path into leadership. It takes experiments (lots of them), practices, and even failure to establish your influence as a new leader. A rule of thumb is to know which area of work requires an intervention as soon as you define your team goals.
Give constructive feedback and motivate your team
The biggest change that comes with a flashy new managerial title is probably the performance review task. This is also one of the most fundamental skills that will prove your leadership capability. It’s not the facts and figures that matter, it takes a full understanding of a person’s professional background, career goals and attitudes at work to evaluate his or her performance. Inexperienced managers only see the tip of the iceberg, they recognise a person’s work results as they are and fail to realise what’s beneath all that achievements.
You can’t rely on a system to determine how well someone is doing their job. Yes, results speak for themselves but without a clear understanding of the individual’s expectations and goals, you won’t be able to motivate them to reach new heights. Performance review is meant to develop people, so don’t confine a person’s career growth within your company by focusing on how much they can contribute to your company alone. Enable them to explore their desired career path through periodic check-ins with constructive feedback. Sometimes, even a simple pat on the back for a job well done can make a whole lot of difference.
Put them all together, you’ll realise that a new manager’s biggest challenge is not to increase the company’s profits, but it’s the ability to ensure both the team’s success as well as an individual’s growth in that team.