If you’ve recently gained a new management role for the first time either via a promotion or job search at another company, transitioning from ‘one of the team’ to management level can be a daunting process.
Of course, you’ll want to start your new position filled with confidence and positivity, but many employees making a move into leadership can struggle to undertake every facet of their new role at first without a little help.
Here’s some expert advice on how to manage your management career move in five simple steps:
Change your mindset
As a member of the team, you’ve had years of experience in contributing to the overall business goals and objective. Although this is always a useful skill to have, as a manager or leader you’ll need to completely overhaul your mindset and begin to see your role as more as an orchestrator in addition to being a contributor to this success.
Your job is no longer just about doing the best you possibly can do with the tasks assigned to you as part of your role, it’s now your responsibility to support, mentor and motivate those around you to do their best work too.
Nurturing a positive culture of coaching and support so that your team can rely and trust you to help them achieve their goals is a cornerstone of good leadership. It’s essential that you remember that you’re now the go-to guy or gal that the team depends on to help them overcome any challenges they might face.
You’ll also need to start practicing the art of delegation and recognizing that you can’t do everything yourself. This will mean putting your trust in your team members to carry out the work to their best abilities. Further, you’ll need to identify any skills gaps that are holding them back, and coach them so that they can be successful in their roles.
Provide balanced feedback
As a new manager, you’ll need to be able to provide your team with balanced, regular feedback on their performance. This not only means that you’ll need to be diplomatic and fair in your approach to delivering this, but you’ll also need to keep an eye on their performance, attitude and general motivation at work in order to provide a balanced outlook.
Instead of seeing feedback as a negative thing that only needs to happen when someone does something wrong, see it as a positive coaching tool. Keep in mind that feedback is designed to help someone grow. For example, if a coach gives an athlete some pointers to help her to improve her jump shot, it’s not a bad thing. Instead, it’s designed to make her even better. By giving feedback with care, (and making sure not to overlook opportunities to provide positive feedback), people will be better able to “hear” it and use it constructively.
If you do this on a regular basis, you can help your team overcome challenges, support them in their professional development and stop certain issues festering until they become much bigger problems that can cause a hindrance to productivity later on down the line.
The best teams have strong working relationships with their managers based on loyalty and trust. These relationships don’t just appear as soon as you land the job. Instead they take time to nurture. Therefore, don’t focus all of your attention on getting tasks done, as you could be missing out on the opportunity to forge these strong bonds with your team.
Remember, you don’t catch flies with vinegar, so be kind, supportive and willing to listen to your team, and in return, you’ll gain their trust and loyalty.
Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your team isn’t enough to be a great leader; you need to recognize them in yourself too!
Being aware of your own individual talents and using them intentionally to benefit yourself, your team and the business as a whole is key to excellent management.
If you’re a people-person, then use your interpersonal skills to inspire your team. If you’re good at getting things done, then use your strong planning and organizing skills to help set efficient processes in your department. If you’re creative, help your team to solve problems in new ways.
Occasionally, it can be easy to lose sight of our own strengths and weaknesses as we are too busy managing our team to focus on our self-awareness. Because of this, we’ve created a leadership style quiz to help you gain this awareness and get you thinking about the areas where you excel and how you can use these strengths to benefit your entire department.
Give it a try here and discover where your strengths lie.
Have a leadership vision
Fire fighting or just tackling challenges that come up day to day, will leave you in a position of simply reacting to the demands of your environment. Stay in this mode all the time, and you’ll limit your success as a leader. Instead, take time to think strategically about your vision for your area.
Having a leadership vision can help you to plan for the future, anticipate and overcome challenges, and be intentional about developing a culture for your department. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to get some inspiration on the type of leader you aspire to be.
Knowing how you want people to feel around you, the type of values you want to promote in your department and how people perceive you as a manager is an excellent place to start, so why not spend your spare time on a little leadership reading or read our recent article on the consummate leader here?
After all, it’s so much easier to create a plan of action when you have a final goal in mind. Therefore, make sure that you read as much as possible and talk to others who have also transitioned from doer to leader. That way, you can learn from their journey and use it to point you in the right direction as you settle in to your new management role.
For some other advice that will help you to perform at your peak as a leader, consider taking my Management Essentials Course. Learn more about it here.
Even the most productive of us can wonder how we’re going to achieve a seemingly never-ending to-do list at work. With numerous tasks and projects being juggled on a daily basis, many of us can find ourselves tied to our desks long after we should have clocked off and gone home for the day to see loved ones, relax and enjoy a favorite hobby.
But what if I told you that it’s often not the amount of work that’s holding you back, but the little distractions that are sapping your time and preventing you from being your productive best?
Even just a few moments of distraction or not planning your time properly can have a big impact on when you finish work and head home. Try these tips to wave goodbye to those annoying daily time drains and usher in a new, super productive you!
There’s no doubt that digital technology has helped immensely in the workplace, but boy can it be distracting!
From picking up your cell phone every 20 minutes to check for missed calls to swooning over your friend’s latest vacation to Hawaii on social media, these few stolen moments at work can soon add up and leave you wondering why you’ve got so little time to complete the tasks you’ve got lined up for the day.
If missing deadlines and falling behind on your workload is becoming a bit of an issue and you find yourself frequently taking work home with you or eating dinner at your desk each day, it’s time to banish these digital distractions and put those devices we rely on so much back where they belong!
Leaving your cell phone in your purse or bottom desk drawer and out of sight can help you concentrate on the task at hand and not become distracted each time someone responds to your early morning Tweet.
It’s all too easy to reach for the phone as soon as a message or alert pops up on screen, so if you put it somewhere that you can’t see it, then you’re far less likely to stop what you’re doing to respond to time-draining social media posts or pointless messages. Instead, consciously check your phone just every two to four hours if you can’t bear to be completely without your device during the working day. Even this small change will win back precious moments and give you back your productivity.
If you need your cell handy for work calls, at least turn off the alerts from social media, as they can be a massive drain on your day.
Overlooking small chunks of time
If the day ahead feels overwhelming, with lots of meetings, you might get caught up in moving from activity to activity, and overlook the brief moments during which you could address relatively easy tasks on your to-do list.
Instead of thinking that you need big blocks of time to get things done, recognize that you can still be productive during smaller chunks of time. Whether it’s responding to an email, making a quick call, proofing a few pages, or simply prioritizing your load for more efficiency in the future, don’t let those moments go to waste!
Further, for assignments that are amenable to it, you might also break down bigger projects into small bite-sized chunks in a list format. That way, you’ll be able to tackle smaller elements piece by piece, when you can, and stay motivated to get the job done.
Still, when you’re busy, you’ll need to be intentional about how much time you’re spending connecting with others. After all, a quick trip to the lunch room can easily turn into a gripe session that only serves to negatively affect your mood, and waste time.
If you find that you’re prone to being distracted by the latest workplace gossip, then you’ll need to set some boundaries on how often you’re socializing during work hours. To do this, you could close your door or put on headphones when you need to send a signal that you’re focused on getting the job done. Or alternately, you could politely say something like, “I’d love to talk, but I’m swamped! Maybe we can go have lunch later this week.”
By setting boundaries, you’ll be able to reduce the amount of time that you’re distracted by chatty colleagues that are probably putting off doing the work that’s been assigned to them.
Being Unrealistic about Your Natural Rhythms
If you’ve got a task that requires your total attention or is quite technical, you’ll ideally want to schedule it during your most productive times. In his book When: the Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, author Daniel Pink argues that individuals vary in terms of our moods and peak hours for cognitive tasks. Still, on a whole, most of us are most effective at analyzing and focusing in the morning, and better at being creative and brainstorming in the afternoon.
To be at your best, therefore, it’s important to figure out your own natural rhythms and schedule your time appropriately. If you’re more productive when you’ve just arrived in the office and had a quick pick me up coffee, then make sure to tackle your big tasks before lunch. Meanwhile, if you’re someone who doesn’t get going until the afternoon, then you’ll want to schedule the important piece of work that demands real brain power and focus accordingly.
Pay attention to your own unique natural rhythms and use them to your advantage as they hold the key to a productive new you.
Being Afraid to delegate
One of the secrets of the most productive people is that they’re able to delegate work to others without going on a big guilt trip about it. Learning how to assign work to others not only shows that you trust in their abilities to do a good job, but it can also lighten your workload and allow you the breathing space to prioritize what you specifically need to get done.
Remember, appropriately giving some of your workload to a colleague or direct report doesn’t mean that you’re unable to complete the task because of a lack of ability, but rather that you have the foresight and skills to see that others are better placed to help you deliver the project as a whole on time.
Watch out for these time saps, and see your efficiency go through the roof!
In this guest post, provides helpful information about the value of sleep for a more greater success at work.
The productivity of your workday is heavily influenced by a huge block of time that takes place outside of work—sleep. During this time, you heal, restore, and prepare for the next day’s challenges – all outside of your awareness. Without at least seven hours of sleep, you’re prone to distraction, poor thinking skills, and problems with inter-office relationships. But, the power to improve your sleep lies within your control.
Critical Thinking and Decision Making Skills
Your critical thinking and decision-making skills are one of your most valuable assets. However, without sleep, you can be seriously compromised. A sleep-deprived brain doesn’t have time to cleanse itself of toxic proteins that accumulate during the day. It also doesn’t spend the necessary time pruning and strengthening the communication pathways that keep your thinking sharp.
The cumulative effect is a dampening of brain cell activity. Neurons in the brain cannot fire at full speed due to the resulting fatigue. Your ability to make those split-second decisions or to critically think through a difficult problem can be seriously hampered.
Concentration and Creativity
You’ve probably experienced how difficult it can be to focus and concentrate when you’re tired. But did you also realize that sleep deprivation can influence your creativity?
During slow wave sleep, the brain replays new information, consolidates memories, and creates and strengthens connections between old and new information. Essentially, your learning ability gets a boost while you sleep. The same holds true for creativity. There’s evidence that more sleep leads to a rise in creative solutions because the brain runs through these possibilities while you sleep.
Emotional Stability and Work Relationships
Working as part of a team relies on your emotional stability and interpersonal relationships with your coworkers. However, lack of sleep causes changes in the emotion and logic centers of the brain. The emotional center becomes oversensitive to anything negative, including common office issues like constructive criticism, technology problems, or issues with a coworker or client. At the same time, the brain’s logic center becomes quiet, exerting less influence over your emotional responses.
The quality (and quantity) of your sleep depends a great deal on your personal habits and behaviors. The good news is, this means you have some control over your sleep outcomes.
Set a Reasonable Bedtime: Bedtime is just as valuable to adults as it is to children, and it performs many of the same functions. The human body depends on patterns of behavior to correctly time cycles that repeat every 24 hours, including the sleep cycle. Consistency allows your body to anticipate when to start the release of sleep hormones.
Cater to Your Comfort Needs: Everyone has different comfort needs and issues. Those with back pain may need a mattress specifically designed for back problems while others may need natural fiber sheets and bedding to allow for maximum breathability. Accommodate your own issues, which may mean a white noise machine, ceiling fan, or automatically timed lights, so you can have the quiet, cool, dark sleep environment you need.
Nap Carefully and Strategically: A quick 10 to 15-minute nap on your lunch break can restore your concentration, focus, and creativity. You don’t want to spend too much time napping as it can interfere with your nightly sleep cycle and, of course, be mindful of your employer’s time. However, if you can slide one in appropriately, you might just find that it recharges you.
Make Time for the Outdoors: Nature can help your sleep cycle by calming the part of the brain responsible for feelings of depression and anxiety. It’s also been found that spending time in nature can restore the brain’s ability to concentrate and focus. One study even found that a short 40-second view of a natural environment boosted attention to facts and details.
The efficiency of your work performance starts long before you sit down at your desk. To truly put your best foot forward, you have to start with a full night’s rest. Therefore, making time for sleep is really making time for the professional success.
For additional tips on improving your sleep, click here.
“I don’t know why our managers aren’t stepping up. We want them to act like leaders, but they just won’t do it!”
In my work with executives, I hear this all the time.
Some express frustration that instead of taking charge of their areas, their managers are too dependent on them for decisions. Others complain that rather than delegating to their teams, their managers are in the weeds, doing too much of the work themselves. Some grumble that their managers don’t put enough of a focus on their people, and as a result, morale in their areas are suffering.
Admittedly, these are all barriers that interfere with a manager’s effectiveness. However, what many executives don’t realize is that, often, their own leadership styles are inadvertently contributing to these difficulties.
Just last week, one of my coaching clients voiced similar complaints about the managers in his company. Although he and his colleagues on the executive team wanted them to behave “more like leaders,” many of their middle managers just didn’t seem up to the task. He expressed that he was at his wits end with respect to getting them to do what was expected.
As we explored the issue, it became clear that two factors were contributing to this dynamic.
First, the organization wasn’t putting enough of an emphasis on training new leaders. Although they rewarded high performers with promotions, they did very little to help them to develop the skills needed to lead effectively once they were in their new jobs.
The team was somewhat embarrassed to discover this seemingly obvious gap. Still, they were confident that they could establish a structured leadership development program relatively easily.
The second reason for their managers’ shortcomings was a little more complex. As we delved into the issue, we discovered that the company’s executives were inadvertently exhibiting a variety of behaviors that were contributing to the very behaviors amongst their managers that they were wanting to avoid.
In my experience, these behaviors are pretty common. Are you guilty of any of them?
1. Making Hiring Decisions Based Solely on Job Performance
It makes sense that the people who are performing well at their jobs would be the first ones considered for promotions into management positions. However, if proficiency or length on the job are the only factors you’re considering when making these decisions, you could be setting yourself up for future problems.
As an executive coach, I have sometimes been hired to work with managers who are doing poorly because they lacked the needed emotional intelligence or people development skills to succeed as leaders. In some cases, these managers didn’t even like leading people. However, they took the promotion because it seemed like something they should do to move forward in their careers.
To avoid finding yourself in this position, when you’re considering promoting an employee, make sure to be on the lookout for red flags that would indicate that someone might struggle as a leader. Then, come up with ways to test these out before you pull the trigger in promoting him. Perhaps you could let him lead a project and see how he does. Or, you could provide him with coaching ahead of time to see if his people skills improve in response to it.
Although you clearly wouldn’t expect a new manager to seamlessly adjust to the demands of his role, you should keep in mind that if you have strong concerns about the individual’s ability to lead, they’re probably there for a reason.
2. Reinforcing individual contributor instead of leadership behaviors
When you need to get something done, it’s natural that your high performers would be your “go-to” people. After all, of course you’re going to be most likely to delegate the task to the person you know can produce highest quality work. However, if you continue this behavior once you’ve promoted that person into a management role, you could be stifling her development as a leader.
Recently, a dissatisfied manager complained to me that her boss kept assigning her tasks that her direct reports should be doing. However, whenever she tried to push back by saying that someone on her team could do it, her boss replied with something along the lines of, “I want to make sure it’s done exactly the way I like it” or “I’m not sure they’re up to it.”
As a result, although she had a new title, she was being continuing to be encouraged to be a “doer” instead of a leader. She knew she needed to get better at coaching and delegating to people, but her boss simply wasn’t allowing her to develop these skills.
If, as a boss, you realize that you do this more than would be appropriate, commit to letting your manager grow by reinforcing leadership behaviors. Yes, it will require an adjustment on everyone’s part, but in the long-run, it will be worth it.
3. Not Delegating Authority
Another common behavior from leaders that can stifle the growth of their managers is being reluctant to let their people to make – and own – their decisions.
At times, this comes from a desire to avoid having others make mistakes or fail. If you’re the type of leader who consistently finds yourself swooping in to save the day whenever your manager struggles, you’ll prevent him from developing the resilience and problem-solving skills needed to excel as a leader. (And, if across time, your attempts at coaching don’t seem to be helping, you’ll have to consider the possibility that you may not have the right person in the right role).
On the other hand, perhaps you simply like to be the one making the decisions. Are you someone who is consistently convinced that your way is the correct – and only way? Or, are you someone who tries to make others’ works lives more efficient by drawing on your experience to help them to reach solutions more quickly? In either case, you could be training your people not to think, and instead, to rely on you for the answers.
Of course there will be times when you’ll need to jump in to help others so that they don’t make a fatal error. And, there are times that you’ll feel so strongly about the direction in which something should go that you’ll want to make the final decision. Still, be mindful that each time that you do this, you’ll be undermining your manager’s ability (and perhaps, motivation) to step up as a leader and take responsibility for his or her actions or decisions. Therefore, tread lightly in this regard, with the aim of coaching your people to develop sound decision-making processes and the resilience to bounce back and learn from mistakes.
Paul Osterman, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and author of The Truth About Middle Managers: Who They Are, How They Work, Why They Matter, argues on a Harvard Business Review podcast that “middle managers make the world go round…at the end of the day, you need managers to make…organizations function.”
By putting an emphasis on making the right promotion decisions, reinforcing leadership behaviors, and empowering your managers to make decisions, you can increase the odds that the managers in your organization will exhibit the sorts of behaviors that will help your company to succeed.
Want to hear about more challenges leaders face? Listen to my appearance on “In the Workplace” on Wharton Business Radio.
What is the most frustrating quality you’ve dealt with in a boss?
If you’re struggling to respond, consider yourself lucky – in my experience, most people have absolutely no problem answering this question. Whether it’s an overbearing demeanor, constant criticism, or poor listening skills, I’ve heard them all.
A recent LinkedIn survey posed this question to 2,968 employees, and four complaints were listed most often.According the the results, the top most frustrating qualities were bosses who:
Set unclear or frequently changing expectations (this one won by a sizable margin)
Are unavailable or uninvolved
Don’t attend to employee development
Having coached leaders for almost 15 years, these results ring true to me. I’ve heard complaints about each of these qualities numerous times. In fact, I’ve seen many talented people leave jobs that they otherwise passionate about, simply to get away from bosses who exhibited these aggravating traits.
Are you guilty of any of these qualities? While you might be embarrassed to discover that you’ve been frustrating the people around you, all is not lost. There are definitely things you can do to improve in each of these areas. Let’s get started!
1. Lack of Clarity and Consistency
Here’s the deal. Most people want to feel as if they are performing well at work. They might not all have aspirations to become CEO, but they generally want to do a good job. So, if your expectations aren’t clear, or if they’re constantly changing, it can be incredibly frustrating because you leave others with no way to accurately gauge how they’re doing.
Imagine that you receive an assignment from your boss. You go off and do it to the best of your ability, then present the fruits of your labor for feedback. Your boss responds, “You know what? I’ve rethought this and I think we should take a different approach.”
If that happens every so often, it’s understandable. We all change our minds every now and then. However, if it happens consistently, that’s a recipe for frustration.
To guard against this, a good rule of thumb as a leader is to first do a self-check to ensure that you, in fact, are sure about your expectations of your employees. Once you’ve achieved clarity in your own mind, communicate your desired outcomes as clearly as possible. Then, to ensure that you and your employee are on the same page, have him or her repeat back the key takeaways. While this last step may seem unnecessary, it can be a helpful way of ensuring articulated your thoughts effectively. It’ll also help you to clarify any misunderstandings – before your employee goes off and puts a lot of misdirected work into their assignment.
Another frequent scenario I’ve seen that leads to unclear expectations is the leader who “thinks out loud.” These are the sorts of leaders who generate multiple ideas or muse about a variety of possible paths while meeting with their team members.
What these leaders often fail to recognize is that their words carry a lot of weight. So, although they think they’re just opining on a topic, their employees might interpret those musings as action items that they should attend to. Then, when they go off and work on those perceived assignments and later find out that the boss has changed his or her outlook in the next meeting, it can feel as though they’re getting inconsistent messages.
How do you guard against this? Label what you’re doing. If you’re simply thinking out loud, say so. You’ll likely save your employees quite a bit of grief.
How do you feel when someone gives you an assignment, tells you exactly how to do it, breathes down your neck as you’re doing it, then corrects every minute detail when you’re done?
Not good? Well, that’s how your employees feel when you micromanage.
It’s probably not shocking to hear that it’s a consistent finding that people are happiest with their work when they feel they have some degree of autonomy. Therefore, when bosses micromanage, employees frequently disengage.
Nitpickers usually tell people exactly how they want things done and give them a lot of correction, so that they’ll perform at a higher level. Ironically, they often get the opposite outcome. After all, why would you put in the effort to do your best work, if you’re convinced that nothing you do is going to be good enough? A more efficient strategy would be to do a “good enough” job, and take the inevitable criticism when it comes.
So what do you do if you’re prone to micromanaging?Start by putting a bit more trust in your employees. When you delegate, tell them the outcome you would like them to achieve. Then, have them brainstorm how they might accomplish this (depending on the complexity of the task, this may not all happen in one sitting). Provide some guidelines, if appropriate, but if you find yourself communicating about the minutiae, you’re likely venturing into micromanagement territory.
Then, let your employee complete the task. Provide feedback as needed, but remember that there are multiple ways to achieve a goal. Just because it wasn’t performed exactly the way you would have done it, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t acceptable. If you don’t achieve perfection the first time around, that’s okay. Coaching is part of your job, after all. (More on that later).
Finally, keep in mind that if you’re micromanaging every detail of their work, there’s a good likelihood that you’re not spending enough time attending to the higher impact, strategic activities that you should be focusing to as a leader. (For some additional inspiration to delegate, click here).
3. Not Involved Enough
On the opposite end of the spectrum from micromanagers, are bosses who are either uninvolved or don’t give their employees enough structure. This can happen for a number of reasons. Perhaps the leader is new to management, and simply hasn’t developed any sound management practices. Maybe he is so busy, that he simply isn’t prioritizing time with his team. She could be someone who is low-key and easygoing, and so she errs on the side of providing her staff with too much leeway. Or, perhaps he is so familiar with the work, that he assumes others don’t need a lot of oversight.
Regardless of the cause, the result is employees who are often frustrated that they can’t get enough time with the boss. At the extreme, they might even feel that they’re floundering without adequate structure.
To be make sure you are adequately involved with your team, be disciplined about having regular touch points. Depending on the level of the person you are managing and the nature of their work, these can include staff meetings and one-on-ones. These regular check-ins provide opportunities for you to see how their work is progressing and for them to ask questions and provide you with feedback. They can also help you to see early on if a project is going off the rails early. That way, you can provide appropriate direction to help them to get back on track sooner, as opposed to later.
In addition to these more formal meetings, it’s also important to make yourself available informally. Although your workload might not always enable you to have an unlimited open-door policy, it’s essential to make sure that you’re putting adequate focus on building relationships with your team. This will show that you’re approachable, and increase the odds that others will ask for help when they need it.
Finally, keep in mind that people vary in terms of the amount of structure they prefer – and the amount that they need. So, even if you prefer to work without a lot of structure, be intentional about meeting your employees where they’re. That way, you can keep them engaged, and help them to perform at their best.
4. Doesn’t Foster Development
A complaint I hear pretty often from employees (particularly high achievers), is that they don’t receive enough coaching and development from their bosses. Because they’re performing well, they often get the message to “keep doing what you’re doing.” And, although the leaders who communicate this are often well-intentioned, it can be frustrating for ambitious workers who want to grow.
As a leader, remember that getting the work done isn’t your only responsibility. It’s also your job to help your people to grow. That way, they’ll become even more effective in their current roles, and potentially get promoted so that they can help the company in bigger ways.
To ensure that you’re placing enough of an emphasis on developing your people, make sure to have regular career conversations with them. Ask them what their career aspirations are, and then, based on that, collaboratively come up with some development goals. Keep those goals in mind, as you look for opportunities to provide them with stretch assignments or send them to conferences or educational activities.
Finally, make sure to provide them with high quality feedback. When they perform well, be specific about what they did, so that you can help them to leverage their strengths. Also, look for opportunities to provide constructive feedback. If it’s understood that you’re helping them to get better (like a coach would do for an athlete), they’ll have the sense that you’re on their side, and that you’re devoted to helping them to accomplish their career goals. (For some more resources on this, click here).
Let’s face it – being an exceptional manager can be hard work. But, it’s totally doable. Follow these tips, and you’ll be well on your way.