So, you have just been promoted, or you have a new job as a manager. This post is to share what I have learnt transitioning from independent contributor into management roles, and also share tips on how to do so with as few hiccups as possible, staying true to yourself in the process.
It is a rewarding feeling growing professionally in your career and transitioning into management roles, but as the popular saying goes, with more power comes more responsibility.
Whether you were promoted into the role, or you have switched jobs and the new job is a management role, here are a few things from my personal experience that may help you.
Decide What Type of Leader/Manager You Want To Be
It is important to clearly spell this out because most times, you will either repeat the leadership style you’re used to without much conscious effort, or you will keep reacting to events and that will end up defining your leadership style. So, take time out as you transition between these roles to decide what type of leader you are. It helps to write it down and go back to it when you need to recalibrate.
For me, when I wrote my leadership values, I did so from personal experience. I asked myself what type of manager I would have liked to have, and the things that came forth are what I wrote and committed to.
My personal leadership values are tilted towards helping people achieve things beyond their imaginations, and helping people grow by taking them out of their comfort zone. I also committed to being a self-aware leader, one that values collaboration over control, and one that gives people room to be their authentic selves, while pushing them to be better versions of themselves, all with the company goals in mind.
Be True To Yourself
I know those words sound rather ambiguous, but it is a thing. Even while wanting to be the best version of yourself, it is important to stay true to yourself. Your personality doesn’t need to change to something you are not, because now you’re a leader. One key trait in the best leaders is authenticity. Be yourself, even as a leader, because then you have a foundation from which you can be the best version of yourself.
As I transitioned into leadership positions, I occasionally wondered if I looked “leader-ey” enough. This is a distraction and now I’ve come to realize, being a leader doesn’t look one specific way.
Being your true self is critical to being accepted and respected within your team as a leader.
Pace Yourself, Observe, Understand the Business
When you enter a new company or role as a manager, the knee jerk reaction is to start trying to implement and fix things. Of course, being new, you see things from a vantage point so all the errors/issues jump at you and you want to fix them!
Be very careful here; the first couple of weeks should be to observe. What I do is write in a notepad all the things I see that could be improved, and also the amazing things. I vocalize the positive ones, and write down the ones I think could be better.
Refrain from providing solutions up front, primarily because first, it is fair to assume you probably don’t know enough yet to proffer a solution, and second, implementing change requires around 70% buy-in and it will be difficult to gain that buy-in if the very first thing you do in your new role is to point out how people aren’t doing their jobs properly. When you feel that need to criticize, write it down.
This has particularly proven useful for me because after the observation period, when you go back to what you’ve written down, what you find is that about half the questions have been answered or have rationale you didn’t understand initially and the other half are low hanging fruits you can begin to explore implementing once you have a solid grasp of the business.
Build Alliances, Understand Key Stakeholders
I learnt this the hard way. Do not underestimate the importance of building alliances. The higher you go in your career, the less it becomes about your actual competence (that becomes a given) and more about how well you are able to build alliances and influence people towards a common goal.
When you get in that new role, have 1:1s with key stakeholders to listen. If you have a team, get to meet them 1:1, and hear their pain points. Keep your ears ready to gain information and speak less, understand people’s working styles, preferences, strengths, weaknesses, and reiterate that you are keen to understand the business, of which they are a key part.
People will give you much more of themselves or their support if you influence them to, by understanding what is important to them, what they value in the context of their strengths and weaknesses, rather than you forcing them to do your bidding.
Change Management is largely buy-in. To implement process changes, you need people’s support. After your period of introspection, listening and learning, with enough context on the business, it is time to socialize your ideas and findings with your team to get their feedback.
At this stage, there is very little defensive energy, such that whatever you suggest, should it be logical with positive impact on the business, it is likely to be received with openness and even if there is push back, it will be because people generally don’t like change, and that can be addressed by making the changes incremental.
Try not to underestimate the importance of buy-in when making decisions. Avoid making sweeping decisions without chatting to those who it impacts and getting their feedback and buy-in on its implementation.
Learn Quickly From Mistakes
Even with these tips, it is possible that mistakes will be made, and that’s okay. This is the time to be self-aware, keep checking your biases and weaknesses, and keep trying with each execution to be a better leader. Do not be too harsh on yourself, and control your inner dialogue.
Learn quickly from mistakes and look ahead because the truth is, you won’t be perfect and that’s okay.
I hope this helps you. Here are a few reading resources that have also helped me:
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