Managing the transition into management

Handling the transition into management

 16 Nov 2017

Progress in your work life might in time mean taking on a managerial role.  With the step up into a management position comes some fundamental challenges and changes that you should be aware of and be prepared to use to improve your performance and value added.  Here are some insights on these challenges by Director and Consultant, Cherry Iley of SkillsforSale.
 
How do you know if you are up to the job of supervising or managing other people?  The biggest step any worker can take is to embark on the first rung of the management ladder.  It can be a scary transition.  You are no longer responsible just for yourself and your work, but you also have to take into account the behaviour and actions of other people.   How can you be sure that once you’ve jumped over the fence into management that you won’t want to jump back?
 
You will no longer be one of the boys or girls.
When you move into management, you leave your workgroup behind.   You will no longer be able to share in the banter and jokes at the expense of ‘them upstairs’ or the ‘Management’.  You may find that work colleagues who were formally quite open and relaxed with you, become more guarded.  You may even find that as you approach, people fall silent or hurry back to work. 
Suddenly, you are not sure where you belong.  You may feel distinctly out of your comfort zone and unsure where you ‘fit’.
Recognising and adjusting to this transition can be hard.  It is inevitable that your colleagues will treat you differently.  Do not take this personally; it is just a normal part of them adjusting to your new role of authority and power base.   Do not try and stay one of the boys or girls, this will just confuse everybody.   It is important to establish yourself in your new role as soon as you can. Don’t forget to dress up for your new role.  Look the part, sound the part, this will speed up your transition into the mindset of a manager. 
 
TipIf your company has not offered any additional training, ask for someone.    See if there is anyone who can mentor you through the early stages.   In a word, find your new ‘belonging’ group and integrate yourself into this group as soon as you can.  
 
You will have a new power base
When you move into management, there is a shift in your personal power base.  You will have enhanced position power, giving you the power (or duty) to tell other people what to do and expect them to do it.    
You are also likely to have an increase in your resource power.   You may now have control over keys or the power to allocate increased shifts or overtime working.   You may even have a budget to spend and be able to influence the choice of suppliers.
People may also expect you to have increased expert power and will come to you with questions and for help. 
How you use your enhanced power base is an important part of gaining respect and cooperation.    Overuse your power and you will lose cooperation, underuse it and you will be seen as weak.  
If you have not been given a job description for your new role, ask for one.   Management and supervisory job descriptions should define what you are accountable for in terms of:-
Performance or output of your team.
Achievement of company objectives.
Management of budgets.
Training of your team.
Giving feedback to individuals.
Communication upwards and downwards.
 
Tip   Identify the limits of your authority to avoid overstepping the mark.   What level of authority do you have and to do what?   Can you issue an oral warning or a written warning?  Can you fire someone?       How much flexibility do you have in the implementation of changes?   If in doubt, ask.
 
Manager corporate executive
 
You may find yourself feeling stressed and short of time
With all these newfound responsibilities, you may find yourself feeling quite overwhelmed.  You no longer have just yourself to worry about; you have your team to keep on track.  Suddenly, an internal row between two team members becomes important because it is impacting upon your objectives.   You may feel frustrated at not being able to get your ‘own work’ done because you have to respond to the problems of others.   
This can be stressful, even more so if you take a lot of pride in your personal output and have been promoted because you are the best performer.  
 
Tip Reduce your stress by checking the expectation on your personal output.   As a guiding principle, you need to concentrate on the output of the team as a whole, rather than your individual achievement.   This is a big shift in perspective for a newly appointed manager.
 
You are going to have to do things that are unpopular
As a manager, you are part of the management team and you may find yourself responsible for implementing a policy or a change that you do not personally agree with.   As ‘one of the boys or girls’, you could have expressed your views energetically without a further thought.  As a manager, you have to be more careful.  If you make it obvious that you do not agree with a change, you will find it much harder to get support for its implementation.   Far from liking you more, your team is likely to respect you less.   
You may also find yourself having difficult conversations – telling people that their work is not up to standard, challenging an excuse, dealing with a disagreement between members of your team.  
All these new communication challenges may leave you feeling a bit out of your depth.    If you are not offered any formal training, the single most useful tip is to see yourself as managing a bunch of kindergarten children. Squabbling, tantrums and not doing as they are told, is all part of your management working day.   Difficult conversations are inevitable.  Just as parents quickly learn how to negotiate, compromise, direct and coax, so it is with management.  
 
Tip It is better to be respected than to be liked.  Championing the concerns of your team upwards will do a lot to gain your team’s trust.
 
 
Whether your ambition is to be the next CEO of ICI or you have reached the limit of your aspiration, you are on the way up.   Stress and uncertainty are an inevitable part of being out of your comfort zone. Acknowledge these feelings and move on.  If you feel short of skills ask your manager for help or guidance.  Make it clear that you would welcome some training or a mentor.   Ask for feedback from your manager and be prepared to make changes on how you communicate.    Make sure that there is an opportunity for you to ask questions, get support and ultimately, if you want to, to keep on climbing that career ladder.
 
Cherry Iley is an experienced manager and consultant and is currently Director of SkillsforSale, the online business shop where businesses can buy the skills that they need when they need them. 

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