27 September 2023

Traps for the novice manager

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Melissa Lamson* says high performers who have earned a coveted management role should expect to have to learn a whole new set of skills very quickly.

You have been consistently climbing the hierarchy at your job, demonstrating your technical proficiency and distinguishing yourself as a rising star.

Once that rising star ascends into the management constellation, what should you expect?

According to a Gallup Poll, 60 per cent of employees would trade a raise not to work with their manager anymore — 70 per cent of employees are still disengaged or actively disengaged.

Therefore, management and leadership skills are the key to turning around productivity and motivation.

So all of those hours coding, executing assignments, and producing whatever deliverables were asked of you have paid off.

Now you get to run the whole show.

What will you do to motivate and inspire your team? It is time to draft a plan and mobilise your resources.

As you prepare to lead consider the following.

Administrative tasks will demand your time:

There will be the new component of increased administrative work, such as status reports, human resources forms, and audit compliance tasks.

These tasks will always be part of your job description.

Know that this administrative work is a necessary part of keeping the gears moving within your organisation.

You know that someone was doing it on your behalf all those years before.

Viewing it as a task to check off early in the day when your energy is high is a more potentially successful and satisfying strategy than squeezing it in when all you want to do is call it a day.

In addition, as someone freshly arrived to the administrative component of your new position, you may unearth obstacles to efficiency — outmoded processes that others have stopped ‘seeing’.

Share your feedback with your leadership; yours may be the prompt they need to reassess some time wasters.

People management demands will multiply:

Names turn into real live people depending on you for guidance, evaluation, and direction.

You have found the heart of the difference between your previous position and your new one.

The number one piece of advice to heed when it comes to people management is: Do not allow situations to fester in airless darkness.

Be direct, be proactive, value the fact that relating brings with it as big a return on investment as many of your tangible business efforts.

You are not sure you will ever get to do what you love again:

You don’t have to let the requirements of all that administrative work and people management completely displace your connection to the work that got you to this place.

One researcher recommends allowing ‘indulgences’, meaning you should allow yourself to continue to dabble in the topic that propelled you up the leadership ladder.

Everyone wants something from you:

Being in a position of leadership puts you squarely in the middle of various sets of expectations — those of your employer, your employees and your clients.

You may feel like an impostor, with a spiffy new title on the outside and the same old practitioner mindset on the inside.

Your former peer now wants a day off when you need him or her to be heading up an initiative.

A subordinate is upset that the revised office floor plan results in less window space.

There are rumbles of dissatisfaction from various corners of the building about matters from the trivial to the serious.

You may be feeling: “This is not what I signed up for.”

When encountering issues based on people’s needs, address them while they are small.

It is natural for some first-time managers, especially if they do not have formal management training, to think “it will sort itself out” or “it’s not that big a deal”.

There is a component of management that is not delineated in black and white on the strategic plan: The discipline of building connectedness.

We need to feel connected to others and, in turn, they to us, because greatness is never achieved all by ourselves.

Fostering connectedness is as critical as bringing in a new client, writing the perfect program, or staying within budget.

If nurturing connectedness makes you anxious, engage a mentor who can help you figure it out.

Remember who you are:

Despite the additional administrative work, the challenges of managing people, and the distance from being able to practice your skill set, you still owe it to yourself to keep the spark of your individual assets alive.

It is easy to get subsumed by the cascade of competing demands.

Be deliberate about remaining true to the professional and personal identity you are carving out for yourself.

*Melissa Lamson is a leadership expert with experience in more than 40 countries. She can be contacted on Twitter at @melissa_lamson1.

This article first appeared on the Lamson Consulting website.

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