It’s the trope that drives so many triumphant movie scenes: the employee pulled from the cubicle and promoted to the corner office. Except, what happens after the door to that office closes and the fanfare fades away? The blueprint for those next steps may not always seem clear.
As a newly-promoted manager, you face a number of challenges and a limited amount of time to establish yourself in your role. One study directly links 70% of employee motivation to their managers. No pressure, right? Not to worry–by planning for the challenges you’ll face with a smart toolbox of approaches, you’ll gain the insights you need to knock it out of the park from day one.
Reflect on your past managers
New managers usually put pressure on themselves to hit the ground running, but can feel overwhelmed without the guidance they once enjoyed as an employee. You want to cultivate trust right away with your team, but you don’t know what your own managing vocabulary looks like just yet. The good news is that you actually have a wealth of firsthand management experience to draw on: your experience of being managed.
Scott Berkun, an author of books on creativity and leadership, urges new managers to make a list of every manager they’ve ever had. For each one, draw on your memories of how he or she showed (or didn’t show) respect to you as an employee, gave feedback, helped you learn, and in general, how he or she made you feel.
Far from being a pointless exercise, Berkun points out,
“Refreshing yourself on your (and your friends’) experiences working for others creates a guide to your behavior as a manager…Every time you need to take a management action, you’ll have a sense for what kinds of behaviors better managers take (as well as what tactics they avoid).”
Don’t be afraid to reach out to other managers you admire (preferably outside your own organization) and ask them how they do it. Take him or her out to coffee or establish a precedent to email them about the occasional question. This is another way to hone your own style and work on creating a genuine rapport with everyone on the floor.
Talk to everyone
Whether you’ve been promoted from within your current workplace or are entering the office as a newbie, getting to know the workplace culture is key. Plus, communication goes both ways: you learn more about your team and their working style and it also means that you’re building inroads and trust with your staff from the beginning.
Get to know your new workplace environment by sitting down with your predecessor, if possible. Ask him or her how the department usually runs–is it casual or serious? Full of go-getters or in need of some motivation? Talk one-on-one with every member of your team, connecting to them as people, but also ask them strategic questions about what they have enjoyed working on and any concerns they might have.
Listen more than talk in meetings. Read through each personnel file and HR policy and chat with your boss to learn more about your position. It may be awkward at first, but address your changing relationship to co-workers if you’ve been promoted above them. While you may no longer be able to indulge in the same buddy buddy behavior as previously, broach the topic sensitively and head-on to steer away from hurt feelings down the road.
Define goals for yourself and for your team
In a study by Google, which employs 37,000 workers but only 5,000 managers, a review of manager evaluations and exit interviews found that being a “good coach” and empowering the team vs. micromanaging were the two top-rated characteristics of the company’s best managers. You’ve gotten to know your team and their strengths. Now it’s time to delegate and stand back.
Motivating your team with clear goals and matching each employee with tasks that are a good fit help steer you away from over-managing or taking on a hero complex where it’s all about you single-handedly saving the department. Defining your goals clearly also helps you quickly and effectively communicate your team’s achievements and work flow to your own boss.
If you feel you need some practice in this area, try breaking it down using Group Harmonics CEO Ed Muzio’s verbalized summary objective (VSO) approach. In this step-by-step, you’ll learn how to summarize how you’ve allocated your team’s assets to target the goals that your organization has identified–all in 90 seconds or less. The technique provides a great exercise in communication and in self-reflection as you take on a micro vs. macro view of your office.
It can be tempting to blast into your new management position and make the position your own immediately, but this is not likely to engender the trust that is so crucial to employee happiness (and thus motivation).
Before taking any drastic measures such as hiring and firing or restructuring your office, put in interpersonal time. Berkun says,
“Being an honest, reasonable, and reliable manager for a few weeks will do more, 90% of the time, than any kind of imagined management heroics could.”
He urges new managers to find their bearings first so that when they face new decisions, they can make them with confidence.
“Strong managers are also consistent in their approach and style: how they operate, how they get results, and how they build teams and relationships within the organization.”
Consistency requires patience and a willingness to learn before doing. Give your full attention every day and focus on sincerity and responsiveness to your employees. Soon they’ll know they can count on you, and that you will galvanize them to try their best.
Shift from an “I” to “we” mindset
One of the hardest aspects of moving from employee to manager is letting go of your old job, especially because you did it well. Penelope Trunk, the successful owner of several start-ups, reminds her readers that they must shift their focus from tasks to people. “Now your number one job is to help other people to accomplish the tasks in an outstanding way,” she says.
As a manager, your job is no longer about you: your work tasks, your achievements. It is about your whole team’s tasks and achievements. Rather than marking your success by what you deliver, you must shift to focusing on how well you’ve facilitated your team to deliver. Successful managers show that they’re willing to get their hands dirty and pull together as a group. They also must have the grace to take responsibility for setbacks–blame is one thing you don’t want to delegate as a new manager.
It can be difficult to trust outcomes to other people, but avoid the temptation to stick your hand into everything to ensure perfection. If you’re looking over each staff member’s shoulder, you’re not making the environment about the team, but rather about the “boss.” If your team is flagging, what resources do you need to provide to help them improve? Remember your larger goals of communicating a mission, creating accountability within your department, and building relationships.
You got to this place for a reason–you’re capable of excellent work and productive partnerships with your colleagues. Being a good manager is less about bragging rights and more about your excitement to work with a group to achieve big goals. Focus outwards on your team and truly create relationships with them. That way you can create an inspiring workplace where your employees respect your decisions and you feel prepared to communicate your successes to the rest of your organization.
The corner office might be yours, but that doesn’t mean you have to shut the door.