It’s a quiet afternoon at work when you get a phone call from your boss, asking you to come up to her office for a quick chat.
Could it be? You ask yourself… Am I finally getting a promotion??
You’ve been waiting for this. You’ve put in hours of work, smiled through thousands of late nights, and taken on extra work in an effort to prove your mettle. So when she utters those glorious words – “I’m promoting you to manager” – you think you might actually die of happiness. You feel like you’re on top of the world as you spend the next few days fantasizing about your fancy new raise and title, not to mention an office with real walls and an actual door.
Within the first hour of your new role, one of your employees asks you to make a decision on an urgent client request.
Your excitement has officially evaporated.
You look around for someone who’s authorized to make the judgment call, and then you realize…that someone is you.
And then you panic.
This sort of fear or perfection paralysis explains why 60% of new managers underperform during their first two years on the job. Needless to say, no newly promoted manager works for a decrease in output and work performance, so how is this data so real? Are new managers just not ready for the challenges that await them? According to one Harvard professor, the problem lies in the fact that many employees who get promoted to managerial positions get there by doing great work and generating value for the company.
What’s so wrong with that, you ask?
Being a manager is about so much more than just producing stellar results on your own. You’ve already proven you can do that. It’s about teamwork, trust, and professional leadership, and those traits can’t develop if you’re treating your new role simply as a higher-profile version of your last one.
In other words, your stellar performance as an employee is no indicator for your management capabilities.
Here are a five best practices to get you started:
- Develop a professional persona. This is a biggie for new managers, especially those tasked with overseeing older employees. It’s understandable that these managers want to be liked, but it’s disempowering to lead with that persona. The social self is the natural default setting: As children, we were fiercely taught the importance of likeability, and have been taught from a young age to seek approval. This identity has been refined and reinforced, and can be incredibly damaging when it shows up in the workplace. Ask yourself: “Do I want to be liked or respected?” Sometimes you can score both, but there are many times as a new manager that you will have to pick one. The ability to draw a distinction between your social self and professional self enables you to maintain an intentional career path with boundaries that support you.Creating a new workplace persona may feel unnatural, but making an intentional choice about who you want to be as a professional is more powerful than a natural default setting.
- Take responsibility. Even the best employee will disappoint you, defy you, or let you down at some point, and their screw-up doesn’t change the fact that you, as the manager, are responsible. It can be tempting to point fingers, especially when your boss is breathing down your neck, but throwing the wrongdoer under the bus is the quickest way to disempower your team.It’s an amateur move that makes you look reactive, untrustworthy, and self-serving—especially to your superiors. The most effective manager is the one who can swallow his or her pride, own up to the error, and turn it into a growth opportunity for everyone on the team, regardless of who was at fault. The leader takes full responsibility for her actions, and by doing so, imparts the message to those around her that they need to do the same.
- Lead with results. Your head needs to exist in the world of results. Your life at work revolves around satisfying whoever it is that stands as your boss, be it your client, your supervisor, or someone else. Rather than taking a by-the-book approach to management, look for ways to accommodate your teams’ talents and skill sets so that they’re inspired to put forth their best effort every time.A good manager has the potential to increase an employee’s commitment to their job by 34% and one of the most effective ways of doing this is by allowing your employees’ unique brilliance to shine through. Does the team accountant do her best from home? If possible, let her. Does the administrative assistant have a talent for graphic design that would be useful to a particular project? Let him make magic in your corner office while you cover his phone shift and keep the coffee pot brewing. Sure, you graduated from assistant positions years ago, but acknowledging that the team’s success is more important than your ego is a powerful and energizing way to lead by example and get the best results.
- Build rapport, everywhere. Great managers understand that they shouldn’t limit their professional relationship-building efforts to the people on their team. They also recognize that getting to know the people at the bottom of the ladder is just as important – if not more so – than getting to know the people at the top. People who get big things done are people who know their resources, both inside and outside of the company.Remember, the best time to get to know someone is when you don’t need anything from him or her, so go ahead and set up an informal lunch and start building a friendly rapport.
- Focus on business development. The fastest way to becoming invaluable to a company is by identifying and dedicating time to business development opportunities—even if your job has nothing to do with it. Every organization has a bottom line, and if you’re bringing in new opportunities, you will always be seen as adding to, not depleting, the company’s resources. Keep your business radar receptive to the opportunities that exist in your daily life, and watch how you translate a long line at Starbucks into a business opportunity with the person in front of you. At all times, and be sure to let your boss know if you’re going on lunch dates that could lead to new accounts or partnerships.If you can bring in meetings and think strategically about networking and creating opportunities for your company, you are the head honcho in no time.
The “manager” title may feel like a heavy hat to wear, but don’t be intimidated by it. Rather than questioning your capabilities, focus on maintaining a positive mindset and honoring the professional identity you have created for yourself. Look for opportunities to build relationships, take responsibility for your team, and never let a bad day – or several bad days – deter you from your vision.
The managers who succeed are those who wake up day after day committed to moving beyond their comfort zone, despite the fear they feel in doing so.
It’s this simple: successful people are willing to do what other people aren’t.