Last week, you were one of the girls or guys, and now you’re the boss. What’s next? If you’re like many promoted managers, you performed well in your previous position, but you’re not totally prepared to be THE manager.
Years ago, I was promoted from sales to my first retail management position. I thought managing was paper work, planning, counting money, etc. I didn’t understand management is 99% about people, and the best managers lead people to improvement. I was unprepared for this role — yet I was asked to conduct group meetings, hire, train, and supervise employees. I was told to complete these activities, but I wasn’t given training or direction. I was not told how or why. It was expected that if I were good at sales, I would be a good manager. Really? It was expected somehow — perhaps by osmosis or telepathy — I would know what to do. My superiors considered my exposure to previous managers (also untrained) to be my training. Once, I was the assistant to a manager who left early and often. I was told he was great at developing managers because he threw you in the deep-end! It was a sink or swim management training system. Over the years, I have learned this system (or lack thereof) of management and leadership development is all too common. It not only continues to prevail, but in all types, sizes, and areas of organizations. For example, I know a NASA employee who excelled as an engineer, but lacked people skills. He was promoted to departmental manager, but given no management or leadership training.
Where Do You Begin?
Good question. Have you worked with leaders you would like to emulate? Ask them to be your mentor. Ask friends if they are aware of an effective leadership group near you or online. Are classes available? Read articles, listen to webinars, and watch podcasts—study leadership. When I began searching how to be an effective leader, the library and bookstore had thousands of sources. Today, the sources are nearly unlimited—maybe too many. If you Google, “leadership,” you’ll get 250 million results. Find someone you respect and like, and follow them.
It’s about becoming a leader. It’s not about the day-to-day operations of an organization. It’s not how to order thing-a-ma-jigs, or when to pay the electric bill. I hope you have a procedure manual for those activities. It’s not about legalities—and for the most part, it’s not about human resources. Again, hopefully, you have policy books and manuals for these items. It’s about helping others understand and get what they want, while improving the organization.
But First, Are You Sure You Want To Be A Manager?
It’s important you’re completely honest with yourself. Not everyone is cut out to be a manager; if you’re not, and you accept the role, you’ll likely be an unhappy camper. Review the list below, and ask yourself, “Why am I considering (or in) a management position?”
• Power & control
• Less work, stress, hours, demands, etc.
In my humble opinion, there’s only one reason to be a manager. It’s because you enjoy helping others. You get a kick out of watching your team members grow as part of the team and as human beings. You may have secondary considerations, but if coaching, teaching, and helping aren’t your primary reasons, management may not be your best option. If you’re uncertain about your motivation to be a manager, consider your experience. Have you been a helpful teammate? Do you revel in others’ successes? Do you enjoy helping others?
Do you believe you’re cut out to be a manager? The best advisers and mentors are those who speak to you. Go find them. These spoke to me.
Here’s my list of 18 leadership attributes.