Dec 062009

There are several do’s and don’ts that a new manager needs to consider right after the ‘congratulations’ phase.

A new manager is typically chosen because he or she has not only succeeded in the most recent position, but also because there has been a demonstration of potential.

Be aware that someone above has liked your character and trait and found it useful for the organization. This makes it easier on how to act next. You don’t need to change that much. However, that doesn’t mean that you should keep doing what you were doing in your last job.

1- Stop Being Tactical. It is time that you stop doing the job. You can stop dusting the desks now if you are a manager for a janitorial service. After all, you cannot clean enough to cover for everybody.

2- Start Being Strategic. Your skills need to be leveraged for the team. It is time to tell your team how you did it and what actions and skills yielded results. You are now standing behind the group and directing. If that is what you do, your team needs to learn from you how you managed to chop the heads of more fish on a daily basis than anybody else. Start teaching others how to clean, sell, cut the head of the fish or whatever your company does. However, please do not confuse being strategic with boiling the ocean. Strategic means picking and choosing what can be changed and improved efficiently and within a permissible time-line. That implies not everything could.

3- Understand That One Approach May Not Work For Everyone. While one person might be motivated by a pat on the back another might need one-on-one coaching. In other words, you need to customize the management line of attack to different team members.
Do you know your team and their likes and dislikes? That will help you avoid issuing decrees or transferring orders from above and expecting that everyone would be ready to go. Take the time to listen.
Moreover, and I have always found this to be critical, you need to work more with those on your team who need more help. In other words, help those who are not where they should be and get out of the way of success. Yes, you are still the manager, but those who are doing well need to keep doing what they have been doing successfully. Their techniques, know-how or methods need to be transferred to those who are not doing as well.

4- Manage People And Processes Not Statistics. So many new managers miss this. Statistics and numbers are tools that aid and assist. They are not the holy grails of success. Remember that success is a process and not a magical conception at the end of the day. Use all the tools to assist, guide and motivate your team to do what they need to do better as part of a multi-pronged approach. As a trusted manager, you need to not win the battle (‘you skinned only three fishes today!’) and lose the war (‘my team hates me’). A manager needs to help the team and report to upper management so the numbers need to be counted. However, many new managers confuse the tools required for reporting up with a club with which to hit employees on the head.
How often do you congratulate and delight your group?

5- Be Respectful. It is part of the soft skills required to be an effective leader of others. A climate of fear and intimidation loses its effect quickly. The micro-manager who thinks acting rudely works should remember that such short-term thinking causes more harm in the long-term.
There are things that are going well, employees who are doing well and things that reasonably can remain as is and even should be watered and nurtured. Acknowledge that and do no harm.
Open lines of communication and understanding precede respect. ‘You need to clean three more units every week come hell or high water’ is nowhere nearly as impressive as ‘how do we become even more efficient and organized so you guys can do three more units every week?’ And here is the key to asking that last question. Listen, follow-up and enact. Pose a perfunctory question and watch how fast you lose the trust of your team next time you need actual feedback. Communication is integral to respect.

Perhaps in a future post I will discuss the other portion of a manager’s job – the reporting up part – that freshmen might not have an exact handle on, but for now I will just say that organizations need to facilitate the above for their managers.
After all, there is very little managers can do to become effective leaders if the company president, for example, wants the new manager to hit the staff on the head with the proverbial club. In this context, it is important that new managers remember that communicating up (i.e. with one’s own manager) is not only about reporting numbers and results, but also about understanding company/group strategies, so these can be communicated to the team, as well as about protecting and promoting one’s employees.

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