Building on last year’s Emerging thoughts of an emerging manager, we’ve been looking at some of the challenges people face when moving from team member to team manager. Making this transition in your own team is particularly hard, and in many ways much harder than stepping into management in a new team or organisation. The sort of the things we commonly hear from new managers are about the mixed emotions people feel in this situation, such as:
‘I feel pride but this is mixed with self-consciousness. My bosses have given me the chance to step up but I’m very aware that the team don’t see me like that.’
‘I feel excited but also daunted. I get the chance to review how we do things and make changes about the way we work, but I don’t know everything I need to know yet and I might get it wrong.’
The result of these mixed messages can lead to two common management mishaps – being inappropriately friendly and time travelling.
Stepping up in a team inside which you’ve got strong relationships is tricky and it’s not unusual to feel that though you’ve gained something substantial, you’ve also lost something. For example, maybe you were particularly close to a colleague – lets call her Sally – and want continue that friendship. And of course you can do more for her now in your new role. And when you’re feeling both anxious and concerned about getting things right for the team, what better than to rely on the person you trust the most?
So you single Sally out – take her off for chats about special projects and maybe put her in charge when you’re going to be away. This might be great for Sally, but not for everyone else. Before you know it a sea of resentment has built up not only towards you as manager but towards poor Sally as well.
To avoid this behaviour try sharing out the love more widely than just Sally. Give everyone in the team a project to lead, and rotate who’s in charge. Don’t rely on just one person and make sure you nurture all team relationships.
Though you don’t have a time machine, as a time traveller manager you do have a keen sense of the need for change, coupling the burning desire to get rid of old processes that were difficult or annoying (the past), with exciting new ideas about what could be done differently (the future). Unfortunately being too precipitate can have unpleasant side affects.
We’ve probably all heard managers making unflattering comparisons with their predecessors between past, present and future. Although this might come from a desire to do good, it’s awfully dangerous when coupled with naivety and inexperience. For example, perhaps your team and you didn’t like the way some things were done before by your old boss, let’s call him Bob. You might find yourself saying things like, ‘I’m not like Bob, I’ll do things differently.’ Or even worse, “I promise you it’s all going to change now that Bob’s gone.” Finding out after the fact that Bob had a good reason for certain processes being in place means your ‘promise’ leaves you with egg on your face. And bad-mouthing Bob (or anyone else for that matter) will not only breed distrust but also isn’t great for your reputation.
Rather than jump in with both feet its best to assume you don’t have all the facts. So, agree to look into the issue(s) and find out more. And be realistic on the time frame for doing this. Only once you’ve got the information should you give transparent reasons for things being the way they are. Never, under any circumstances, speak ill of previous managers. Remember, a different time means a different context – so what went on before might have been exactly right for that time.
Moving up in the team is no mean feat. Take the time to re-set boundaries, listen to others and find out as much as you can before making changes. It will help you on the road to success – and personal satisfaction!
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Yvette Gyles, Director