I remember when I was first offered a management role, at Manpower back in the mid-1990s. Although it was for a very small branch, with one full time consultant and one part time administrator, suddenly I had gone from just having to worry about my own performance to being responsible for delivering half a million turnover, managing two staff, and being the person clients meant when they said *let me talk to your manager*. Although I had a regional manager and head office full of senior specialists to call upon, it felt like a very exposed and scarey position!
Making sure you are a better manager than those aweful managers you remember from the past means learning a whole new skill set. Many people are entrusted with supervisory roles because they were a great performer in their previous job. However being good at doing a particular job doesnt necessarily make you good at managing others doing that job. Doing and managing are very different activities. Knowing how to do the job is useful, when knowing what to delegate, being able to coach others to do a better job, and knowing when part of the job isnt being done very well. In other words, it is necessary to the job of managing, but it isnt sufficient.
So, what other skills do you need to be a good manager?
- Able to set an example - act as a role model
- Value individual contributions - treat colleagues with resect, solicit alternative opinions
- Cultivate collaboration & continuous improvement
- Set stretch targets - challenging but achievable with the resources available
- Inspire and motivate others - create a vision, set goals, offer praise
- Adept at critical and analytical thinking - ask open questions, ask why and so what, question the status quo
- Influence others - either persuade with strong arguments and facts or bring people round to see the benefits to themselves of your ideas
- Building relationships - with your direct reports, with your own manager, with their manager and the rest of the senior team, and externally with suppliers and other partners
- Able to translate organisation and team goals down to individual level - including understanding budgets and desired outcomes
Some of the best tips Ive seen for new managers can be found at Work Awesome. They advocate making sure you allow team members to be pround of their work - this means taking account of their ideas, allowing them to implement those ideas where they fit into the overall team goals, and giving credit to them for the idea and the outcomes. It means not micro-managing them while they are doing the work. There is a difference between having one-to-one meetings at agreed intervals, where progress on current tasks is reported, and you checking several times a day to see how things are going and to tell them how to do each step along the way!
The other key advice they offer is to "catch me doing something right". It is very easy to spot when someone has missed something, or isnt using the best technique to get something done. However, if the majority of your conversations with your direct report are criticisms of what they are doing or how they are doing it, you will quickly demotivate them and they will end up thinking "why bother, nothing I do is right, there is no point trying any more".
Although this seems obvious, it is surprisingly difficult to make sure the balance stays in favour of praising more than offering criticism. Issues tend to jump out and catch your attention. You could end up being very busy attending to all those issues. Someone doing good work - ie, "just doing their job" - tends to be taken for granted. Try and take time to notice the little things - a simple "thank you" or "well done" or "thats great" works wonders, especially when delivered in public.
Another useful site, which has a list of common mistakes new managers tend to make, is the management site at About.com. One of the key points they make is that a major change once you become the manager, is that everything that happens in your team is now your responsibility. This holds true whether it is something you did or knew about, or not. You are accountable for the performance and behaviour of your team members. This means it is up to you to have developed those relationships, delegated and motivated effectively, and communicated often and well, so as to minimise those "oh ......!" moments.