First, congratulations! You’ve been promoted to your first management position, probably because you excel in the skills necessary to make a significant contribution to the success of your organization and, even better, your talents have been recognized and rewarded by your superiors.
Now, the bad news: The skills you need to succeed as a manager may not be the same ones that helped you excel as an employee. How do you acquire the skills you need to optimize your employees’ skills? It helps to be aware of the obstacles you’re most likely to face in your new role.
- Bruised Egos
Someone on your team probably wanted the job you now have and thinks they should have gotten it instead. You also may find yourself supervising employees who are older and have more experience than you.
Communication and delegation are the best ways to prevent resentment from setting in among your senior and most ambitious and talented employees. Find projects or areas of responsibility that align with your employees’ strengths and assign them accordingly. Most importantly, resist the urge to micromanage these projects, while still checking in with your employees regularly. Another trait that will help you earn the respect of talented direct reports is to own up to your mistakes and be as honest and transparent as possible.
- Work Friends
It’s very likely you will now find yourself in the position of having to supervise some of your work friends. It’s important to understand that it is not helpful for them or for you to continue to function as friends at work. You must transition to a boss-employee relationship, and this can be both painful and awkward. However, it will be more painful and more disruptive if other members of your team believe that you are giving an unfair advantage to your friends.
To combat any perception of favoritism, be as fair as you can be in every category of resource management, from work assignments to allocation of your time. If you think one member of the team would benefit from regular one-on-one check-ins, make sure every member of the team has this opportunity, and allocate the same amount of time to each meeting.
- Knowledge Gaps
- You may have earned your promotion because you are very skilled in your profession, or because you had an innovative vision of how to improve your department. In either case, you’ll be tempted to implement all your great new ideas as quickly as possible. Instead, take a beat. Now is the time to get to your employees’ talents so that you can align tasks in ways that optimize their strengths. Remember that your success will no longer be judged on your individual work, but will instead now be judged on how well you can manage and mentor your employees so that they do their best work.
You also need to take the time to find out everything you don’t already know about the entire organization and the role your department plays within it. Read trade journals and websites in your field and keep up with industry-wide advances. If your company offers management training courses, take them. Forge relationships with your fellow supervisors and look for mentors.
- Work Drama
If you thought there was drama before, you are very likely to face more of it now. Even if you work in an extremely professional and pleasant workplace, there will now be more pressure on you to meet deadlines, implement innovations, and increase quality than there was when you were an employee and only responsible for your own work. You will need to find ways to manage your frustrations without heightening the drama.
Anger is not an effective management technique. It can inhibit creativity and innovation and erode trust among your employees and fellow supervisors. Avoid it as much as possible. Remember that you are now an example to your direct reports and your demeanor will set the tone for the rest of your department.
- Problem Employees
Even if you’re doing your best to remain even-tempered, you’ll still need to resign yourself to some drama. Some work friends and acquaintances will become distant. Some people will resent that you were promoted over them. And some people are never happy and will always find ways to criticize whoever is in a position of authority.
If you have problem employees—they’re productive and not disrupting the cohesion of the team—if the only person suffering is you—then do your best to let it go. But if the negativity begins to affect others on the team, then seek advice from your boss or a mentor on the best way forward. A mature solution might be to have a sit-down with the productive-yet-problematic employee and hammer out the issues at hand. It will likely be an uncomfortable situation, but situations like these are ones managers are bred to deal with. No one said the management life was going to be easy!
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