Taking the first steps into management

first steps into management It’s a tough job stepping away from your familiar role into that of team lead, team supervisor or even team manager. Perhaps you have even gone from the status of ‘employee’ to ‘employer’ as a result of setting up your own business and now find yourself unexpectedly responsible for others?

As businesses carry on scaling at speed or otherwise begin to pick up the pieces, reorganizing, re-recruiting or even rethinking the entire service or product offering, we are already seeing the pressure on those who have benefited from an opportunity this past year to step into a management role.

Many accept a promotion believing it is just about the job title and hopefully a bit more money, but it is so much more than that and often there is a fair bit of pain – and learning – that accompanies this new role!

5 pieces of advice to ease the transition into management

1. Being clear about, and comfortable with, how you are now viewed

What if our first piece of advice was that you are no longer one of the team the way you used to be? Are you ready for that or are you hoping that the team dynamics will stay pretty much as they were? Well, the team dynamics seldom stay the way they are. We hope you take some time to think about that and learn to get comfortable with it. It’s not all bad, it’s just different.

You are now the person who might be able to influence the outcome of a pay review, who will sit on the other side of the table when they return from sickness, who might have to dismiss them, who has the power of veto over who is recruited or rejected at interview, the person who gets to hear sensitive and personal information when things are not going well in someone’s life, the person who can create opportunities for them or the person who can withhold opportunities from them. This gives you a lot of power (within the context of your employment policies and practices of course) that others simply do not have.

There is no avoiding the fact that managing staff is a responsible role, it even has legal responsibilities, and it is a role that will set you apart from many that you manage.  Indeed, if it does not set you apart in some small way from those you manage, then be very careful about what kind of team you are creating. ‘We are all in this together’ works beautifully up to the point when tough decisions need to be made or someone is acting out!

Action: take time to think about the changing dynamics and what this might mean for you

2. Power corrupts!

Our next piece of advice focuses on the responsibilities you are handed with your team leader title. Whether it’s recruitment, pay reviews, appraisals, compassionate leave decisions etc. it is critical never to allow the power to corrupt the importance of a logical, fair-minded, reasoned decision making and management approach.

The world has moved far away from the autocratic leadership style we used to see. Now it expects its leaders to demonstrate emotional intelligence, cultural awareness, accountability and great communication and collaboration skills. If you embark on a power grab once the job title appears on the org chart or choose to wield your power in a way that disenfranchises your team members then your career in management may be short!

Action: take time to think about how you feel about power. Is often said that those who seek power are those who are most afraid, most fearful. Those who are comfortable with who they are and the position they have simply do not need to seek out or wield power, they tend to seek to influence instead. Perhaps you need to work on your self confidence or self esteem as  you take this next step in your career to ensure that the power does not go to your head?

3. Knowledge is power

Still on the theme of power, our third piece of advice is that knowledge is power! By this we mean that as a manager you need to know ‘stuff’. Probably lots more ‘stuff’ than you ever imagined. You need to understand employees’ rights, basic employment law, H&S law, data protection laws, contractual law, even basic corporation law and a whole lot more.

If you don’t know what the law expects of you, you will find it difficult to push back from a position of power when an employee says ‘you can’t do that, I know my rights’ or know how to respond when an employee says ‘you have to consult with me on that role change’ or when a company director says ‘you are not the shop steward of your team, your responsibility here lies to the Board of Directors who represent the shareholders of the company’.

Point of interest: UK law and the UK Corporate Governance Code make it clear that managers answer to their company and directors answer for their company i.e. directors are responsible for ensuring that the interests of company shareholders and stakeholders are recognized. There is nothing in this that, at any point, indicates that your ultimate responsibility as a manager is to your team (a downwards focus). It is not. Your ultimate responsibility is to the directors of the company (an upwards focus) who are in turn responsible to the shareholders. So, at times you will need to put the company’s needs above those of your team – this is when it gets tough if you have taken the stance of ‘I am just one of you’.

4. Continuous learning

Our fourth piece of advice is around learning. We hope that you have not accepted a role of supervisor or team lead or manager without understanding that you have effectively committed yourself to a whole new journey of continuous learning.

What you used to need to know to do your job is now outweighed by what you need to now know to be able to continue to do your job!

Are you committed to continuous learning or are you hoping to just get by? Be careful if it is the latter as you may rapidly find that you are out of your depth.

Action: A few great videos to kick start some of your management learning:

5. Parent or Coach?

At Jaluch we often talk about Parent and Coach. As a new manager we encourage you to take the time to understand how adopting a ‘parent’ style approach to your new team members can inadvertently create challenges down the line. Knowing this can help you set yourself up for success not failure!

In a nutshell (please do read more about this by finding some books or clips on Transactional Analysis) whilst it often makes the manager ‘feel’ good about themselves and the job they are doing, the parent style of management tends to swing between controlling parent – you must take  a break/I’m going to dock your pay for unauthorized absence – to nurturing parent – I’m worried about you, please take a break/how about I take that off your desk as I can see you are struggling. Sometimes of course the approach is all controlling and at other times its all nurturing.

The problem is that the more you act as Parent, the more your team will act like the needy, helpless or difficult child. It is as inevitable a response to parenting as building a house from straw and not expecting the wind to blow it down! Even if you are mostly nurturing parent, and that comes from a good place, be very careful what monster you might be creating. Only needy ‘Parents’  operate in a way (consciously or unconsciously) that encourages their staff to not be able to function without them.

So rather than team leadership ‘Parent style’, we encourage you to adopt team leadership ‘Coach style’. So instead of saying ‘ I will fight to defend my team’, you say ‘I will develop my team so that they can find their own solutions and fight their own corner’. Instead of saying ‘let me do that task for you as I can see you aren’t sure how to do it’, you say ‘you won’t learn if I do it for you so let’s book a session so I can show you and share some of my knowledge’ and when someone in your team points the finger at you and says ‘you didn’t develop me’, you can respond: ‘no I didn’t because that is not my role, Instead my role is to create opportunities for you to learn and develop yourself and be supportive of you throughout that process. That is the Coach in action.

We hope that this article will have given a little food for thought – clearly directed towards those who are new to managing people so please do share onwards within your organisation. Managing people is an exciting journey but one that comes, of course, with many pitfalls and challenges. A bit of thinking, learning and support can go a very long way though to ensuring the journey is more rewarding than frustrating, more exciting than stressful and more successful than feeling like failure!

Always practical, always pragmatic, please do ask us about our Jaluch leadership training, supervisory programmes, our stand alone employment law sessions, our practical workshops on managing performance and absence and of course, our 2 day course on coaching skills for managers.

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