What they don't tell you about becoming a manager

 Oct 28, 2015

Why becoming a Manager can be so Challenging – What they Don’t Tell You! I recently came across a book by Aaron McDaniel called The Young Professional’s Guide to Managing (2013) and he lists 5 things he wished he’d known before becoming a manager:
  1. “You have to treat everyone fairly without treating everyone or every situation the same.
  2. As a manager, you are not only responsible for yourself, your actions, and your results, but also those of each team member
  3. Being a manager is more than telling people what to do
  4. Your employees may not be able to complete their work as well as you could if you did it on your own
  5. The best individual contributors do not always make the best managers”
While all the points are worthwhile, I’d like to focus on the last 3.

Being a manager is more than telling people what to do

What is in a word? “Telling” means so many different things, depending on your perspective. If you’re telling your subordinates what to do by way of instructions, or jobs that need to be completed, that’s fairly obvious, provided your tone and manner are reasonable and respectful. The moment it sounds like a command or an order, many employees baulk. At the end of the day, as a manager, you want the job done, and for that there needs to be willingness and cooperation from your team to do the work. If you alienate your subordinates with orders, they are far less likely to cooperate. A “please” and a “thank you” work wonders, as does acknowledgement. This makes the subordinate feel worthwhile, visible and valued as a team member.

Your employees may not be able to complete their work as well as you could if you did it on your own

And here we have the hoary old chestnuts: “By the time I’ve shown them how to do it, I may as well have done it myself” or, “If you want a job done properly, do it yourself”. While this may be true, your job as a manger is to build capacity and confidence in your team members. If you never delegate tasks, you’ll burn out pretty quickly. Having the patience and calmness to direct and mentor your subordinate to acquire the new skills is challenging, especially when you’re under pressure. I contend that it is a matter of perspective: are you focussing on the immediate gains, or do you have a longer term view? Proper delegation, with clear instructions and lots of support may be costly initially, but the rewards more than compensate. In addition, when they feel set up to succeed in a new task, team members’ level of motivation and willingness to take on more responsibility escalates.

The best individual contributors do not always make the best managers

It must seem counter-intuitive, that the best and most skilled workers in your team, often disappoint when they are promoted to leadership positions. Not everyone wants to be a manager or a team leader, or, really understands what is expected of them until they’re in the job. More importantly, not everyone is capable of moving from peer to supervisor. I think that it has to do with three aspects:
  1. The degree of cohesion in the team from which the supervisor is promoted
  2. The degree to which the supervisor desires harmony/shies away from confrontation
  3. The degree to which the team may be unsupportive, and find it difficult to support a former peer – whether because of a pre-existing “them and us” attitude towards management, or resentment that they believe they could do a better job, and so on.
In conclusion, there is a lot more to filling a position than first meets the eye. Managers and team leaders need you to invest in them through training and mentoring, be it resolving conflicts, time management and communication skills. They also need you to appreciate the challenges they will face not only from above, and from customers, but also from below, from their team members. Lastly, they need to be given clear and tangible goals, to cement success for the “new” team and build confidence. For more information, take a look at New Horizons' Management and Leadership courses.

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About the Author:

Fee Hosking  

With over 24 years experience as a trainer, Fee is one of our most senior Professional Development trainers at New Horizons Sydney. With a professional background as a management consultant in the South African manufacturing industry, Fee brings credibility, experience and authenticity to all of the subjects that she trains. She has the ability to engage professionals from the junior to the senior level. Bringing great energy to the classroom, Fee ensures that the learning experience for all who attend is an enjoyable one, which in turn makes it a truly impactful one.

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