The hardest but most rewarding career transition is from individual contributor to first-time manager. The first step on the ladder is the steepest because it is the most ego challenging and because it forces each individual to think and act differently.
In most organizations, the path to fame and fortune requires you to manage and succeed through the efforts of other people. In many cases, the people you will manage aren’t as fast, smart, well intentioned, or skilled as you are. So, from the get-go, you have to get over yourself and focus on them.
Here are seven tips to get started:
Think Like a Coach. You are no longer just a star player. You are a coach. Your success is directly dependent on how other people act, so your main task changes from doing the job well to helping others do the job well. This requires a quantum leap in your ability to be patient. Coaches devise the plays and assign the players. You have to figure out what needs to get done and who’s going to do it. This means you have to get a clear read on who does what best and who can be relied on most in each situation.
Focus on Individuals. Each person is motivated differently. You have to get to know the people you manage. You have to learn to read their moods, their minds, and their body language. You have to suspend judgment. You have to figure out how to speak with each person and how to get across what you want, why you want it, and when it’s due.
Factor in Negative Examples. Bad managers have managed us all. Think about the things they did to piss you off. Don’t do them. Think about how you can structure your relationships to ensure that you don’t repeat their crimes.
Aim for Clear Navigation. Most managers fail at setting down clear expectations, timetables, and goals. Staff members crave clear, simple, directions. Work as hard as you can to simplify, clarify, give advance notice, create milestones and schedules, and help everyone understand what, why, how, and when.
Share Your Tools. Be sure your people you know all the right accounts, portals, passwords, and tools you’ve come to rely on, where to find things, and who to go to. You are their sherpa through your organization. Somebody showed you the ropes, and now it’s your turn. You can’t expect anyone to perform at peak performance if they aren’t cued into the formal and informal tools.
Give Them Space. Nobody likes to be micro-managed. Most people get the job done their own way. Respect this. Avoid extra meetings, reports, check-ins, or paperwork. Manage by walking around and talking to people. Don’t worry if your people don’t do it the way you do. Worry about the end product. Your job is to give clear feedback and to help people succeed. Rarely do people strive for success if they feel their manager is looking for opportunities to criticize or bust them. You don’t have to be a cheerleader, but you have to set a positive tone and a well-defined direction.
Be Real. Many first time managers take on a boss persona. Don’t! Be yourself. If you are a jerk, be somebody else. Be straight, funny, compassionate, relaxed, and focused. Position yourself as a player-coach and as a resource rather than as a judge. People want to like their bosses. Give them a personality to relate to and like.
Becoming a manager isn’t easy, but it can be fun and ultimately rewarding if you are conscious about your own actions and attitudes and conscientious about the mission: developing a great team.
Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.