“If a rhinoceros were to enter this restaurant now, there is no denying he would have great power here. But I should be the first to rise and assure him that he had no authority whatever.” — G.K. Chesterton
So you’ve finally been made a manager – congratulations! This no doubt is an exciting and perhaps slightly daunting time for you; and it’s time to figure out the type of manager you will be. Management is wonderful, but it’s not always easy. There are several traps that you can fall into when new (or even when experienced!) – here are just three to think about in those early days, to help you get the best start.
“Because I’m the boss…”
Some new managers think that to gain respect or to get results, that they need to be directive, assertive or even aggressive. Whilst it is important to be clear on the desired results and to give direction when required, you can go about it without ruffling too many feathers. Remember that in many cases the people you now manage have been doing their jobs for some time. Coming in and throwing your weight around may not be the most productive approach in the long-term. Just because you are the ‘boss’ doesn’t mean that you have all the answers or that you automatically receive respect. Find out as much about your team’s role and responsibilities as you can, along with individual’s strengths and capabilities. Ask for their input on pressing matters, seek their thoughts on how the team is tracking. And if there is urgency requiring you to be very directive, quickly – explain the situation to them and be ready to answer questions or listen to alternative viewpoints. You can still make the final decision, however it will go a long way if you encourage some collaboration with your staff.
“We can be friends…”
Many managers – especially those promoted to manage former peers – believe that they can be friends with their team members. Whilst to an extent this is true, the trap comes when ‘being friends’ impedes being a manager. Sharing a joke, having lunch together and even socialising can create a great team atmosphere – it’s simply about getting the balance right. Be prepared to say no or even discipline your team, watch for inappropriate or prolonged joking and story telling in meetings, be mindful of perceived inequalities within the group, never share professional confidences or related gossip with the team and be cautious about talking love-lives and personal dramas. You can have friendships with team members, just be aware of the need for professional boundaries.
“I’ll just wait and see…”
As a new manager there will be issues within the team that become apparent relatively quickly. There may be a personality conflict between two team members, someone may be falling short on their responsibilities or it may be that you have a major performance issue to deal with. These situations are hard and they can be daunting for a new manager. Sometimes a manager will wonder if they have misread the situation, some may even think it is their issue (“Maybe my directions weren’t clear enough?”) and many will choose the ‘wait and see’ option. This may be where a manager thinks that they are too new to deal with an issue or they lack the confidence to address it. Rest assured, ignoring issues and hoping they will resolve themselves rarely works. A more productive approach is to gather your facts – write them down – and ask yourself if there is indeed an issue. If there is an issue, consider the consequences of not dealing with it (for you, the team, the individual concerned and for business results). Explore the options for resolution and discuss these with a coach, mentor or your manager. Be familiar with any HR or legal policies that may apply. Now, prepare your approach, know what you want to say / do and even role-play difficult conversations. Whatever you do, don’t ignore it!
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