- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
By the end of this chapter you should be able to:
Discuss the issues involved in the transition from individual contributor to manager.
Build productive relationships with subordinates.
Build productive relationships with peers.
Create a plan for the first 90 days in your new job.
It's Monday morning, day 1 of your new job as a first-time manager. You looked the same in the mirror. Perhaps you dressed a bit more formally this morning, but not dramatically so. If you're working for the same company that you worked for yesterday, you probably rubbed shoulders with the same people in the elevator, greeted people in the same way as you walked through the corridors, and poured yourself a cup of coffee like everyone else.
Everything appears the same on the surface, but you feel different.
The difference becomes more tangible as you approach your new work space. People with whom you've worked for the past two years say "Good morning," but there's something unusual in the way they do it—as if they are sizing you up, as if they are looking for something different in you. They all congratulated you two weeks ago when your promotion was announced, but they did so as your workplace pals. "Are they my pals today?" you wonder.
Your new reality becomes more tangible when you enter your new work area. Yes, it's still small, but this one is all yours—no cube-mate. And there's a window and a small conference table with two chairs over on one side, which gets you to thinking about how you'll use that table. You form a mental image of yourself and a subordinate sitting at that table talking about some problem for which your help is needed. You visualize yourself sitting at that table, skimming a résumé while a job candidate in a new suit waits and watches nervously. "I've never hired anyone before," you say to yourself.
You're probably experiencing some anxiety at this point. Like a runner waiting for the starting gun before a 10 kilometer race, you may feel an odd blend of nervousness ("Now what do I do?") and anticipation ("I finally have a chance to try some of the new things I've wanted to do").
Day 1 for a newly minted manager marks an important work-life passage, ushering in new responsibilities and accountabilities. The new manager is also cast in a new role within the organization. Organizations are, above all else, mini-societies shaped by a bewildering mix of leadership, formal authority, individual influence and ambition, internal politics, interpersonal dependencies, sub-group interests, collaborative networks, and informal coalitions. The new manager must identify where he or she fits into this social enterprise and figure out how best to accomplish his or her goals.
This chapter will help you understand the transition from individual contributor to manager, and your new role as a manager with respect to two important groups: subordinates and peers.
From Individual Contributor to Manager
Most new supervisors and managers are plucked from a set of employees who have no other responsibility than to complete assigned tasks. Even when they must collaborate with others in completing those tasks, they are not responsible for the work or behavior of others—only for themselves. They are individual contributors. A manager, in contrast, is responsible for getting things done through people and other resources—not through his or her individual handiwork alone. Thus, the manager isn't simply accountable for his or her own output and actions, but for those of subordinates as well.
This added responsibility for the work and behavior or others creates a dramatic difference between the lives of managers and individual contributors. That difference was captured not long ago by the student newspaper at Harvard Business School in an interview it conducted with a U.S. Army captain—the military equivalent of a corporate middle manager—who was nearing the end of his two-year program as an MBA student. When asked how his life as a student differed from his life as an active duty officer, he said this (paraphrased):
The biggest difference I notice as a student is that I don't have to worry about anyone but myself, which makes my life much easier and less complicated. I have my assignments to do, and I collaborate periodically with other students on case presentations. But in the end, I have no responsibilities for anything but my own work. As a company commander in the Army, it was very different. I had over a hundred people to worry about all day, every day. If someone wasn't pulling his weight or was having a problem, it wasn't just his problem. It was my problem and my responsibility.
That young officer's observation nicely captures a key role difference between the individual contributor and the manager, and that difference is one of the first attitudinal hurdles that the new manager must overcome. While the individual contributor focuses on managing assigned tasks, the manager must focus on a far broader set of concerns that involve planning and assigning work to others, monitoring their performance, coaching, problem-solving, resolving disputes, and on and on.
One of the most common stumbling blocks for new managers is a failure to appreciate how their role has changed. They continue thinking and acting as individual contributors, focusing on tasks while overlooking the management of their subordinates, planning, coordinating effort, and so forth. They have trouble letting go of their old tasks and moving on to their new responsibilities. This is a partly the fault of the system through which people are selected for managerial work. Most new managers are promoted because of their high performance as individual contributors. They had mastered important task-related skills and were very good at applying them. Those skills earned them praise and recognition—and promotions! As managers, however, those skills are less important. As they rise through the managerial ranks, they must shift their attention. Exhibit 1-1 describes how technical, task-oriented skills become less important as a person moves from the individual contributor role through the ranks of management. Interpersonal and decision-making skills rise in importance during these transitions.
Now consider the case of Amelia, who is making the transition to management, and confronting its challenges.
Like most people promoted into management, Amelia had been very successful in her old job. "After eight years working the phones, I was the go-to gal for problem calls. If a customer wanted something a little out of the ordinary, I would figure out how to make the system work for him. After I was promoted to supervisor, I had to really hold myself back from solving everybody's problems like I used to. Hey, I had enjoyed personally helping customers and being a hero! But once I became the supervisor, I needed to help my subordinates solve those problems themselves."
One way Amelia found to change from being the hero to being a manager was to talk with her friend Ellen, who had been promoted in another department a year before. The transition was fresh in Ellen's memory, and she shared some of the lessons she had learned. If you are a new manager, or anticipate becoming one in the near future, you can learn a lot by talking with people who have already made the transition to that role.
Relationships with Subordinates
Getting on top of your new role requires that you establish a business-like and productive relationship with the people who report to you. You and they depend on each other. You depend on them for quality performance of your unit's work, and they depend on you for resources and rewards. If you all understand this mutual dependence, you'll be off to a good start.
Dealing with Former Peers
If you are like many new managers, you were promoted from the ranks and are now managing former peers. This has its advantages and disadvantages:
You may find that the most important thing you can do as the manager of former coworkers is for both you and them to recognize that your relationship has changed. You can be friends and trust each other, but you cannot be "pals" in the sense that you once were. You can continue having lunch together, but not as an occasion to grouse about the company and its "stupid" policies. And if you have lunch with subordinates, you must spread yourself around; you cannot always go with Bill or Helen without giving the appearance of favoritism. Your relationships have to become more businesslike and somewhat more formal.
It is possible to make this change to a more professional relationship without seeming like your promotion has "gone straight to your head." Your new activities may even help. For example, if your calendar is full of meetings and other duties, it will not seem unreasonable to suggest that your former coworkers set up a time to talk with you rather than always catching you on the fly. If you are courteous and fair in your dealings with all staff, your employees will also notice that you do not favor old friends. Even those who would have liked to take advantage of your friendship will respect you for this.
Stepping in as a manager of people with whom you had no previous relationship (as peer or coworker) is simpler. However, whether you're promoted from the ranks or hired in from the outside, you should recognize that your new subordinates will have certain expectations of you. They will expect you to:
Eliminate task-related impediments that are outside their own spheres of authority and action—problems that only management can solve.
Provide the resources they need to accomplish their assigned tasks.
Listen when they have grievances or improvement suggestions.
Be fair in how you assign work and reward effort.
Keep them informed about matters that affect their work and careers.
Be a champion for their work unit with upper management.
Advocate for their training and career development.
Work harder than they do.
Some subordinate expectations will put you a difficult position. Many new managers, for example, find that their people demand more of their time than they have time to give. They also discover that subordinates want to drag them into the middle of conflicts and workplace problems that subordinates should settle on their own. As a manager, you must exercise good judgment in determining which conflicts you want to wade into, and which problems you want to take on. Subordinates may also try to "delegate up" problems or tasks they prefer not to deal with. Given the many demands on your time, you cannot allow your staff to push every problem onto your shoulders—especially if you have capable workers who are expected to deal with problems as part of their normal duties.
Breaking the Ice
Any lack of clarity about your role will cause speculation and gossip among subordinates. They need to know very soon how you intend to manage and what your expectations are of them. The best way deal with this situation is to meet individually with each of your direct reports. Naturally, you will talk informally with your staff from your first day, but it's best to schedule these one-on-one meetings after you've been on the job for a few weeks. This will give you a chance to form some impressions about your new environment and role. Prepare for these meetings by reviewing each person's personnel file, which should be available from the human resources department. Those files will describe each person's job, compensation, employment background, and will contain past performance data.
Make your meeting with each subordinate friendly but businesslike. Share the unit's broader goals and indicate your commitment to them. But encourage the subordinate to do most of the talking—about themselves, their personal goals, their work, what they see as impediments to their success and the unit's success, and so forth. This is your chance to demonstrate your accessibility and your willingness to listen: two traits that workers respect in a manager. If anyone tries to go off on a rant about how bad the company is or how unfairly he's been treated, redirect the conversation to goals and to the positive steps that can be taken toward them.
These initial meetings with individual subordinates may not be the time for you to communicate your plans and your expectations of them. Especially if you are new to the company or the department, you may not yet know what you expect of each employee. You may need time to listen, analyze, and think about those matters. Instead, use these meetings to clarify your role in the minds of your people. You want them to understand that you are:
Committed to working with them toward the unit's goals.
A person who stands up for his interests while respecting those of others
Fair-minded but intolerant of chronic whiners and slackers.
Open to positive suggestions.
Friendly but serious about your work and responsibilities.
Confident—not someone who needs to be liked.
An initiator of action, not a passive bystander.
If you can frame yourself in terms of those characteristics, you will earn respect and succeed in communicating your role to subordinates.
Relationships with Peers
New managers often think that their subordinates, formal organizational authority, and annual budget are the only resources they need to achieve their assigned goals. In reality, they seldom have anywhere near what they need. Budgets are lean and there always seem to be too few hands to do all the work. New managers also find that they are dependent to a greater or lesser degree on the cooperation and assistance of people in other parts of the company (more on this in Chapter 4). You'd never realize this by looking at the organization chart, like the one shown in Exhibit 1-2, which describes a company in tidy little boxes. Those lines and boxes, however, simply indicate reporting relationships, not how work is actually done and how company goals are achieved. Much of that happens within the "white space" between the boxes on the chart.
Example 1: The Eastern Sales Manager has an important account whose purchases are not being shipped because of a credit problem. The Sales Manager knows the CFO's assistant and calls her up to explain the problem and how it's being cleared up. "I know that our policy is not to ship new orders if any outstanding purchase payments are past due by more than 30 days, but here's the situation ..." He makes a case for shipping now and making this good customer happy while the payment problem is being sorted out. The CFO's office approves the deal, and the problem is solved.
Example 2: The Inventory Control manager, who works for the Vice President of Manufacturing, has just returned from the annual Inventory Control Association annual conference. While there, he attended a workshop at which a new, cost-saving application of IT tools was described. Hopeful that he could use the same tools to advantage, the manager called up an acquaintance in his own company's IT department. After discussing the situation, the two agree to meet for lunch in the company cafeteria to discuss the possibilities.
Example 3: A manager in New Product Development is being pressed by her boss, the Vice President of Manufacturing, to provide specifications for a new line of flat-bed scanners for which she is responsible. She cannot provide those specs until the Marketing department completes its research on customer requirements for the new scanners. She and the marketing research manager have collaborated successfully on several other projects, so she has no reluctance in contacting him and pressing him to complete his research as quickly as possible. "We have all the data already," he tells her, "but we haven't been able to tabulate it all because so many people are on vacation this month." To solve the problem, they agree to jointly contact the head of human resources and prevail on him to hire a temp to handle the tabulation work.
Notice in each of these examples how solutions were created by peers working across organizational boundaries. No subordinates were involved, nor did these managers receive any support from their bosses. Each case underscores the importance of developing good working relationships with people in other parts of the enterprise, even when no formal connection is present. These are people who have or are experiencing problems similar to yours. If you are like most new managers, you will find former and current peers to be your most valuable source of support—both technical and emotional. Unlike your boss, peers have no judgmental role to play in your work life, which makes them easier to approach.
Here are some things you can do as a new manager to build a peer network that will help you achieve your goals:
Get to know as many "achievers" as you can within the company: managers, non-managers, and technical professionals. Once a week, for example, call a different one of these people on the telephone and say, "Hi, I'm so-and-so, a new manager in the XYZ department. I'd like to make your acquaintance and learn about what you do and how we might help each other. Would you have time for coffee anytime soon?" You'll be amazed by how much you'll learn if you follow this technique.
Join cross-functional teams when you can. Cross-functional teams bring people with different skills and experiences together to solve problems and exploit opportunities. Being a member of one or more of these teams will bring you into close contact with key members of the organization. By working with them, you'll quickly learn which of them are effective and reliable. You'll also develop working relationships that are likely to pay off in the future.
Remember that to get you must give. Reciprocity is the currency of collaboration in workplace networks. If someone does you a favor, look for an opportunity to repay it.
Develop a reputation for action. Talk is cheap. The workplace is full of people who will say, "We ought to do ..." or "Somebody ought to do ..." Few of these people deliver. If you develop the opposite reputation, people in your peer network will want you on their teams.
Excerpted from Becoming a Manager by Perry McIntosh Richard Luecke Copyright © 2011 by American Management Association. Excerpted by permission of AMACOM. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.