The shift into leading and managing people is an exciting and rewarding change, yet with it comes pitfalls that you need to avoid, and skills you might not be aware of that are crucial for success.
A few years ago a very close friend of mine received a well-deserved promotion to management. He went from being part of a well-oiled software engineering machine to assuming responsibility for, not only the well-being of the technical work in the department, but the management of the team as a whole.
He is very smart, capable, clever, and has a keen eye for both the big picture, and the details, required to support the success of the overall goals. It was an exciting direction for his career… and yet, he failed — miserably.
The big question is: “Why did he fail?”
He came with an abundance of skill, he knew his team, knew their strengths, but a year later he chose to step out of the management role because it just wasn’t working.
What follows are lessons that my friend shared with me about what he learned (after the fact) that would’ve made all the difference.
1. Prepare for a status shift
If you have been promoted within your team your former co-workers are no longer your peers. It is important to renegotiate your working relationships and establish new boundaries. Some of these people may have been up for the same role and now they “work for you”. As a startup founder or co-founder the same scenario is at play when you hire new employees.
Navigating these relationships requires finesse, skill, and sensitivity. Do this right and you will establish a team on which you can count on. Changing status with grace and ease requires an awareness of yourself and how you relate to status in general.
2. Develop your communication style
When you’re managing people it’s your responsibility to find effective ways to communicate with each member of your team. The best managers know how to discover what motivates each person and adapts their communication style accordingly.
For example, if some team members are introverts you may find that patience combined with direct questions is effective. While extroverts may need a little space for expression combined with directives to help them find focus.
Connect with your direct team as individuals, and learn how to navigate and clear up communication breakdowns as well.
3. Embrace decisions and delegation
Managing people requires confident decision making skills as well as delegation. How do you make decisions? What’s your process? What do you need to know, specifically, to make a decision? And, just as important, how are you at delegating?
In order to delegate successfully you’ll have to maintain responsibility while the accountability lies with someone else. Delegating can be extremely difficult; letting go and trusting that tasks, projects, activities will get done properly is not easy.
Therefore, you’ll have to create a company culture where you inspire your team to do things the way you want them to be done, because you can’t — and shouldn’t — do it all yourself.
4. Hire well and fire better
Finding the right employees is an art; similar to finding your ideal customer. This is why you need to know what to look for in an ideal job candidate. This refers to not just the appropriate skill set, but also the characteristics that make someone a good fit for the team and company. And, most importantly, how to recognize a star when you see one?
You are also responsible for creating a culture that supports and nurtures great performance. Likewise, you need to know when it is time to cut someone loose, not on a gut level, but with clarity and decisiveness.
5. Give feedback early and often
Clear and effective feedback for those who report to you is at the cornerstone of great management. Create an environment that is open, safe, and respectful, and allows for the flow of effective feedback.
It is important to know how to give, both positive and challenging feedback in a way that others will look forward to receiving — regardless of whether it is positive or negative.
6. Find a good mentor
When you’re managing people it is important to find a mentor. We all need guidance and a way to share ideas and ask questions. A mentor provides an opportunity to do just that.
The right business mentor (someone outside your direct line of command) can help you step into your new role more easily, and allow you to express your fears, confusion, or frustrations without being directly connected to your performance.
Navigating a leadership and management role is an ever changing experience; having someone that can help you to continue to learn and grow, as well as provide guidance through new challenges can mean the difference between success and failure. Choose wisely.
Each one of these skills is vital to your success; consider each one carefully. At the end of the day it’s the challenges you face, the risks you take to learn more, and intentional preparation that brings you closer to your goal.
This article has been edited.
Jayne Donnelly is the founder and CEO of Altus Effect, an international business and life coaching practice that provides entrepreneurs, executives, and startups, extraordinary transformation in leadership, management, and business ownership. Connect with @altuseffect on Twitter.
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