Excerpt from Skills for New Managers, Second Edition by Morey Stettner.
Think of the best boss you ever had. If no one pops to mind, consider a strong leader you know such as a sports coach or a volunteer coordinator at your community center.
Complete these sentences:
- When faced with adversity, this manager will ____________.
- To improve teamwork, this manager will _____________.
- When explaining a concept, this manager will ___________.
- To keep control of an unruly group, this manager will ___________.
- Employees respect this manager because ____________.
Most new managers assume they know exactly what it takes to thrive in their new position. But jumping to such conclusions can lead them astray. From my experience advising new managers, here are the three most common assumptions they make:
- The same skills that got me here will help me succeed.
- Employees expect me to have all the answers.
- My employees arent all that different from me.
Lets hold each of these assumptions up to the light and see what we discover.
Assumption 1: Just Do the Same Thing, But Better
Why were you promoted into management? Dont think for a moment your professional expertise instantly qualifies you to lead others. Sure, you may be a math whiz, a social media maven, or a gifted software engineer. But whatever accolades youve earned based on your specialized knowledge will in no way guarantee that youll make a great manager.
In fact, your ability to manage people has almost nothing to do with the technical savvy youve gained that has led you to this point in your career. While you may need to train employees and share your wisdom, the more pressing task ahead is to earn their trust and motivate them to perform exceptionally.
Its scary but true: as a new manager, youre starting from scratch. You cannot fall back on whatever got you this far.
Assumption 2: I Must Have All the Answers
One of the hardest lessons for cub managers to learn is to say I dont know.
If you think your employees will expect you to know everything, youre wrong. They realize youre just doing your joband your job is to keep an eye on them. When they ask you questions, they may certainly hope for a satisfying answer. But if you dont supply it, theyre not going to mock you behind your back or suspect youre an impostor. Theyll probably either forget about it orif they really want an answertheyll ask someone else.
No manager knows it all. Ironically, some of the best leaders actually know less than their employees about the innards of the business. This supposed ignorance allows them to bring a much-valued, fresh perspective to the workplace.
The true test of your managing isnt what you know or dont know. Its how you relate to your employees and how you go about helping them find answers.
Assumption 3: Ill Manage Employees Like I Manage Myself
Heres a news flash youd better process now, not later: your staffers are not reflections of you. They were not made in your image, and they do not embody all the same beliefs, biases, and hopes that you possess.
This may sound obvious. But many managers, flying high on the theyre-just-like-me assumption, wind up systematically alienating every one of their employees.
Say you like to play devils advocate when analyzing an issue. This helps you see both sides before you draw a conclusion. Fair enough.
Yet your employee may not appreciate your thought process. In fact, she may view your critical response to her idea as a thinly veiled rejection. She may think you really believe thatthat you dont want to give her proposal serious consideration. She wont see it as harmless devils advocacy; shell walk away convinced that you just love to knock employees good ideas, and she may spread the word among her coworkers.
Perhaps youve established a solid track record as a technician. Great. But most of those skills wont necessarily help you handle others. Thats an eye-opener for many hotshots who are promoted into management. They figure that theyre unstoppable, only to find that all their specialized training doesnt matter much when they go face-to-face with their staff.
If you must make an assumption, heres a safe one: your employees are all different. They can listen to the same speech and hear different messages. What frightens you might excite them, and what motivates you might bore them.
Acknowledge the diversity among your team. Dont project onto others as you see yourself. The more you can treat each individual separately, the more youll grow to marvel at the wide range of attitudes and behaviors that your employees bring to work every day