During the past several months, I’ve had the pleasure of watching a few new managers grow into their jobs. I wanted to share a few observations about their struggles and successes that may apply universally to all new managers.
- Learning their craft
My young friends have viewed management as a skill to be learned, and they’ve dived into it with passion. They’re trying to read and learn and think about management skills and techniques wherever and whenever they can. Sometimes the mind gets ahead of the body, as it were (i.e., their desire to learn outpaces their actual skill at using the techniques they are learning) … but this brings with it hard-earned experience and, ultimately, greater skill.
- Learning to delegate
This might be the hardest skill to learn for most new managers (who have generally been promoted due their technical excellence in their field, not their managerial skill). They understand that their job is now to get work done throughother people now, rather than solely operating as an individual contributor. For the most part, they remember this and try to provide their teams with the resources, support, and autonomy they need to do their jobs. Every once in a while, though, they slip back into “it’s easier if I do it myself” mode, and need a gentle reminder that they are now more “delegator” than “doer.”
- Learning to balance the short term with the long term
The young managers are learning to balance the temptation of immediate gratification (i.e., results today) with the need to build the team’s capacity (i.e., results in the future). They are starting to understand that by taking time to fill Sally in on the big picture regarding “Project X” now (even though they don’t really have the time, and she only has a small piece of the project anyway), they are setting her up to make a bigger contribution in the future – a contribution that might not be possible if she was only given instruction on her very limited task today.
- Learning from veterans
Almost intuitively, my young friends have set about finding mentors and “picking their brains” on managing teams, handling interpersonal issues, etc. In doing so, they are gaining greater perspective on – and greater skill in— each of the concepts above. To a person, the informal mentors benefit from this sharing, too, in all the ways that any teacher benefits from sharing knowledge with any student – and a virtuous cycle of learning and growth is set in motion.
Sadly and ironically, my young manager friends seem to lack much formal mentoring and guidance from their immediate leaders. While fixes for that problem are a discussion for another day, perhaps we (the “more experienced” among us) can help informally by mentoring those in need wherever and whenever we can. They’ll appreciate it and benefit from it, I’m sure … and so will we. Doing so, we might be impacting the future of our organizations for good more than we can imagine.
- Find a mentor who’s been in your shoes (theglobeandmail.com)
- For the Good of Your Business: Develop a Mentoring Mentality (insatiablesolopreneur.com)
- The Manager’s Role- Always On, Always Aware, Always Influencing (vistage.com)