by Guest Pat Cuneen MD (Lighthouse Organisational Consultants)
A promotion into management is a time of celebration, excitement and transition. An essential part of that transition needs to be the clear realisation that your job has changed fundamentally. You may still be in the same organisation, even the same department. But that’s where the similarities stop. Your old and your new job are as different as chalk and cheese.
Your promotion to manager is not unlike a talented musician trading his or her instrument for a conductor’s baton. You no longer play that instrument in the orchestra. The conductor coordinates and perhaps even inspires the work of others to collaborate to produce a perfectly synchronised musical production. So, you too now need to lead and manage the work of others.
Of course, not every organisation has a clear definition of the role and responsibilities of a manager. For many, the role is understood simply as the list of tasks to be completed: manage and control budgets, resolve technical difficulties that arise, ship X number of widgets per month, supervise consultant client reports, etc. Not surprisingly, new managers often find themselves grappling with the question: well, what is my job anyway?
So, what is the role and expectations of a manager? While you will always have to balance the technical demands and budgetary requirements of your department, your new and fundamentally different role is to get results through other people. For example, Proctor & Gamble, a highly successful international consumables firm for over a hundred years, leaves no room for ambiguity regarding the role of their managers. P&G expect their managers to create and lead a positive environment for performance improvement. They want their managers to foster creativity and have a healthy disregard for conventional thinking. They want them to embrace change and be rigorous in the execution of planned goals.
Many of the managers I’ve interviewed for this book mentioned that letting go of the old job was one of the biggest challenges they had. Consciously or otherwise, there can be quite a degree of tree-hugging to the old job and its obvious comfort zone. After all, it was their performance in their old job that generated the recognition that lead to their promotion. However, to swing on the circus trapeze, you have to let go of one bar before you can reach out and catch the new bar swinging towards you. You need to make a clean and deliberate mental break from your old job and grasp the challenge and opportunity of the new one. You need to leave the old job and your comfort level behind as you stretch out towards your new role and responsibilities.
“There are very real dangers of continuing to do what you have been good at and recognised for. People are very slow to move out of their comfort zone. Things have moved on (your job has changed) and you have to change too”.
There is perhaps an understandable temptation to hold onto aspects of your old job. Undoubtedly, there can be a sense of gratification when you respond satisfactorily to an urgent matter as you did in the past. In the very short term, you may enjoy the satisfaction of the moment, but you’ll quickly find out that you’ve taken on too much yourself and neither your old nor new role will be done to anyone’s satisfaction.
“Because I was trying so hard to impress, I micro-managed everything during that first year in the mistaken belief that I knew best how to do it. I ended up driving myself into the ground and everyone else nuts. Another consequence of my approach was that two of the best people in the department transferred out during that time”
Your transition into management is likely to be one of the most challenging times in your professional life. The early months are crucial as they can have a disproportionate effect on your success in your new role. First impressions do count.
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