Becoming a manager is filled with a melting pot emotions: excitement, pride, and maybe a little fear because, truthfully, the transition to manager can often be a bit rocky. Whether you’ve been promoted within your organization or you’re a brand-new hire that has been brought in to turn the ship around, becoming a great leader who inspires through their vision, decisiveness, and team-building abilities is more art than science. When I became a manager, I was looking for a leadership blueprint I could follow, and, while that doesn’t exist, I can give you some insider advice that I wish I had. Here are 7 things no one tells you about becoming a new manager (and how to make the best of each situation):
When things go right, it’s because of your team’s hard work, dedication, and commitment to the job. When things go wrong, it’s because you didn’t lead the team effectively, made the wrong call, or approved the tagline with a typo in it too quickly.
The Fix: Find yourself a cheerleader, confidant, or buddy you can share the ups and downs. This can either be a leader of a different team within your company or a leader in a completely different field.
When you first got promoted you may have initially thought your to-do list was going to get shorter and the tasks would get assigned to someone else. It might be true that a direct report will help you with workload, but you’re still ultimately accountable for the assignments, tasks, and responsibilities. This means taking the extra time to teach or explain the tasks, which can be incredibly time-consuming, in addition to other administrative tasks like HR, payroll, approving time sheets, employee reviews, and more.
The Fix: Budget more time into your week and be prepared to become the “go-to” person for most things. Late nights and early mornings don’t end when you become the boss—it's best to come to terms with it earlier.
Research proves that creating a team that openly offers and receives feedback on an on-going basis leads to more growth. When your team can ask questions, give critical feedback, and accept advice in a way that lets them adapt and create better work, they'll be more engaged. Your team will quickly outperform company goals if they’re more productive, engaged, and don’t waste time on something that isn’t working well.
The Fix: Create an on-going feedback framework and structure the whole team follows.
Losing really good employees who you’ve mentored, watched grow, and depend on will always be hard. It will sting. You will be exhausted just thinking about finding their replacement. But I challenge you to really see this as a positive—because it is. Every time we’ve lost a person at Career Contessa, the first few weeks are full of transition but then... we embrace the change and build an even stronger team. Change is good and it’s a natural part of business. The fresh energy of a new employee will also give you a pep in your step.
The Fix: Allow yourself to feel the sting, and then get to work looking at how you can shift workloads, what qualities you want in your next employee, and be optimistic about having a new person join the team dynamic.
Being at the top can be lonely. While your team might be work BFFs and talk about the amazing birthday party they’re all attending, you’re most likely not on the invite list. That is totally ok! Your job is to be their leader, a trusted resource—not their pal they get drinks with, trash talk about work with, or anything that really blurs the line between professional and personal life. And a note to people who have a manager who wants to be their best friend: That set-up may not be beneficial for you, either.
The Fix: You don’t have to be a robot as a manager and, in fact, some personal connection is really good. Ask your direct reports how their recent vacation was, what exercise class they’re loving right now, etc. Building a personal connection can make your relationship strong, yet (and this is key) professional.
You may find yourself in situations where you’ll need to make difficult decisions—and they won’t always be popular. While it’s important to gather your team’s input, in the end, it’s your responsibility to decide what’s best, even if that means disappointing (or even angering) some people on your team.
The Fix: Be prepared to explain the reasoning behind any controversial choices and let your team know that you did hear them and considered their opinions. Trying to please everyone will be a losing game so don’t even bother trying.
Not everyone is a born leader, but you can learn and, after all, your own manager thinks you have what it takes. Look at this new responsibility as a chance to push yourself: Do you need to work on communication skills? Time management? Giving feedback? Motivating employees?
The Fix: Think back to a time when you had a great manager. What did you like about them? Find books on leadership, articles, take a class, listen to a podcast, or even consider hiring a coach. The key is to always continue learning.
Do you have any questions about being a manager? Feel free to ask Career Contessa in the comments!