At some juncture, you will end up making the transition from “being managed” to a managerial position. Exactly when? Well, that may be dependent on your career and your desire to climb the ladder, but if you progress your skills and responsibilities along an upward trajectory, chances are you'll end up landing a role that involves people management.
At first it may appear wrapped with benefits - namely more money - but once the boots are strapped on and you take your first step, you might quickly notice that a number of expectations have changed in your new role.
Rather than stumble through your first moments as a manager through trial and error, make your transition as professional and as seamless as possible by following these common principles.
Use, but don’t abuse, delegation as a new tool
You may be coming from a team environment where you were supported by a number of colleagues in similar positions with a shared supervisor. In this environment you may have grown comfortable assuming your role and completing tasks individually as part of a greater project or mission. It may be tempting to continue this mindset at first into your new role, but be cautious. Along with an attractive pay raise, transitions to management also carry with them increased responsibilities.
You’ve likely heard the age old proverb: “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This couldn’t hold truer as a supervisor. Taking the time to delegate and train your new employees can save you substantial time down the road.
Pro tip: Avoid job dumping - delegating your least desired tasks to your employees. Doing so may contribute to high turnover and a poor reputation. Instead, treat your employees as capable equals and provide tasks that are both challenging and rewarding. Mix in the less desirable tasks as needed, but focus primarily on getting the most you can out of your colleagues' talents.
Understand processes before revising them
It can be all too easy to come into a managerial role with an outside perspective and quickly see cause for changing procedures. After all, as an employee you likely looked at some of the things your managers did with confusion. Although a fresh approach can be an advantage, changes to these processes should be born from an efficiency and effectiveness standpoint, not necessarily for personal preference or based on past experience.
Pro tip: Take care to fully understand the reason for the current process before initiating steps to overhaul it. For example, don’t assume an application or form needs changed until you understand how the form, and its contents, is used. Doing so too hastily may end up completely damaging an existing procedure and its underlying purpose.
Know your personnel
Take time to learn about your employees' backgrounds, strengths, and weaknesses before assigning projects or tasks. It can be easy to fall into the habit of the status quo. Joe might be meeting the requirements of his job description, but he might also bring key experience to the table that could contribute to a project you are working on as well. Failure to recognize this may result in a lower quality final product. Understand where people fit and give them tasks that emphasize their strengths. But don't neglect challenging their weaknesses either, through tasks that require learning and collaboration.
Pro tip: Hire your weaknesses. Asses your own weaknesses and be honest. Do applicants for your department, or someone on your staff, have a skill set you do not? If so, don’t perceive it as a threat – utilize it as a tool to bridge any deficiency you might have in your team. Teams whose members complement each other's skillsets are efficient and effective.
Adjust how you handle the taking responsibility
In your previous position, you may have had the luxury, or the requirement, to pass the buck to your boss, seek approval, or clear any questions prior to taking action. Chances are, you were also selected for your managerial position because of your demonstrated ability to make decisions. Thus, the expectation of how you handle decision-making moments may have changed as well.
Do your best to quickly ascertain your new decision-making responsibilities and resist the urge to escalate issues unless absolutely necessary. And be ready to take responsibility for your employees' mistakes. They'll happen, and leadership requires that you know when to stand up for the people who support you.
Pro tip: Don’t make the mistake of assuming responsibility always stops with you. If a situation does necessitate further investigation or follow up, address it with your supervisor if there is any doubt at all, especially at first. Overstepping your bounds before you know what they are will reflect negatively on you.
Nip unwanted behaviors in the bud
It will not take long at all before an employee of yours displays behavior counter to your managerial or company policies, or you are presented with a complaint of some kind. Take caution not to shrug it off as an isolated incident, and see it as an opportunity to meet with the individual to discover more about the situation. If it is not addressed before it becomes a trend, it may become a larger and potentially irrecoverable problem.
Pro tip: Create balance with your team by also being sure to reinforce positive behavior and achievement through praise or rewards. Only taking time to reprimand will quickly give the impression that those working for you are undervalued and unappreciated.