Growing into the Role of Manager

Not everyone is born to lead. In fact, most people don’t want to be managers — only 34% of respondents to a recent CareerBuilder survey said they aspire to leadership positions. And yet, there are new manager positions being filled every day. This means there are a lot of managers that may not actually want to be in their position. Leaving isn’t always an option, especially when you have car and house payments to make. So for those managers who need to do a lot of growing in a very short amount of time, here are a few pieces of advice.

Work Less, Facilitate More

One of the first things you’ll have to learn about being a manager is that you’re no longer in charge of doing things, but rather making sure they get done. The difference is that your role as a manager is more about assigning tasks, tracking them, and making sure your team is on track to accomplish them. This means getting out of your office and listening to what your employees are saying. This sounds simple, but you’d be surprised. Most managers (52%) don’t take the feedback from employee engagement surveys.

As an employee, your value was measured by the number of things you got done, the number of tangible things produced or crossed off a list. As a manager, it’s measured by how your team performs. This means actively engaging with the people on your team. As Greg Satell (@Digitaltonto) explains, you can’t be passive when it comes to talking with your team.

“Simply saying, ‘I have an open door, come to me with any problems’ is a cop out. If you want to know what’s going on in your organization you have to go out and actively look for problems, not just wait for them to come to you.”

Because your work is defined by other people, you need to make sure your team, as a whole, is working the way you would as an employee.

Take the Effort to Develop Talent

Working off the idea of listening to your employees, new managers should also understand employees are the ones doing the work, and as such need to be developed so they can work better and produce better results. The analogy is a bit dehumanizing, but humor me: is it not worth spending the money to fix a printer that works perfectly fine aside from one little kink? You could always buy a new printer, I suppose, but that’s not really an option when it comes to perfectly fine employees, especially when the costs of replacing an employee far outstrip those of replacing an appliance.

You can hire the best, brightest employees on the face of the Earth, and you’re still going to have to develop them. With up to 90% of learning taking place on-the-job, you’re going to have to make the effort of properly training employees when they arrive on their first day, and developing them from then on out. It’s not going to be a cheap process, but investing in them is a much better use of company money than trying to find someone new.

Beware Scope Creep

Once you’ve accepted that you’re now a manager in some capacity (whether you like it or not), you’re going to have to behave like one. This means knowing what makes a project manager successful, as well as what can sink a newbie. One thing you should always keep in mind is the idea of scope creep. For a manager who’s not really sure about what a project will actually entail, this means that what they thought was a small project can turn into a much larger one as they realize what they’ll need to accomplish the goal they initially set out to conquer. This can turn projects sour quickly, and make you look incompetent as a result. Christine Marciano, a Commercial Training Consultant for Nationwide, advises using templates to outline your projects before diving into them:

“I think scope creep most often can occur when the project manager, trying to be flexible, begins to accept additions to the project without accounting for the possible need of more resources: time, money, manpower . . [templates are] effective because of the tools’ ability to help the project manager communicate with stakeholders and teammates, and also to add standardization to the mix. Folks move around regularly in our company and the consistency in the form is comforting.”

We want regularity in our process, but being a manger is anything but regular. And while you most likely may not have wanted to be one, stepping out of your comfort zone and being a manager can be one of the most reward, most satisfying experiences you can have, especially when you see your team prospering around you.