Wednesday, January 2nd 2002. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I had gone home to eat lunch with Mandy and arrived back in my cubicle at EJ Footwear to find a yellow Post-It Note on my monitor letting me know that the CEO wanted to see me. Now, I knew who Jerry Cohn was and we had said hello in the hallway a few times but I had never had a significant conversation with him and I had certainly never been invited in to his office.
What was going on here?
I knew that the e-commerce department had not been living up to its forecasts and that we were starting to feel some pressure to perform better so, naturally, my heart skipped a few beats as I started walking down to his corner office. I was totally unprepared for the conversation I was about to have.
Within about 90 seconds I was told that my boss (who had been with the company 25+ years) had just been let go, I was offered his job, I was told to move in to his office, and I was instructed to begin searching for my own replacement just as quickly as I could. Almost as a throw-away comment, I was also told that I know had two direct reportsâ€”employees nearly twice my ageâ€”and that they would be told of the new reporting structure within the hour.
That was it. That was all of the instruction I was given. Welcome to the Wonderful World of Management. Surely my undergraduate degree in management would see me through, right? Right?
Most people, as they move up a career ladder, do not have quite a dramatic introduction in to management that I had. Often it is a calculated march up and across an organization. Other times a star performer is tapped by upper management to take on expanded responsibilities including, often times, starting to manage ones former peers. This pattern repeats itself over and over again with usually, and unfortunately, little to no thought if the new manager has been trained to be a manager.
A recent article from IBM pointed out several challenges that come with moving from an individual contributor to a manager as well as three steps new managers should take to be successful:
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While I like and agree with these thoughts, I think that they fall short of helping a new managerâ€”especially those promoted from withinâ€”understand how their role has fundamentally changed.
You are no longer one of the guys / girls. Your work relationships will change whether you want them to or not. Especially if you are now managing a team of which you were once a staff member. Your former teammates will not speak as openly to you; some may even become a bit hostile towards you and your new role. You will also have to curtail the amount and change the timing of information and news that you share with your former co-workers.
Social interactions with your former teammates will change / disappear altogether. Think about what you talk about frequently when you go out socially with your co-workers? My money is on your work and bosses. There is nothing wrong with this, it is normal and healthy but now that YOU are a boss, you probably will not be invited to these kinds of outings any longer or, if you are, expect some awkward silences and moments.
You have to be willing to hold your new team accountable. Having difficult conversations isâ€¦difficultâ€¦at best. Having those same conversations with friends who now report to you is even more challenging. Managers should not play favorites (although this can be really hard at times) and you need to hold all of your team accountable for their work. No exceptions. Expect some to try to take advantage of you, however, and prepare in advance for how you will deal with those situations.
Expected to resented, if not vilified, some of the time. This is especially true if you won the promotion over another team member. Some may grumble that you did not deserve the opportunity. Others will grouse about you not being ready. Yet others will simply complain because they like to complain. Regardless of the reason, you need to develop thick skin because, now that you are in a leadership position, you just had a large bull’s-eye painted on your back.
Whatever you do, take on that management opportunity with your eyes wide open. Leading others can be an extremely satisfying challenge and one that will change you forever.