The rude awakening for many first-time managers is the reality that they are now actually responsible for the outcomes of others. It’s a far cry from the life of an individual contributor when the only difficult person you had to deal with was staring back at you in the mirror. Yes, it would be easy if it weren’t for the people. Of course, people are what you have to work with in this job. Here are some ideas to help you navigate the transition to driving results through others.
1. Tune in to your boss’s expectations.
While your first inclination is to turn your full attention to the activities of your group, you need to extract expectations and performance measures from your boss. Without this critical information, you are unarmed.
2. Share expectations and data on outcomes liberally.
Much like you need the context of how you and your team will be evaluated, your team members need the same information. I’m a fan of extreme sharing of performance targets and results. Keep the metrics front and center for everyone to see and monitor. I’ve never worked in a high performance environment that was not focused on the right numbers.
3. Breathe life into the idea of teaming.
Most collections of individual contributors are as far from being a true team as you can get. And you imploring them to function as a team will fall on deaf ears. There has to be a clear and compelling purpose to come together and function as a team instead of a series of independent nations.
One of the first and most logical places to start is to work with the group and challenge them to identify those activities and processes that move them closer to hitting or exceeding performance targets. Often, there is pent up frustration over the inability to make changes they know will improve performance. Show that you trust your group members and empower them to act. Once opportunities are identified, the group can begin adopting team-like behaviors as they identify and adopt strategies to conquer the performance expectations.
It’s common for me to see process improvement initiatives emerge and ideas to automate or outsource certain activities and free up the energy to focus on the key items that impact performance. Provide support and coaching, but let them go deep on these items.
4. Don’t assume they’re broken.
A common mistake of first-time managers is to assume they were promoted to remake everything. Right now. Nothing says, “jerk” like you as a manager effectively telling everyone they don’t know what they are doing. You might have some good ideas. However, you need to finesse the process and encourage the group members to discover and act on these ideas on their own. No one loves or does their best work for a “know-it-all” manager.
5. Put your values on display in every decision.
Your commitment to fairness, transparency, coaching, and constructive problem-solving will pay incredible performance dividends for you. Take the time to articulate your core values and then remind yourself to display them daily.
6. Use every encounter, every day to promote high performance.
Every single day, you are given an incredible number of opportunities to do the right thing in support of creating an effective working environment. Consider:
- Treat everyone with respect, no matter how challenging the situation.
- Dispense positive feedback liberally. Of course, it must be earned, behavioral and business focused.
- Learn to deliver effective, constructive feedback. Good people want more feedback on improving. It’s up to you to learn how to do this in a timely and proper manner.
- If you make a mistake, admit it and apologize. Show that you are human.
- Resist the urge to make team members your friends. People don’t do their best work for their friends—they do it for managers they respect.
- If you say you are going to do something, do it. Everyone’s watching.
7. Resist the urge to become a tyrannical dictator of a manager.
You only have to encounter one of those types to know it is a formula for disaster. You cannot sustain performance through intimidation and fear tactics. You might gain compliance, but even that is fleeting. And don’t turn your back, as there may be a line-up of individuals wanting to plant a metaphorical knife in it.
If you don’t drive results, you won’t be a manager for long. Interestingly, what no one points out is that it is some of the higher order leadership approaches that enable you to manage effectively.
Think about it.
Forewarned is forearmed. Everyone is watching you. Your group is watching you for character and competence. Your boss is watching you mostly for the outcomes. Choose your approaches carefully, and you will earn the respect of all parties.