The Reality New Managers Can’t Avoid

It’s hard work, but don’t over complicate it.

One of the common reactions to the content I present in my online workshops “Succeeding as a First-Time Manager,” is: “This is hard work.”

I agree.

Kind of.

In a recent article, “Leadership is Common Sense in Action,” I make the case that we over complicate it a great deal.

I stand behind this perspective as well.

I suppose a bit of clarification is in order before you reasonably conclude I cannot make up my mind.

The ingredients of successful leadership are not locked away in a vault with a combination known only to two people.

They are out there for all of us to use and apply and experiment with as we navigate our days and challenges.

However, learning to lead effectively is indeed deliberate, hard, relentless work.

Too many managers are lazy and skip the daily hard work.

Those who succeed and change lives and firms for the better don’t take shortcuts.

Nonetheless, if you are fresh in the role of manager or thinking about it, you should understand the reality of this job.

It’s hard work.

It’s mostly common sense.

It’s darned hard work.

Consider these Challenges:

Pulling together a group to focus on solving a problem or creating something new is easy enough.

Helping this group develop into a high-performance project team is one of the most difficult acts in all of organizational life.

The work of strategy is challenging.

The work of bringing strategy to life through others is an order of magnitude more difficult.

Cultivating the self-confidence to tackle uncomfortable performance discussions is a true exercise in stretching oneself far out of the proverbial comfort zone.

Motivating a group of individual contributors to constantly strive to strengthen performance is work best left to those with degrees in behavioral psychology. Unfortunately, 99.99 percent of all managers lack this insight. As a result, we flail.

Navigating the constant flow of demands from on high as well as the effluent that accompanies them is difficult.

Motivating your team or group members to address those ever-shifting and often overwhelming demands is doubly difficult.

The Answer: More Hard Work

Great leaders are mostly made, not born.

It starts with accepting a whole new set of challenges.

Being accountable for the work of others is a lot different than being accountable for your work.

Study hard. Read Kouzes & Posner and experts including:  Wally Bock, Jesse Lyn Stoner, and Mary Jo Asmus, and think hard about what they are saying. And then put the ideas to work.

Experiment daily. You have the world’s greatest living laboratory for experimenting with different approaches.

Manage yourself. Recognize that everyone is looking at you to assess your character and competence. Establish your character first. Competence can follow.

Learn to coach. Great people want to be coached.

Learn to serve as a sponsor. Protect and help knock down walls and eliminate obstacles.

Grow your influence across and up and down your organization. Great managers cultivate great influence.

When you screw up, and you will, lick your wounds, identify the lessons learned and keep moving. If your self-confidence wavers, you are finished.

Take the worst days and dust yourself off and vow to come in the next day and succeed.

Take the shots and body blows and get up and keep fighting.

Do all of the above and more, and someday you will be marginally competent.