Five things that change for first time managers

Leadership is not something that can be taken. It has to be earned by making the team and its members successful.

One of the biggest changes in a professional career is when you get promoted from individual contributor to a manager.

Here are five things that will change.

  1. It is no longer about yours but somebody else’s success. Individual contributors focus on their own work. As a manager you are measured by how well your team works. Your work is about setting goals for your team, helping them reach success, and assessing them against their goals.
  2. When you become a manager it’s even more important that you are part of the solution and not of the problem. You now have the authority and duty to fix things, not complain about them. When problems are brought to you, you take action.
  3. As a manager you make plans, time estimates and delivery commitments, and you report back on progress made.
  4. You have more people to work with. You regularly connect with your boss to ask what more you can do to help reach the goals. There is the team whose success you are in charge of. The third group is your colleagues – peers and other managers, with whom you coordinate cross-team tasks and projects.
  5. First time managers often hold a player-coach role. They are simultaneously players with their own operational duties and coaches who manage other people. Over time they advance in the organizational hierarchy and may become managers who only manage.

For every level there are new tricks to learn and some old ones that should be left behind.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

One of the biggest changes in somebody’s professional career is when you get promoted from individual contributor to a manager.

Here are the things that will change. First, now it’s not about your success anymore. It is about somebody else’s success. An individual contributor makes sure that he or she works well, but as a manager you’re measured by how well your team works. You must direct your attention to making sure that other people are successful. You must set goals for them and assess them against those goals.

Another big change is that you can’t complain anymore. As a manager, you have the authority and the duty to fix things, not complain about them. Sure, you’ll bring up problems and you’ll report about problems, but then you must turn around and do something about them.

You also as a manager need to be able to plan and make commitments. Again, as an individual contributor you will say “I’ll do my best.” As a manager you need to be able to estimate how long it will take and with what certainty you’ll finish the work in the given time. You need to report that back to your boss and you need to commit to a deadline.

Finally, as a manager, you have more people to work with. You have a boss as before, but now as a manager you’re expected to ask your boss every now and then what else you can do and how you can help him or her reach their goals. You have your team that you are now in charge of and you must take care of the team and make the team successful. Thirdly, you have colleagues – peers, other managers – who work on other projects or other tasks, but you need to coordinate with them because there are many tasks that go across teams.

When you become a manager for the first time, oftentimes it’s a player-coach role. You’re still a player. You still have your own duties. But you’re also a coach – you are also a manager of other people. Then over time you may become a pure manager who only manages. Then you become a manager who manages managers, and so on. Then you advance in the organizational hierarchy. For every such level there are new tricks to learn and some old tricks that you need to leave behind.

The main point, however, is that leadership is not something you can just take. You can’t take it for granted. You can’t take it, it can’t just be given to you. You must earn it. You earn leadership by making your team successful. You make your team successful by making the team members successful.

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