Becoming an effective manager

Many successful people get promoted into management and quickly find the pressure to be higher than anything they felt in the past. As an individual contributor, it is much easier to control the outcomes of your work. It may not seem like that at times, but you have a lot more control than when you are a manager of people. I am not referring to people that receive a management title and have nobody to manage. A real manager has the authority and responsibility to manage: financial performance (includes holding others accountable), people activities (hire, keep and grow people), and positioning/strategizing the firm or department in a way that provides a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

One key issue a manager faces is that there are always detractors within the larger organization and the smaller team. These people may have been detractors all along, felt they should have gotten your position, or do not know you well enough to realize you are qualified for your position. In his book, Managing Right for the First Time, David C. Baker recommends that managers not overreact and to approach detractors as follows:

  1. It is natural to have detractors, and you just need to be aware of who they are and acknowledge they are there.
  2. It is important that a new manager avoid actions that give their detractors power.
  3. One should not try to bully or overstep a detractor by using the power of ones new position.
  4. When dealing with issues, it is important to treat everyone with equal fairness and respect and focus on right action.

The key in any management position is to be a leader that staff wants to follow. This does not mean being weak or attempting to be everyones friend. Instead, Baker identifies the following characteristics as key to being someone people want to follow.

  • Approachability Do you actively listen first before reacting?
  • Articulateness When you communicate, do you do it directly enough so that people truly understand what you are thinking and feeling?
  • Authenticity Are your actions and behaviors consistent with the how you really feel inside?
  • Honesty Do you say what you mean and deliver difficult feedback effectively?
  • Consistency How much consistency is there between vision communicated and reality? Do you do what you say or change when it suits you?
  • Competence Are you competent enough to understand the issues and evaluate what is being said?
  • Confidence Do you have the balance between being able to inspire others to follow you but not so much confidence that you fail to recognize you are heading down the wrong path?
  • Curiosity Are you always observing and inquiring to test original beliefs against new information and showing a willingness to refine strategies and action plan accordingly?
  • Decisiveness Are you willing to make choices that may not be popular?
  • Discipline Do you get things done, do what you say, plan, and execute?
  • Fairness Can people trust you will look out for others best interests when the others are not in the room?
  • Hopefulness Most people would choose not to walk down the path to hell! Can you lead the way down a difficult path with a positive and winning attitude?

If you are entering management for the first time or experiencing less-than-optimal cooperation from your team, challenge yourself with the above questions and consider reading Managing Right for the First Time, by David C. Baker.

Missing any of the above characteristics can hinder your effectiveness. It takes a strong manager to keep all of them in perspective. It is natural to violate them when detractors enter the picture or when encountering challenges in a role.

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