When I became a manager for the first time, I was given the impression that being a manager was an elite job that would need some out-of-the-world skills. Despite that, I was expected to come up to speed quickly in my new role. The picture is painted almost the same way for every new first-time manager. To a first time manager, this picture may come across as quite intimidating.
You might be in great luck if you were a seasoned individual contributor within a team, and now you have been given a role to lead the same team as a manager. But we have seen that even when a seasoned individual contributor with high acceptability within a team takes up a manager’s role, they suddenly start behaving differently or unnaturally.
A delicate balance to look good on both sides
Two forces create such a sudden behavioural transformation.
First, there is a certain level of anxiety to look good to the team and come across as an effective manager at the outset. Such individuals want to keep things under control without losing a minute while expecting to command respect from the direct report. Somehow, at the back of their mind, they relate their effectiveness as a manager to their chances of earning their team’s respect.
Second, there is this pressure of looking good in front of upper management in an attempt to prove that they have made the right hiring decision by promoting (or hiring) this individual to the manager’s role.
New managers often walk on this two-edged sword to look good to the teams and the upper management. This is the exact thing that makes their life over-stressful, as they are in a constant struggle to maintain a balance between these two forces.
Over Glamorized first time manager’s role
New managers become more anxious when they are expected to adopt or display a signature management style. New managers are typically given some corporate training to get them started in a management career. However, those training programs are overly unrealistic or overly idealistic. Those training programs over glamorize the manager’s job. In turn, it gives an impression as if those skills are out of the world. Unwittingly, managerial skills are sometimes presented to look more significant than the role itself. Unknowingly or knowingly, the businesses treat management skills as elite skills. Amidst that noise, you are likely to underrate or misread your skills and style.
So how do the new managers learn to be effective right away?
I have been blessed to research with top managers in the industry for over two decades, and I learned what makes them successful first-time managers. Based on my experience as a corporate manager and a training leader, I would recommend “be personal” – that’s the mantra that can save you a lot of anxiety.
To be personal, I have two tips:
Use the skills that you use in day-to-day life
Reflect on how you managed with people and vendors while managing your brother or sister’s wedding. Then reflect on how you managed a great show at your friend’s birthday party. Finally, reflect on how you went several miles to check on a sick relative.
The way you approach your events or affairs in your life is exactly what defines ‘your management style’ to become an effective first-time manager. Once you use the same personal skills that you use in your day-to-day life, it will make you effortless, timeliness, and fluid in your performance.
Leverage your personal side and extend it out to the workspace
As much as possible, do not come across as a different person simply because you have now gotten a new role. Be the person you would like to fall back to when you are in your natural habitat. Be who you are the most comfortable with, without the anxiety of looking good downstream or upstream.
Deal with your new team members the same way you used to deal with a new person coming to play with you on the soccer court. When personal excellence becomes your goal, your professional excellence will come without effort. Therefore, leverage the personal side of your personality and extend it to your work.
However, when you see management skills in the essential things of life, you would recognize what you can leverage from your personal space into your workspace, following no specific leadership philosophy or framework. Perhaps you would not need one. To see yourself as an effective manager, you must live in a personal space. You probably don’t need any training for that. All you probably have to do is to ‘train’ yourself to notice the management skills you have already applied in your home, family, and even in your friendship circles.
Dr Raman K Attri is world’s leading authority on the science of speed in professional learning and performance. He is a multifaceted personality who wears several hats as a performance scientist, author of multiple books, professional conference speaker, and global learning business leader. Undeterred by his permanent disability since childhood, Dr Raman has transformed his inability to walk into his niche expertise to teach others how to walk faster in their professional world. As a global training thought leader, he manages a Hall of the Fame training organization named one of the top 10 in the world for a Fortune 500 technology corporation. He is a prolific author of 20 multi-genre books, holder of two doctorates and over 100 international educational credentials, and featured in over 100 media features, articles, interviews, and shows.