You've been promoted, and now what?
Congratulations! You've finally landed that promotion you've been striving for, or you've just been recruited for a management role at a new company. Whichever one it may be, you're in for the ultimate trial. No matter how much you think, you know your organisation's workings, situations, and circumstances change daily at a rapid rate. It won't be long until all of the enthusiasm wears off, and reality sinks in.
There will always be one coworker who thinks they were a better fit for your job when you'd been hired. There would always be someone complaining about how hard they think they worked, never called in sick, took a day off, or did more work than you, so they were better suited for the job. You would be delusional to think everyone would welcome you with open arms and smiles. Yes, you might get a welcome or congratulations party – people showering you with smiles and encouraging words. As soon as you enter your name on the dotted line, you are held responsible for so many things, and people will be after your head. It's not all going to be butterflies and rainbows; there will be some gloomy days as well. Not everyone would genuinely be happy for you, so don't go around thinking everyone loves you. There will be people who might despise you just because you are in that specific managerial position. However, when you're just starting, you don't yet have a reputation. Other's perspective of you can swing either way – think of yourself as a pendulum. So basically, you're on probation in the first week, and all eyes are on you. Your behaviour in the first few weeks will decide what kind of reputation you're going to build for yourself in front of your employees. Remember, the first impression is the last.
It would help if you were mindful that only a few people would be willing to give the new leader the benefit of the doubt. Some employees might have already done all the math in their heads within your first few weeks and analysed everything about you. They either think you're the best thing that happened to them or you're just a disaster waiting to happen. Some of the employees might mess with you so they can have a more knowledgeable opinion about you. They might ask unnecessary questions to test your understanding or see if you crack under pressure.
Possibly you were the epitome of an ideal employee. You either managed the organisation's recourses efficiently, or you were the IT guy who put in place a state-of-the-art security system. From these positions, you would take a jump to higher responsibilities. In your new role, you would be held responsible for any catastrophe that happens within your managerial boundaries. You don't just have to regulate your work anymore. You have to make sure everyone else does their job the right way so that the overall operations keep running smoothly and keep the successes and failures within your radar. Not only this, you would have to deal with all kinds of people. You would have to manage and regulate different personalities, attitudes, opinions, and behaviours. They can range from sweet to sour, and you need to be appropriately equipped for that.
So, What Should I Do?
You're supposed to handle these situations and deal with it all. If you find yourself in a position where you're asking yourself how in the world would you do that, here's how.
Start with a Mental Shift
Once you move up the organisation's hierarchy through a promotion, you need to realise you're a part of the big guys now and have a greater responsibility. Fortunately, since you've already played a role in the organisation, you know what it's like to handle the big guys. Once you realise that, you also need to come to terms with the fact that a higher managerial position is not about bossing people around. It is more about the extent of increased responsibility on your shoulders. It means you would have to be responsible for the people you've recently worked with, but you would have to retune and understand that this is your new job now. It wouldn't matter if you were a hardworking employee in any one of the departments, marketing, finance or human resource, being promoted to a managerial position is on another level entirely. It comes with changed responsibilities, and you would have to widen your perspective. Although your previous skills might come in handy, you would still need a different skill set to effectively handle the managerial position. Just because the organisation has recognised your performance, this isn't a hard-and-fast rule that you would make a natural manager. Therefore, once you take up the managerial position, you need to rewire your mind and have a mental map in mind, helping you warm up to your new job. If you fail to do so, can leave you functionally disabled.
Initiate a Team Wide One-on-One
One of the first calls to action within your first few weeks should design a slot in your calendar, for a one-on-one session with your team members or direct reports (just a creative way of calling those working directly under your supervision). Even if you've previously worked with them, you should still call each and everyone to your office separately and talk to them about the work and themselves generally. In this way, you would better understand your team members and work with them in a new light. You would be able to identify those who have issues or are struggling and those who want to move forward. You need to prepare a few sets of questions that would be appropriate to ask them and would help provide a better understanding on your side. To have adequate knowledge about the team members, it is better to sit back and listen to what they have to say – you would learn more when you talk less. Encourage them to speak their minds and share their stories so you can recognise where they are coming from and identify the cause behind their actions or behaviour.
There's a very high chance that you're usually absorbed in your crucial responsibilities as a manager and don't have the time to engage with your team members. To have your team's trust and confidence with you, it is vital to develop that understanding. While you're busy with your daily routine, you also need to be mindful about your team members' connection. You will be able to achieve all this by starting-off a one-on-one with them and gradually building on that.
Furthermore, don't be that manager who always obsesses over facts and figures or asks about sales projections and revenues. You're going to be dealing with all kinds of personalities and attitudes. The sooner you adjust to that, the better. Ask about the challenges the team members are facing, the obstacles they can't climb over, or listen to their achievements. You never know which individual problem might be linked to the project's overall progress or the whole organisation. This would enable you to tap into the dynamics of the organisation. You need to take a broader approach and have these one-on-one sessions to get a clear view of how departments functions and how individual roles play a part in all of this. Being in a managerial position, you always need to have a clear picture.
Find a Mentor to Tag on to
Having a coach or mentor to guide you through the process soothes your transition into the new role and helps you steer through some tough choices. Plenty of well-known and flourishing leaders worldwide have publicly proclaimed that having a coach or mentor helped them succeed. Besides, the person can offer tips and tricks along the way as they might have dealt with the same or similar situations and know what works and what is a waste of time. They would be able to challenge your creativity and tell you when you're walking on a path with a dead end. You cannot be putting your time and effort just for it to go to waste – don't want to be inefficient.
However, you don't want to rush into choosing your mentor within the first week itself. You could walk up to someone and say, "Hey, would you like to be my mentor?" and they might even agree. On the other hand, what you could do is wait a while, test the waters, identify someone who might have been successful at your role, or someone who is at a position you aspire to be. You can approach them and make sure they see that you don't only rely on them but are also making advancements towards your personal development. You want to have someone by your side, which is good at listening and is a cool-headed, practical person. Someone like that would only be willing to mentor someone who would listen attentively and take feedback positively. You don't necessarily have to bring into the knowledge of that person that they're your mentor. Look at it this way; you don't have to go up to someone and ask them to play the part when you can identify someone you aspire to be and follow their recipe. It doesn't need to involve a spark and fancy dinners – observe how they do and handle things and follow their footsteps.
However, by some odds, you don't identify someone from within the organisation you aspire to be, there is no hard-and-fast rule that your mentor has to be within the organisation. Possibly, there is a great leader out there that is excellent in your area of work. You don't have to be directly in contact with them. Most of these leaders have autobiographies or social media profiles and channels. Furthermore, they have quite detailed profiles on industry-related web pages. Read up on them, and you might find something inspirational, or some might even have recorded speeches they gave somewhere from which can be easily accessible. With the help of this material, you would be able to tap into their perspective. How do they take on the problem? What are the tips and tricks they have identified that work for them? You can learn about their take on issues, what skills they have developed over time, and what kind of management or leadership style has worked for them and how you can customise to work out for you.
Know the Expectations of Your Bosses
Your direct reports will help you perform well, but the end decision about how well you're doing at your job lies with your bosses. The deal is that your team thinks you're a fantastic boss. They commend your leadership style – you give them the liberty to do things their way, innovatively. They even give you "The Best Boss Ever" mug as well, and you think you're doing exceptionally well. You feel like Da Vinci of management! But it all comes crashing down when your bosses think you are not handling the team well enough. This is precisely why you need to sit and have a one-on-one with your bosses so you can have a clear picture of what is expected of you in this specific position.
It is natural as a first manager to have many questions, but they would push their concerns aside and do what they think is right with the fear of seeming ignorant or incompetent for the position. They need to realise that asking questions or having queries does not make them ignorant or incompetent. The most crucial thing you need to communicate clearly with your boss is what they expect of you in this position. Asking such a question does not mean you're asking someone to teach you how to do your job. You're asking them to voice their expectations so you can perform accordingly. Their expectations can range from how you're supposed to manage the team, what your priorities should be, and what they expect from you in the near future, to what kinds of decisions you're encouraged to make on your own and which decision they would want to be kept in the loop about. Dig into what type of communication they want from you. Do they want to be kept in the loop on every email you're composing? Or do they think they're being bombarded with too many emails? Try to determine whether they prefer every small update or expect you to write up a report every few weeks.
In short, it's not up to you to conclude that you're handling things well. It all comes down to how your boss views your performance which would somewhat be based on your expectations. If you rise to their expectations, well and right. Otherwise, you might as well start creating a cover letter for new applications.
Kick-Start Your Learning Process
Once your new job is commenced, it's normal to bury yourself into everything and anything the company has to offer. Straight away, you want to start searching through the files, looking at policies and results, somehow get to the bottom of the long-lasting issue faced by the organisation. You want to make an impression and tackle the issue head-on. In the midst of this, many first-time managers neglect a very vital detail – to gain knowledge. It's a strong argument that is searching through files and analysing the information is a great way to achieve that understanding. Here's another perspective on that thought: rather than going through piles and piles of data, what you can do is read books relevant to your field of work. As another option, you could listen to podcasts, and TEDx talks that you find suitable. Taking this approach, you would gain different perspectives, and something might even click with you that would assist you in cracking the code. The expertise you attain from external sources might turn out to be the essence of your leadership.
Bear in mind, that there's always someone who will think they're a better fit for your role. To stand the chance of succeeding, it is better to be one step ahead and have a sharp mind about managing different situations. In this way, you are more qualified to dodge the obstacles that come in the way.