Many things change in a person’s life when they get that first promotion from individual contributor to manager of people. One of the hardest things to reconcile is the difference between having a job where you were entirely responsible for your own success to one where you are now responsible for the activities of a group of people.
The trouble is, for most of us, no one pulls us aside and gives us a manual for how to handle this transition. As a result, we are faced with trying to learn while accomplishing the work. In the absence of this coaching or direction, there is a danger that the new manager looks at their leadership role as an additive endeavor. Meaning that they need to continue to do the things they did before they were promoted AND try to manage the group.
This additive attempt has less than favorable results as you’ll see from this example. Anna was a very successful individual contributor at a telecommunications company, who was promoted to her first management position during a time when the company was going through a big change and there were problems. She found herself enthused about the new challenges and began to dive right in. She started to tackle problem after problem, and soon was working every night and weekend. Despite the fact she was working hard, she still continued to stay in a reactive mode without getting her arms around all of the problems. Even though she didn’t have a family and had more flexibility than others, she still found herself increasingly frustrated and she quickly started to feel the stress of the job and could see herself beginning to burn out.
3 Things Every New Manager Needs to Let Go Of
Fortunately, Anna found a coach and learned the lesson that many new managers fail to learn. Being a successful leader is about letting go. You have to let go of some of the things that made you successful as an individual contributor. A few of those things you may have been very good at, and they may have contributed to the fact that you were promoted. The trouble is, if you continue to try to do your old job and struggle to add the responsibilities of the new, you will quickly start to flounder. Here are three things every new manager needs to let go of to be successful:
- Let go of the need to do everything yourself. You have a team now. Many of the people on this team can probably do the tasks better than you did when you were the individual contributor. We hold on to tasks for one of two reasons: we either think there is no one equipped to do the job or we still enjoy doing the task ourselves. It doesn’t matter which category you fall into. You need to trust that there are others who are capable and give them the chance to shine, just as you did when you held the position.
- Let go of the need to tell people how to do things. It’s the job of the teachers and trainers to show and tell people how to do things. Your role as a manager is to let your people know what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. Then you need to back off and let them take their own path to completion. You can still expect communication from the team along the way about what is being accomplished, but when you start to dictate the way something needs to be done, you quickly become the micro-manager that employees try to get out from underneath.
- Let go of your narrow focus. As an individual contributor, you had the luxury of focusing on one or two things at any given time. This allowed you to dive in and focus on the details necessary to complete the task and show your expertise. As a leader, your scope needs to be much broader. You have to widen the lens so you can see more of the organization. Not only do you need to understand what your team is working on and how it contributes to your department goals, but you also need to keep your finger on the pulse of the larger organization so that you can shift the priorities of your team in order to solve a larger problem or issue if it arises.
When you learn to let go of some of the things that you brought with you from your previous role, you will find yourself with more time to do the things that are important to your success in the new role. Things like coaching, mentoring, and thinking of new and better ways to do things within the organization. More importantly, you will be able to enjoy your personal time and stop taking so much work home at night and on the weekends. After all, you do no good for anyone if you end up stressed out because you got promoted.