3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Manager

A buddy of mine called me for lunch last week and asked “I’m being promoted. What do I need to know to be a good manager?”

Off the cuff, I responded with the three things I found most useful as a manager of people in Professional America. Here are the bare bones:

1) Daddy Issues

It’s true – when you become a manager, you are instantly the focal point of any and all feelings a person may have toward his or her mother, father, nation, or other authority figure. So don’t take it personally if someone reacts out of character.

Listen quickly and speak slowly, realizing that over-emotional reactions to simple situations mean something else is going on.

People will get mad at you. That’s okay.

2) Your Job is Clarity

As a manager, your job has just changed from doer to decider. No longer do you have the luxury of putting your headphones on and disappearing for 6 hours, delivering an amazing [insert widget here]. Your job is to make sure everyone on your team can disappear and get things done. By clarifying expectations both above (to the CEO) and below (to your direct reports), you replace confusion with confidence.

Push Back. Don’t be a wuss when talking to executives, because if you relay a stupid/unclear/inconsistent idea to your team, you’re the fool. If you find yourself pushing back too much, update your resume and vote with your feet.

Set the stage for your team to be amazing.

3) Treat Everyone Different.

If someone tells you to treat everyone equally, they’re a moron. Treat everyone with equal respect, definitely. But engage with people according to their needs. The situational Leadership tool was great for me (thanks @CameronHerold). 

The basic idea is: 1) Determine how skilled someone is at a given task. 2) Determine their motivation. 3) Combine the two to choose the right style for the project.

But those tools don’t work. Right?

Actually, they do. Even if you only end up talking about it once, the exercise in ‘here’s what I think you need, what do you think you need?’ creates a beneficial forum.

Use your Powers for Good.

Books to read when considering a leadership role:

The One Minute Manager – Read it. It will only take 30 minutes.

Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization – Great insights from the Wizard of Westwood.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable – How to tell when things are breaking.

Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization

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