One of the hardest moves to accomplish at work is the transition from being a team member to being a team leader. Suddenly, you are no longer on equal terms with your peers – you have to quickly re-calibrate your relationships, earn their respect, establish your authority and gain their trust. As a new manager, it’s to be expected that you will make some mistakes as you begin to find your feet. However, the fact that you have more power and influence than before means that those mistakes can have unfortunate and far-reaching repercussions.
New managers tend to fall into one of two camps: the ‘special one’ or ‘best friend’. Bursting with enthusiasm (and pride) at their promotion, Special ones are naturally keen to show they are ‘up to the job’ from day one. Many begin by making the changes that they’ve always wanted to see, telling people to do what needs to be done, and feeling pretty good that they’re being seen to take action by senior management. But they’re not going to be very popular with their former peers! Conversely, best friends first and foremost want to protect their working relationships – and friendships – so try to stay ‘one of the guys’ in order to be liked, avoiding saying or doing anything that people might not like.
Instead, what a new manager needs to achieve is a balance between being an ally of the team and an advocate for the organisation. The first step is to develop a management perspective for yourself. When you have it, you can confidently say:
- I understand the big picture.
- I am comfortable with supporting senior management decisions.
- I can represent the interests of my team and the value they create for the organisation.
You begin by making sure that you understand the organisation’s strategy and can articulate clearly how it relates to the work of your team. You can then help your people to understand how their roles fit into the big picture (essential for their motivation and engagement) and keep them on track as your work moves forward.
It’s helpful to write down the answers to the following key questions:
- What is your organisation’s mission?
- What is its guiding vision?
- What are the organisation’s strategy and key goals?
- What projects are your team currently working on?
- How does each of these projects enhance and support the organisation’s mission, vision and strategy?
- How will you help your people see the links between the work of the team and the organisation’s strategy?
If you don’t know all the answers to these questions or are unsure, then you can make it your business to find out. Talk to your own boss, even board members if you need to, and don’t forget to talk to your team too. The information they provide will be enlightening and will help you understand where you may need to focus and prioritise your management efforts. The advantage is that you, your team and your stakeholders will all be clear on the contribution you’re making to the achievement of the organisation’s strategy and the value of your work.