April 6, 2012 Leave a comment
I am facilitating a group of first level managers through a great series of topics that deal specifically with the fundamentals of management — really focused on new mindsets, management behaviors and people skills to add to your arsenal as a leader of individuals and teams.
In one of our recent sessions we discussed the typical transition from individual contributor to manager that is characterized by ‘doing more of what you did well as a successful individual contributor, only working faster and harder, doing more of what got you here’. You can imagine the rich conversation and even the sighs of relief when the participants realized they were not alone. They all, to some extent, relied heavily on what ‘got them here’ to be successful as a manager.
On one hand the discussion made me realize how valuable our 6-month series will be for these managers who are quite successful in their own right, but will clearly benefit from some new mindsets that will generate a different perspective, some new behaviors, and a bolstered management toolkit.
Yesterday, though, a thought came to my mind. No wonder these new managers are leaning on exactly what got them to the management position in the first place! No wonder they are exhausted from doing more, faster, harder, and with higher expectations! I say ‘no wonder’ because I ask myself — how have we prepared them for the transition? We focus on operational and financial skills and knowledge. Of course those are critical. However, those skills are necessary, but not sufficient. We need to pay much stricter attention to the exact behaviors these new managers need that they did not need to be a successful leader of others.
I first considered this concept while reading “The Leadership Pipeline” (Charan, Dotter, Noel). This book discusses the concept at length. I have used the idea throughout our company and refer to these ‘transition’ skills as ‘the elbow in the turn’. In other words, what skills are required as a manager that were irrelevant to a successful individual contributor? After you have identified the skills, dig deeper to understand the mindsets that underlie these skills and behaviors. The easiest example for a new leader is the difference between getting results by driving your own behavior toward target versus as a manager having to equip, enable, and energize others toward their own goals. It is critical — a leader cannot carry the entire team on their back for long! You get the idea.
Careful consideration of these ‘elbow turns’ is so important for every change in management level.