Leadership/Management Series – Part 2 (Thoughts for new Managers)

23 Apr

1. You have been a top performer, have been leading the team for a while and have seldom disappointed in delivering expected assignments. Do not be surprised if your Boss decides to promote you to a ‘Manager’ title!

 2. You have lead a team successfully as an individual contributor, however you have now joined a different organization as a Manager for the first time.

 3. Your Manager has quit the organization and since you seemed the closest to understand the project/product, you have been promoted as a Manager and asked to manage your peers.

 The above examples are not unusual and appear logical too to most of us. Mostly, the Boss is tired of delegating the work to you without a formal title and has been doing because you have always stepped up to walk extra miles. Now, he is convinced that you will be able to carry the cart ahead with more authority by giving you a formal title of “Manager”.

 This blog intends to help the folks who are or tend to be in the above situations i.e they have been promoted to Managers for the first time (within or outside the current organization) and they need to know where to start from.

 First and foremost, be prepared to do this “thankless” job. Secondly, be prepared to play God, occasionally. And be prepared to consider it as a part of game when your team members decide to leave in spite of your efforts of sincerely managing the team. Someone has rightly said that “People join the companies but leave their Managers”

 On the other hand, if you have been aspiring to be a Manager for a long time, read my previous blog Thoughts for aspiring Managers to ensure that you have developed 3 essential skills/qualities to be a Manager.

 Successful leaders have agreed Management as the below equation –

 MANAGEMENT = MANAGE MEN Tactfully

 On a lighter note, it is not Managewoment as women cannot be managed, let alone tactfullysmiley

 OK, let’s get down to the business of what are the important things where a new Manager can start when he is promoted had he not planned or prepared to take up the role.

 TAKING STOCK OF THE CURRENT STATUS

Note that it is important to first understand the project/product at a broader level. It gives you a different perspective when you see it through Manager’s lens than as an individual. Hence, it is necessary to take a step back and get to know how things are being done currently, document it and get it validated by either your Boss or someone who understands the status decently. Identify the important parts of the project/product and who are driving them.

 How do I manage peer ego?

Solution: This is one of the main challenges that a new Manager may face after being promoted within a team and above his peers. It is a human tendency and your peers tend to think why they weren’t considered for the promotion v/s why you were promoted. It is a sensitive situation and I urge you to give sometime to your peers to settle and calm their anger/disappointment. You must schedule 1:1 meeting to discuss and iron out these issues. You must assure them that you will need their support to meet the objectives/goals.

 It may be little hard in the initial stages, however, I would highly caution here not to give up easily or entertain your ego in such cases. The more you keep composed and demonstrate that you are ready to hear and cooperate, the earlier your peers start understanding and collaborating with you. Remember, I had mentioned earlier that you may have to play God occasionally? smiley

 How do I manage other Managers?

Solution: This one is also usually challenging until you are received as a Manager by managers of other modules/groups (who happen to be your peers now). There is sometimes an inferiority complex that you do not have enough information/knowledge/skills of a competent manager and nonetheless you are expected to discuss/communicate with your peers, who are managers. On the other hand, other Managers too do not tend to think you of their level as you have assumed this role recently.

 Understand that ultimately, they all are human beings and they all have egos. You need to give them some time as well. Do your homework before you communicate, reply or act. Observe them carefully and understand what other things they do and how do they do them differently. You may be candid to approach some good managers or peers who may be experienced or have gone through similar experiences and understand how they have been able to cope up.

 Remember that trust and confidence needs to be won.

 How do I learn the technicalities of other modules of product/project?

Solution: You may have been able to contribute significantly to a module while you were an individual contributor. However, it becomes imperative to understand the entire solution as you own the responsibility of delivering complete product/project now. Identify the knowledgeable team members working on individual modules and set up meetings/sessions to get yourselves upto speed on the same. Don’t hesitate to ask questions as you may tend to think that your subordinates may rate you low in knowledge. Remember, you get this opportunity of asking questions (silly questions as you may term them) only in the beginning. The more time you take to ask basic questions, the more you tend to hesitate.

 How do I build pillars of my team?

Solution: Once you are able to technically understand the product/project at a broader level, identify the primary and secondary points of contact having expertise in that module/domain. Groom them to continue developing expertise in their and other domains/modules. Motivate them to train other team members and to lead by example by sharing their learnt skills. Mentor them on some of leadership attributes that you have learnt along the way. In short, prepare them as your successors. These people will continue to support you during rough times of late evenings, walking extra miles, taking additional burden during attrition etc.

 DEFINE GOALS/OBJECTIVES

After taking stock of current status, you may be able to either define the objectives or amend a few, if they have been defined already; to get the assignment on track. Without objectives, you are like traveling path of your life/organization without knowing destination and without knowing parameters to measure where you stand at any given point of time.

 How do I derive my goals from my Boss’s?

Solution: If your Boss has already defined goals, you have to “derive” goals from his. I have seen in many organizations that very few people know how to derive the goals from his Manager’s. Most of the times, people tend to copy and paste the goals and make cosmetic changes to “appear” different from that of his boss’s.

 You have to understand what the defined goals are, sync up with your Manager, understand what they mean from organization perspective and how they would add value if the expectations are met. Often, it takes 2 or 3 meetings to sync up with your manager and understand his goals before you derive yours.

 Once you have clarity on your manager’s goals, start deriving your goals based on your SOI (Sphere Of Influence) and slightly detailed than his goals. Ensure that they are SMART (Stretched/Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely).

 Specific goal will help to define it with more details and with granularity. Ask wheres and whens to get to the details of the goal.

 Making the goal measurable will define the parameters for achieveing it. Since measurement attributes are defined, it helps to understand hows of the goal.

 When you try to make your goal attainable, you tend to think of various possibilities of achieving it. You identify the strengths and weaknesses to make it attainable.

 While evaluating if the goal is realistic, you tend to think more on your willingness. It depends on how truly you believe it can be accomplished.

 One of the great personalities said that “Goals are dreams with definite timelines”. If you do not associate timelines, they tend to remain just the goals.

 Once you have derived your goals, get them validated by your manager until you BOTH agree on the goals.

 How do I amend my goals if they have already been defined?

Solution: This situation arises when you are promoted as a manager as your earlier boss has quit.

You have to carefully study goals of your Manager (who has quit). Validate if they are applicable for current situation as well. If not, assess the situation and then modify the goals, add in a few and remove, if required. Get them validated by your new manager.

 You may have to follow up with the team to amend their goals as well.

 How do I ensure that my team has understood goals?

Solution: Once you have your goals ready, forward the appropriate ones to your team and ask them to derive theirs from yours. Have them think thoroughly while deriving their goals. Explain the importance of the goals and how they would add business value. Ensure that they are SMART and stretchable too.

 You may have to spend some time in revising their goals to make them meaningful and also to align them to yours and organization.

 Let them know the priorities of the objectives and associate weightage based on importance.

 DEFINE AND SHARE THE ASSESSMENT (Rewards & Recognitions) APPROACH

This is one of the most important step that needs to be shared across the team to ensure that team members understand what parameters will they will be evaluated on. This establishes a good handshake with the team, sets necessary expectations and avoids later heart burns during the appraisals. I strongly believe that if the assessment approach is not discussed and agreed, it leads to chaos, misunderstandings and finger pointing, especially during appraisals and R&R functions.

 How do I define assessment approach?

Solution: This is an approach for understanding and setting expectations. I have observed many managers tend to set expectations, however, seldom try to understand expectations of their team members. This is usually because of the misconception that a manager has more control than his team members. I think that both the parties have controls on different parameters and that is what needs to be clarified in assessment approach to meet organization goals. I truly believe that Managers are not magicians and they should assume the role of coordinators.

 The assessment approach should be common, unbiased and easy to use. Transparency is the keyword to defining assessment approach. The assessment should not cover solely on how the assignments have been delivered. It should comprise of other factors important for the organization like values, ethics and principles. Clear weightage should be marked for parameters like quality, flexibility, team work, innovation, initiatives, and customer focus depending on the roles that the team member is playing.

 Regular 1:1 meetings to discuss the progress of the assignment and personal development of the team members must be set. Such meetings serve as a vehicle to reset expectations or caliber them, if required; rather than having unpleasant surprises at the last minute.

 How do I define Rewards & Recognitions?

Solution: This is one of the most ignored aspect of many managers. This is also one of the activities where few managers are nervous as they are afraid of the impact that R&R function may have on team members who don’t receive awards. If the assessment approach is clearly defined and if regular meetings are conducted to understand the progress/set the expectations, R&R functions turn to set healthy competitions amongst team members.

 It is very important to retain the importance of R&R functions. They should not be too frequent; however they have to be conducted in time and with proper frequency.

 Spot awards may be considered during following occasions –

a) When a team members stretches unusually late in the evening, when required

b) When a team member completes the project ahead of schedule with quality

c) When a team member goes beyond his duty to help other team member achieve his milestone in time

d) When a team member takes an initiative for good cause outside his goals and completes it without impacting any other goals.

 

Usually, the above rewards are within control of direct manager and should be exercised whenever possible abd appropriate. The monthly or quarterly awards are evaluated by comparing other parameters defined by senior management or leadership, hence I do not intend to cover it here.

 A common misconception is that awards always have to be in cash. There are many ways of rewarding team members –

 A handwritten note, a handwritten card, an email to the entire team, books, movie tickets, CD/DVD, a pat on the back, praising in front of team, publishing the achievements in organization articles, putting up names on ‘Wall of Fame’, taking out for a tea/lunch/dinner etc.

 I intend to keep the blogs to the point to cover specific topics. I will cover Hiring/Interviewing and Attrition topics in other blogs since a new Manager alone is usually not considered for hiring. I intend to cover hiring when I take up a topic of a seasoned manager starting a brand new team.

 I hope that the above tips may help a new Manager to kickstart looking into basic things and run his day to day operations.

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