Transitioning from an individual contributor to a people manager sounds straightforward. You did a great job in your particular role, and now you’re being tapped for greater responsibility by joining management ranks and formally leading others. Piece of cake! Before you jump into the pool too quickly, though, it’s essential to get into the appropriate mind space.
From solo performer to leader … avoid micromanaging
There’s an expression that says, “What got you here won’t get you there,” meaning that the same skills, knowledge, and aptitudes that made you successful as a solo performer might not work well as a leader. Want proof? Micromanagers come in all shapes in sizes, and because of their intense need to control everything that comes out of their new team, they feel the need to oversee everything. I’ve even seen new managers who instructed their team members, “No emails are to be sent out from this department that I’m not copied on!” Ouch.
We’ve probably all had our share of working for micromanagers, and we likely didn’t enjoy the experience all that much. After all, who wants to work for someone trying to control your every move and thought, expecting perfection before an email can be sent from your desk, or otherwise making you feel like your sense of confidence and creativity is constantly challenged?
True, when people who report to you send out emails, recommendations, or project-related deliverables, your neck is somewhat on the line. I get that. But here are some words of wisdom as you prepare for this massive transition in terms of your individual performance and team contributions that are about to show themselves.
Ease the transition with these three rules
- Rule 1. Perfectionism is the enemy of creativity. John Updike said that, and it perfectly underscores the challenges that many newly minted managers experience. Nothing stops the forward march of creative endeavor like the need to produce something to perfection.
- Rule 2. Micromanagement is about uber-control, pure and simple. Since you could “control everything” on your desk when you worked solo, you now attempt to control everything on everyone else’s desk, although you’re now responsible for a team of four. Never a good strategy because you’ll burn yourself out.
- Rule 3. Micromanagement won’t allow you to scale your career. If managing four people has you chasing your tail with your hair on fire, you likely won’t get a chance to manage a team of eight. Or eighty. Or eight hundred. No doubt, mastering “leadership” is the game you want to play without getting lost in the quest for perfection.
From control to trust
Still, we must endure these somewhat negative experiences working for micromanagers because they teach us who we are not. The critical question is, how do you get beyond this need to control and towards a state of trusting those who report to you? How do you make the mental break with this concept of “individual contributor” and being recognized as a “top performer” when you’re suddenly faced with being measured by the work of others? Here are two tips.
Train them to do the work as you would do it
Help your team build their confidence in what they’re doing. Become a trusted mentor and coach who helps others prepare for career progression by quantifying their achievements, recognizing their successes openly, and celebrating even small wins so that people on your team feel engaged, self-motivated, and energetic. In short, what you want for yourself, give to another.
Consider generational differences
Remember that Gen Y millennials (45 and under) and Gen Z Zoomers (25 and under) cherish career and professional development above all else. How can you pay it forward by helping them prepare to replace you (once you are promoted again) and gain leverage in their careers to excel and be recognized for top performance?
Keep some of these tips in mind, and you’re on your way to becoming a manager your employees will respect—and follow.
Paul Falcone (www.PaulFalconeHR.com) is principal of Paul Falcone Workplace Leadership Consulting, LLC. He is a columnist for SHRM and a bestselling author of 15 books, including the 5-book Paul Falcone Workplace Leadership Series. Find the full list at amazon.com/author/paulfalcone. Subscribe to his YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/@paulfalconeHR.