The challenges of being a manager
If you want to go far in business or set up your own company, you will have to prepare for becoming a manager at some point in your career.
To be a good manager, it’s not enough to just be good at the technical side of your job: you need to develop an entirely new set of skills. Here are three of the most important things you’ll have to learn if you want to succeed.
Taking a position as a manager means that you will have more authority over people and projects. When you’re new to management, this can be daunting: your decisions can directly affect the business, and you take some responsibility for the work of other people.
For some people, this intimidates them enough that they don’t dare to make decisive recommendations or suggest improvements to their direct reports; others become overly controlling and demanding to make sure that everything is done to their standards.
Neither of these approaches is useful: the first will stop you from growing professionally because you are avoiding challenges, and the second will make others view you as difficult to work with.
What a manager should aim for is assertiveness: an attitude which convinces other people and delivers constructive criticism without being overbearing or rude.
This phrase is used a lot, but in practice, what it often means for managers is simply maintaining good working relationships with those both above and below them.
When you’re a manager, you will often be given direct reports who you will have to guide and support to deliver the standard of work that is needed. There is no one way to do this: you will have to get to know each person and find out what works for them.
Some people do their best work when they are given strict parameters and detailed goals; others will perform better when they are left to their own creativity. As a manager, it’s up to you to find out who benefits from these different approaches.
One way of getting to know your staff is to hold regular one-to-one meetings with them. Offer them feedback on their work, let them know about upcoming projects, and most importantly, ask them exactly how you can help them. This will build trust and help you create an effective team.
A management role is a job in itself – you shouldn’t be focusing on the smaller tasks that you used to do in a more junior position.
Though it will take some getting used to, you will have to learn trust other people with the day-to-day pieces of work that you no longer have time for.
This doesn’t mean paying no attention whatsoever – you should check their work at first to make sure they are still meeting your standards – but once you’re satisfied that they know what they’re doing, let them get on with it.
Instead, you should take a wider view of your team, from managing your workload to finding ways that you can contribute to the business as a whole. Focus on larger projects and long-term goals, and allow your team to take over the everyday assignments.