I haven’t met anyone who disagrees that managers at all levels are in debt to their subordinates when it comes to supporting, developing, stretching, growing, goal-setting, empowering, assessing, rewarding, recognizing, motivating, inspiring, purpose-giving, and more. Everyone also understands how this yields low employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention.
This management deficiency is, in fact, a deficiency of the leadership qualities of the managers. It constitutes a major problem for contemporary enterprises, the workforce, and the economy, and it deserves addressing. But one particular management cohort needs the most attention on this matter. Through its direct engagement with more than 80% of the workforce, it presents the largest opportunity to improve employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention.
This is the cohort of the first-line managers.
So, let’s take a closer look into that situation. Since the problem is not only with first-line managers, let’s ask a more generic question.
Why are managers falling short of the promise?
Well, this is not because managers don’t know what they should do. Most of them know it very well and yet don’t do it. Obviously, knowing what one should do is only a step towards one doing it.
What else is missing then?
Let’s look at a well-proven concept, introduced (I believe) by the great Zig Ziglar, explaining how results are achieved in life:
One needs to BE the right person to DO the right things to HAVE the right results.
BE –> DO –> HAVE
Even with such a seemingly simple concept, support is often required to define the right components in the above formula unambiguously. Furthermore, practice shows that most first-time managers will struggle even when the right results are truly desired, the right things to do are correctly identified, and the right person is unmistakeably characterized. They won’t reach far in their transformational journey on their own.
And the reason why is quite evident from the above formula. People are not doing what they know they ought to do because they are not being who (they already know) they need to be in the first place.
Simply put, one needs to be before one can do.
What can be done about it?
Most first-line managers are also first-time managers, undergoing arguably the most challenging career passage, entailing a shift of their work value system – from individual contributor value system to an achieving-through-others value system.
Therefore, adequate preparation, encouragement, and support for first-time managers should focus holistically on this leadership transformation that they are attempting. They cannot shortcut it, trick it or fake it. They genuinely need to be that new person to do the new things demanded by their new role.
In general, knowledge about the first-time manager’s transformation is shallow and insufficient. But providing knowledge alone would not suffice either. With such a demanding transformation, just-promoted first-line managers need help in making the right steps, which are painful to make and not always obvious, and therefore often avoided, if recognized at all.
The newly promoted managers need to be coached to set transformational goals grounded in their core values, identify the right direction for personal growth, take bold and decisive action in their new role, maintain momentum and stay on course with their transformation.
The list of steps that these young managers will have to take could be overwhelming, but if the first steps are chosen strategically, with a holistic view on the journey ahead, most of what follows will feel natural and won’t face so much inner resistance.
The 5 Power Moves
As a first-time manager, the following 5 power moves combined will take you past the point of no return in your leadership transformation and will pave your way for a smooth and magnificent journey.
Be Authentic With a Beginner’s Mindset
Do you feel that you need to be more concealed with your feelings and emotions as a manager?
Saying, ‘oh, I need to exert coolness and charisma’?
Do you think you need to be always right?
Do you never openly admit your mistakes?
Do you feel the pressure of the expectation that you should have all the right answers?
These are all a result of your present mindset and are common misconceptions about leadership.
The most powerful way, and thus the only way to lead, is to be 100% you all the time. Everything that you will ever achieve as a leader will come from being truly yourself, faithful and honest, respectful and adaptive, caring and daring, an authentic leader of uncompromised integrity.
Being open to learning, admitting your mistakes, and conducting yourself authentically is a powerful move of the bold leader. In leadership, and ultimately in life, true victory comes through using our ability to learn, which boils down to authenticity.
You may be able to fool some people sometimes – your peers, your customers, your boss, your partner, and even yourself. However, you can never fool your subordinates – rest assured they know you for who you really are.
Once people see that you are honest, wholehearted, and constantly working towards learning and improving, they will trust, follow, and support you.
Therefore, embrace and never abandon authenticity to let everything else follow.
Adopt Achieving-Through-Others Value System
Since you made the first power move and are already open to learning, here is the first thing to learn – you are no longer an individual contributor. You are going to achieve results through others. So, you need to adopt an achieving-through-others mindset and work value system.
Are you still being one of the contributors on the team? Are you still having the urge to be helpful to them by picking some of their tasks?
By contributing individually, you may be getting results that seem strong, yet these are called inappropriate results because they come from you.
While you are playing your old role, you are hiding from your new role and are not developing your subordinates enough. You are not growing your team as you should; you are reinforcing their dependency on you, thereby doing a disservice to the team, yourself, your boss, and the whole organization.
As a manager, you are there to build and lead a team. New activities like delegation, prioritization, personal development, team development, coaching, mentoring, empowerment, goal setting, and many more cannot be done with your old individual contributor mindset.
You aspire to have a successful management career, but will that be possible if you do not adopt the achieving-through-others mindset, fail to be strategic, and stay confused between what’s important in your role and what is less so?
If you are stuck with this value transformation, you will linger in your old role and not progress as a leader. You won’t be able to internalize your new responsibilities as a manager.
Adopting the right mindset is another pivotal step in your leadership transformation, a power move you must make at the very start of your journey.
With the adoption of the new achieving-through-others mindset, you also begin to recognize that your new role demands you to be concerned with a new set of questions and think and operate on a higher level. To do that, you will need to free up and guard a sufficient amount of time and space for it.
And the needed time and space will come from a proactive and deliberate delegation of your old technical activities.
Delegation will give a start to the most critical shift in your transformation. It will allow you to create and guard your time and apply it strategically. It will embody your new managerial mindset and will enable you to attend to your leadership priorities. Delegation is, in effect, functioning at the new level.
On the other side, failing to delegate the old technical tasks and to own and prioritize the new managerial agenda is the single biggest reason why so many first-line managers get stuck in their tracks.
When delegating, you are achieving results appropriately through your team.
Only by leveraging the full power of your team will you become their hero and the manager they deserve.
Measure and Report Progress
Do you know what your goals are? And the goals of your team? Do they know it too? Do you have a way of telling how far your team is from reaching these goals? How confident are you in your projections? Are you willing to bet money on it? How about betting your career on it?
These are questions you will be concerned with as a manager of a team. You will seek improvement in these and many more directions. And the results will come if you are geared towards progress.
But progress is a funny thing – when measured, it starts improving. And even more funnily, its improvement accelerates when progress is measured and reported.
That’s great, but you can’t measure progress towards vague or undefined goals. And how reasonable is it to expect your team to hit a target that is fuzzy or non-existent?
Learn how to set adequate, clear, ambitious, and measurable goals for your team, and by measuring and reporting your progress, you will be able to achieve the impossible.
Coach and Be Coached
Are you still going for the perfect solution? Because if you are, you need to recognize that nothing’s permanent, nothing’s final, nothing’s perfect.
Adopting a life-long learn-and-improve attitude is something you already did as part of your first power move, and it entailed you to stop looking for perfection.
Your breakthroughs as a manager won’t be perfect and won’t be final either. You’re most likely to get stuck again and again. Although going it alone may seem like an option, you should know that all successful people have used help and support along the way.
Finding a mentor to guide you through pitfalls, a coach to help you move to the next level is your most transformative move.
Most organizations, formally, by design, have provided you a mentor – your boss. But often, your manager is in the same situation as you, just promoted and struggling through their challenging career passage. Mentoring and coaching support for you may not come timely or in the right form, provided it comes at all.
Conversely, you must provide support to the team you manage as a whole and to the individual members of it. For this, you must learn how to coach for performance and growth. And receiving coaching will amplify your ability to give coaching.
Acting as a coach to your people puts you in the best stance that you can take in front of them as a manager; it makes you a servant leader.
Most first-time managers are in for a shock. They need to be a new person with new work values, but organizations rarely provide adequate, timely, and ongoing support throughout this most challenging career passage.
With or without the support from your organization, as a newly promoted manager, you need to make these five power moves that will pave the way for your further transition and let you set foot on the solid ground of authentic leadership.
I would love to hear from you, and not only on this subject.