Becoming a manager comes with its successes, failures and hard times. Learn some lessons from one of our women leaders.
In my late 20s, I was given an opportunity to manage an entire office full of customer service reps and salespeople. I was a very green manager. That’s the politest way I can put it.
I loved being “the boss” but was completely ignorant about what that meant. I was a wreck, too proud and scared to tell anyone. I quickly moved on to another role and convinced myself that management wasn’t for me.
My career continued to progress, racking up several promotions. But I had gone as far as I could go as an “individual contributor.” I was asked and encouraged to take on heavy managerial roles. I refused. Finally, with much insecurity and doubt, I accepted the challenge.
The good news, this time I had a boss who believed in me and was an active coach. It was the toughest job I ever had but wow, did I learn a lot.
I discovered a great passion for coaching and developing people. Since then, I have continued to refine and evolve my leadership style and management approach. It’s a journey that never ends.
Do you want to be a better manager? Here are 5 of the many lessons I learned from my failed and successful managerial experiences that might help:
#1 It’s lonely
Your employees are not your friends. Your team doesn’t want to hear about your problems. They need you to show them the way. They need you to be “in the know.”
You have to carry the company message and lead your team through good times and bad. You take the blame when things go wrong. You give credit when things go well.
You must have a support system of colleagues and mentors whom you trust to help you through the dark times. And sometimes you just have to scream at the windshield on your way home.
#2 Find the joy
This one is truly a deal-breaker in my mind. If you don’t feel genuine joy when one of your team members goes from last place to first place – get out of management.
This is compensation for all of the pressure, budget cuts and tough decisions you get paid to do as a manager.
This is why you work around the clock – to see your team achieve their goals, get promoted, discover capabilities they didn’t know they had. If that doesn’t give you goosebumps, all the stress that comes with leading a team will be too much to handle.
You will soon find yourself saying, “They don’t pay me enough to deal with this “@*#%!”
#3 You need your team more than they need you
You’ve been a top performer for years and now they hand you a team of people you didn’t pick, who aren’t performing.
What do you do? For some, the instinct is to figure out how to game the system or compensate for your team’s poor performance by doing the work yourself. Eh, wrong answer. The days of winning because of what you do are over.
Your success or failure is now defined by what your team does. But you’re not a victim. Own it. You need to decide who can be coached up or unfortunately, who must be managed out. The faster you get on with this exercise, the faster the results will improve.
#4 They are watching you
What messages, verbal and non-verbal, are you sending to your team? Make no mistake, they are watching how you handle everything that’s thrown at you. They are comparing notes. They are testing you. When your boss hands you an impossible goal, do you:
A.) Begrudgingly share the news with an attitude of disbelief. Does your body language and tone scream, “I can’t believe they’re making us do this!”?
B.) Acknowledge how tough this will be, express confidence in the team and ask them for ideas of how to tackle this challenge. Does your body language and tone scream, “We got this!”?
When you are mad, frustrated or just stressed out, get yourself “out-of-sight” so you can deal with your emotions privately and then plan your next move. It’s not that you have to be perfect.
One of the best demonstrations of leadership is admitting when you’ve made a mistake. Every time you address your team as a group or individually, you are role modeling the acceptable behaviors. Make every interaction count.
#5 Assume positive intent
No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I think I’m going to screw up today.” Great leaders understand the difference between the cause and the effect. The outward behavior (the effect) has been caused by something. Instead of getting mad, get curious.
You have to rise above the drama and find out why someone behaved the way they did. There must be a reason (the cause). This attitude has saved me from many unnecessary conflicts.
Your CSR didn’t yell at their co-worker to test your patience. There’s something more going on. You have to have the emotional maturity and curiosity to ask the right questions to discover the real story.