Jason sat defeated. He cradled his head in his hands, arms resting on his knees. “I really wanted this promotion. I thought I could really do some good in this department. And I thought it would give me some positive recognition. I had no idea it would be like THIS.”
Jason was a rock star when it came to doing the work of his department. He could out-perform all of his co-workers without breaking a sweat. So it seemed a natural progression for him to take over the role of manager of the department. He couldn’t wait to turn things around, change working conditions, and get the team all moving in the same direction.
What he didn’t count on was all the roadblocks his former manager had been dealing with, the stress of managing a group of people who used to be his peers, and the loss of recognition for being the star performer. Suddenly, it was no longer about him shining, but about getting his team to shine. And he was totally unprepared.
Many companies promote people to management positions and assume they can take over seamlessly. But according to research by Gallup, more than two-thirds of the time these managers flounder and ultimately leave or are “invited” to leave after 18 months. During that 18 months, there is often an increase in team turnover, and a decrease in engagement and productivity. Bottom line: putting new managers in place without training and coaching causes a huge financial leak for the company and huge emotional stress for the remaining employees.
If you are a manager who is feeling stuck or is struggling to “keep your head above water,” here are some steps you can take to get your team engaged and decrease the stress.
Meet with every person on the team on a regular basis. Your task is to ask open-ended questions that will encourage the other person to share their thoughts and perceptions with you. The goal is four-fold:
To have rich conversations to learn what that person thinks, knows, and dreams
To provide an opportunity for the employee’s ideas and perceptions to be heard and acknowledged (who knows what great new opportunities this might uncover)
To build trust
To uncover how you can identify, honor, and capitalize on the strengths of each person to help them get their best work into the world
Bruce Tulgan, in his book “The 27 Challenges Managers Face” suggests listening for:
Who needs to be managed more closely?
Who is ready for more responsibility and independent work?
Who needs help navigating the complex, ever-changing workplace?
Who has a good attitude or needs an attitude adjustment?
Who needs help with self-management?
Who needs performance coaching?
Notice what people do and ask about it. You may feel you already know what everyone does, especially if you’ve been promoted from within. The purpose here is to encourage your team members to talk about the work they do, how they do it, what they’re going to do next, and within what time-frame. You will learn a lot about their perceptions, their ideas, their reasoning, and what kind of support they need. More importantly, when we notice what people are doing in positive ways and ask them about it, they feel acknowledged and respected for what they do. This goes a long way to building trust and supporting each other as a team. People who trust each other, and trust that their leader has their best interests in mind, are more willing to go through tough times providing encouragement and support for each other.
Look for what’s right, not what’s wrong. I hear so many new managers focus on what’s wrong about a person or project instead of what’s right. Or, there is a focus on what’s missing instead of what’s available. Teach yourself and your employees to accept what “is”. Instead of focusing on workplace gossip, look for the strengths in others, what is positive about the situation, and help your team be aware of them. This doesn’t mean you avoid discussions about time management, task management, conflict, or other topics that get the work done in a positive environment. It does mean that you are looking for the good in others or the situation that will help move the person or task forward.
Managing people is one of the hardest tasks a leader undertakes. And often leaders are unprepared for all the intricacies that come with it. The greatest gift you can give yourself or your new managers is a coach for the first six months to help get skills in place for successful team management. If you need support to get your feet on the ground with your new or existing team, contact Joy today.