Management and Leadership Series Posted by Nicola Maxwell

Tightrope Walking

You’re now in a new role, you’re accountable for others, you need to impress your line manager and reassure them that you can do this. You need to start leading the team, setting objectives and managing performance. People will be looking at you to take the lead and set the tone, so a few things may need to change.

Think about it from your colleagues’ point of view, they also have concerns and questions that need answered. Are you going to be the same person who used to enjoy a joke and catching up over lunch or after work. Or, are you going to become overly serious and not have any time for them any more?

Taking your first step on the leadership ladder and managing a team you were previously part of can be the most daunting and lonely step you’ll ever take in your management career. You don’t know whether to be friends or the boss, and it can often feel like you’re walking a daily tightrope trying to work it out.

The team also doesn’t know how to treat you so conversations can become difficult, you can feel more isolated, they stop talking to you as much and it can all become just a little bit awkward. All this at a time when you need some re-assurance that you are doing well and settling into your new role.

It doesn’t have to be this way though. In your mind you have a new identity – as the line manager – and that means you may be expected to do certain things and behave a certain way. Your team may not see you in this new role; they may still think of you in your old identity of their colleague. So you need to help them understand that the shift in title may mean a shift in how you do things, and that transition can be helped by having a series of open and engaging conversations with your team.

The edoMidas 3D people management approach will help you do this:

Discover: go on a journey of discovery and have an open conversation with each of your team members

  • Find out how they feel about you changing roles and discuss any concerns they have
  • Find out what motivates them, and what they want from you as a line manager
  • Explain to them what is important to you and agree between you how you can both communicate and work best together

Direct: give people clear direction by setting SMART2 goals and holding regular reviews

  • Give your team an overview of what you are looking to achieve and ask for feedback. Don’t be afraid to do this; you need their help and you can’t do it on your own. A failing of first-time managers is to operate in a silo and not get the team involved enough.
  • Set objectives with them and agree as a team & individually how you will work towards the team objectives. If everyone is aware of the big picture and how they fit into it, they are more likely to pull together.
  • Review objectives regularly – you should be holding 1:1 conversations with each team member weekly on operational issues, and monthly to discuss on-going development. Give them time to talk so you get feedback and don’t cancel these meetings because you’re busy. It only sends a message that says that person doesn’t matter.

Develop: delegate, coach and train so your people can perform at their best

  • In your monthly meetings, find out your team’s development needs and either help them get the right training, coach them if they are capable and need to build confidence or stretch them by delegating tasks that will develop them. This will help you and them reach your goals.

Start having these regular conversations as soon as you become a people manager, and you will build strong relationships and gain in confidence, and soon enough the fact that you used to be work colleagues won’t matter. You’ll no longer feel like you’re walking the tightrope every day trying to balance your new role with your former colleagues’ expectations and you’ll have made a successful transition into management.

Contributor – Annabel Graham

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