Starting as a manager

manager at workWhen you are first appointed as a manager many things will come your way. New impressions, new relations, new responsibilities and new issues that you need to ponder and find solutions for. It makes a huge difference if you were already in the company and got promoted or that you were hired from outside. Both have their pros and cons. When you were internal you’ll have an easier time negotiating the company politics, when you come from outside it will be easier to be seen as a manager and not as “Joe who got a new position”. Much more can be said about this but my main point, as usual, is that you need goal clarity. The assignment needs to be crystal clear for you as manager, in order to be able to effectively lead your group.

The other important immediate issue is to find out what the social composition of the department or group is. Who hangs out with who, who has been here forever, who is the smartest person in the group, who has most experience. You need to know your resources.

Next you’ll have to find an effective way to communicate with the people; do they need meetings, are memos a thing, will emails be effective, is there a reporting system that helps the flow of work.

All great things to think about. The Fast company has a nice article about someone starting as a manager and the lessons learned in their first 30 days.

For me the goal clarity, getting to know the resources and finding an effective way to communicate would be the first focal points. You can read more about this in my book where I highlight the importance of many other points also.

Let me know what you struggled with in your first days as a manager. We’ll follow up over time with a summary.

Don’t go on a diet; change your life style

As you grow older you probably have experienced that the pounds have a tendency to stick around and your condition slowly but surely deteriorates. Where are the years that you were trim and fit and watched every calorie that you ate? You probably have a growing awareness of the problem but as it slowly progresses you do not have an urgent need to do something about it.

It is sometimes difficult to make sudden and radical changes. Radical changes, like a diet, also have a tendency not to stick but slowly but surely change back to the old familiar ways. When you talk to health experts they will tell you that well planned slow changes in the right direction are the better way to go. When you want to go and run a marathon, do not start with half a marathon but build it up and start going around the block for the first period until you get some more endurance and muscle.

freedigitalphotos.net | Stuart Miles

freedigitalphotos.net | Stuart Miles

Why this piece about health and diet? Well there is a analogy with your management of your company. Over the years you have become used to the maybe less than stellar performance from some team members, you may not have cut back expenses and staff as the business got tougher and you may not have maintained enough focus on the core processes but allowed some shortcuts and individual heroic bypasses.

So with that, now is as good a time as any to start and change it all back into the right direction. Review your goals, are they clear? Clear for everyone? Review your resources; are they tight and what you need? Can you grow this way? What changes would you make in an ideal world? Review your communication; is it targeted, does it actually cause the behavior change you intended for it to create?

Instead of announcing a major shift in direction and immediate changes in policies or staffing, map out a plan to, over time, get to where you would like to be. Change by evolution, not revolution. Adjust and look for opportunities to move in the right direction. Change of life style is the way to go, crash diets are only good to fit into a wedding dress within a week, but will regrettably later cause some health problems or binge eating. Be clear about your vision though, but also be clear about the path forward and the gradual change you intend to make. Manage the expectations of your stakeholders and your process will be smooth.

Innovation and your rear view mirror

Don’t we all aspire to be innovators and get our companies to develop the next Tesla or Iphone. The truth is that we have to work quite hard to make innovation happen. See our earlier article about that HERE.

One of the behaviors I have seen frequently is that the new leader storms into the group, throws out all that is working or broken now and starts on a path to radical change of all processes and products. One of the problems with this approach is that you may make the same mistakes all over again as you have done in the past. You often hear that you need to know where you are coming from to be able to move where you want to go. Similarly a good driver, can only be safe and successful when they check the rear view mirror regularly.

Being held back by the past may be frustrating but learning from the past may speed up the change you are looking for.

The balance between your forward looking innovation and the look in the rear view mirror maybe found by ensuring you know what you are talking about, you understand why the processes and products are in place the way they are. If you don’t know and your team doesn’t know, it is probably urgent time for review.

Once you have made sure you know where you are coming from, you have a basis to spark the  creativity in the team and, after thorough review, test it and implement it. Here is the difference between creativity and innovation; creativity is developing something new, innovation is implementing something new. You can have creativity without ever getting to innovation, you cannot have innovation when there is no creativity.

Innovation does not have to be a brand new product, it can be a new process or a new way of handling customer service. With the innovation, the implementation of that great creative idea, the view in the rear view mirror is also still relevant and necessary.

You want to be a careful driver in your car, so do the same when working on creative change that will lead to innovation and prevent crashes. Use the rear view mirror but not too much or you’ll loose your way and may get to an unexpected stop.