Instead of being someone who does a job, you are now someone who helps others to do theirs explains Steve Heard
Taking on a management role can be daunting, but there are ways to develop these skills if they don’t come easily to you. Here are some of my tips and suggestions for assistants who are starting out in people management.
Don’t assume you have to manage as you have been managed. You already know what it takes to be a good manager as you will have encountered one at some point throughout your career; equally you will have experienced bad management first hand. Lean on these experiences but don’t emulate them exactly, you should aim to find a management style that is best suited to your personality. Your management style should work best for you and encourage the best from your team. Good managers are able to self-assess their strengths and weaknesses. Brainstorm what, in your opinion, a good leader looks like and compare your style to what you have written down. You’ll soon see the areas in which you can improve.
Do lead by example and listen to your team. Good leaders do what they say and say what they do, are trustworthy, and show integrity. Avoid asking your team to complete a task you wouldn’t do yourself. This is also true of the basics, if you are asking your team to listen to you and the directions you are giving them, then make sure you actively listen to them. Listening will help you to demonstrate your approachability. Your team will communicate effectively if you try to listen more than you talk.
Don’t think that because you haven’t managed people before that you have no experience of management. As an assistant you have lots of experience in delivering projects, managing stake-holders, making executive decisions and completing tasks simultaneously. You can re-apply your abilities when beginning to manage a team. Use the experience you have in bringing people together, organise and break down large tasks, as well as using delegation to manage your new team effectively.
Don’t leave your team to their own devices, meet with them regularly. A good manager will create opportunities for their team to discuss their work, share ideas and problem solve together. Good managers meet with their team regularly. Career reviews are so often avoided but are very important. Reviews don’t have to be formal structured meetings or always about promotions and pay rises, often they are an opportunity to learn about your team’s motivations and identify areas where you can help them to upskill. Make sure you set up a weekly meeting with your team, but also let them know that they can raise things with you at any point – you don’t want them to wait until the next week to make you aware of a potential crisis!
Do set team objectives as well as individual goals. You should aim to set team objectives for the upcoming year within the first month of your new management role. If your team help you to craft their objectives they are more likely to buy into the plan. Focus on improving productivity, quality of work and offer some fun rewards for achieving these goals. Your team objectives must support the overall business ambitions of your organisation. Put together a central document and report back on progress during your team meetings; a good manager will help their team to remain focussed on achieving the vision you all have for the team.
Do be open to feedback. Getting honest feedback from your team will help you to stay aware of your strengths and weaknesses. If the feedback isn’t what you expected then remember to reflect before you react and ensure your reaction isn’t emotionally charged. Acknowledge the feedback they have given, thank them for bringing it to your attention and say you’ll take it on board. Always seek out another opinion from your own manager or HR; don’t be disheartened, you’re learning and can easily change your management style if needed.
Changing your mind-set is part of becoming a manager; instead of thinking of yourself as somebody who does a job you are now somebody who helps others to do theirs. It is a subtle difference but one at the core of what it means to be a manager. Good luck in your new role – it will undoubtedly have its challenges but it will be incredibly rewarding too.