After 3 years of being a star performer at Bestec - a fast growing technology company - John got promoted to a Team Lead position. The management loved him, the team he was handling was driven and well-equipped to deliver. However, that year John’s performance was rated at 2.5 out of 5, as opposed to 4.8, a year earlier.
John is not the only one whose performance rating dwindled after becoming a Team Lead. Many first-time managers get derailed after promotion. Let’s take a look at what could be some possible reasons and how first-time managers can avoid failure.
1. What got you here, will not get you there
In most companies, individual contributors are promoted to managerial roles based on their stellar performance. However, companies fail to consider that though knowledge and experience in specific roles is important, it’s equally important to equip first-time managers with managerial skills. Most first-time managers aren’t given adequate training in this respect.
2. How much is too much
When star performers are promoted from within their teams, more often than not - they end up managing the same people who were once their peers. Now, that is a tight rope to walk. Many first-time managers end up playing their part either as the ‘cool boss’ or ‘I am the Boss’.
Being a ‘cool boss’ may not work in your favor. Yes, there’s always the temptation to think ‘I’m not going to be the hard-nosed boss, I’ve worked for in the past’. However, this approach misses the point. You need to understand that your role is to guide and support your team, have their back and set them up for success. In doing so, you may sometimes have to set standards higher than what your team may like or accept. Being ‘the cool boss’ may sometimes stop you from demanding more. Just like the cool boss, being ‘the mean boss’ won’t help you either. Understandably, first-time managers find themselves in a unique position where they face pressure to demonstrate skills of a strong leader. This added pressure can easily quiver even the most seasoned personnel. However, it is at this point that you must remember that wins get rolling in only bottom to top.
Moreover, you don’t have to try hard to please too many people at the same time. Remember, not everyone will be happy with you being their manager and that’s perfectly alright, as long as you define clear roles and objectives within the team.
3. Manage up, filter down
As first-time managers, you’ll see a shift in the kind of information you’re exposed to. Unlike an individual contributor, you’ll have wider access to information that’s vital to the business. Therefore, you must filter down information on organizational performance, priorities, and other factors. At the same time, ensure you aptly represent your team to the management and share information on their morale, performance, concerns and expectations.
4. ‘I’ before ‘we’
Most first-time managers forget that their contribution is no longer at just an individual level. They have to think as a team! Mostly, they either take up the role of a martyr and start doing every bit of work themselves, thus forgetting to delegate in the process, or they’re unable to let go off their superhero cape and want to do everything on their own in order to get all the limelight. Either of these approaches are corrosive to your team and your individual growth. Neither taking all the credit for your team’s work will help you, nor will doing all their work for them. So, here’s what you need to do.
This is probably the most common mistake that first-time managers make. They are obsessed with being in control of everything. Remember, mistakes are equally important for your team to learn and grow. Micro-managing your team means, you’re second guessing their decisions, and you aren’t trusting their abilities. In fact, most team members may assume that you’re saying you know more than they do. For your team to succeed, you need to delegate and let go. Micromanaging the team may make you the boulder in your team’s success path and bring down their productivity.
6. It’s not all ‘fair’ and lovely
While it’s important to be fair to all team members, it’s also important to understand that your engagement with each team member cannot and should not be equal. It should always be a derivative of each of their commitment, effort, and performance. Your support to your team should be conditional. This means, your engagement with your team should be equal to commitment to achieving the goals set for each of them.