How to Become a Manager
When you’re promoted to manager, your job changes. Your job is no longer getting stuff done. Now, you job is getting stuff done through other people. It’s the through other people that becomes the focus of how you spend your time.
When Melvin is a programmer, his job is to make sure the Green Growing Things website is immune to SQL injection attacks. When Melvin is promoted to manager, however, his job is to make sure that his team is making the website immune to SQL injection attacks. In an ideal world, Melvin shouldn’t even be putting his hands to the keyboard.
Managers Grow and Facilitate Teams
So what should Melvin be doing? Taking his attention off the computers and putting it onto the people. He needs to be growing and facilitating his department. That means understanding the technical problems just enough to identify and hire other people who can solve those problems. When he interviews job candidates, he needs to be able to ask them questions that will reveal whether they know (or can learn) to harden the website against attacks. Once hired, he needs to put them in the job that matches their skills, so they can be the ones who solve the SQL injection attacks.
It’s true that managers may sometimes do some direct, individual contributor work themselves, but that’s less and less true as you move up the corporate hierarchy. By the time you’re at the Executive Level, you should be spending 80% or more of your time on people issues, making sure that the other people in the organization can and are completing their jobs.
Your employees are there because they have to be, not because they care to be.
If you’ve come up through a functional area—as most people do—you are suddenly, subtlety, no longer doing what you used to do. Now, your job is facilitating other people’s skills. But if you have no prior experience, how in the world do you even begin? Use a four part framework: what-to, how-to, want-to, and chance-to.
Communicate the “What To”
First and foremost, you need to make sure that your people know what they should be doing. This sounds obvious, but it may not be. “Your team should keep the shelves stocked.” Which shelves? How full is “stocked?” And stocked with what?
You need to work with each team member to understand how the team goals translate into their personal goals. You need to help them recognize when they are and aren’t meeting their goals, so they can get to the point of recognizing it on their own.
Develop the “How To”
Your team knows what to do, now make sure they know how to do it. You may think that if you hired the right people, of course they know how. Not necessarily. People get promoted and need to learn their new job, just as Melvin needs to learn to shift from an individual contributor to a manager. People aren’t perfectly matched to jobs. Sometimes you don’t know what skills a job will require, and sometimes the skills needed can change. Marketing gets revolutionized by the new PlorpYourCustomers.com. Even the best marketer needs to learn.
Don’t be afraid to ask your people, “where do you need extra training or development?” and arrange classes for them. Your job is also scanning the landscape to know what trends are on the horizon, and help them anticipate the skills they’ll be needing. >
Cultivate the “Want To”
Of course, if you want them to stick around and do a good job, people must want to do their job. Most people don’t. According to Gallup research on employee engagement, over 70% of employees are not engaged in their jobs. They find their jobs uninspiring, boring, and life-sucking, even if they show up each day and put in the hours. Your job is to engage your employees.
Help your team tap into their motivation by understanding the big picture, how they fit into it, and why it matters. How does each person’s work make the company more successful, and help serve customers’ needs?
You also need to monitor the mood and morale of the group. Know what’s up with everyone, and if there are conflicts between people, your job is to mediate. If someone is going through a rough patch, your job is to help them cope. You don’t need to be a therapist, but you need to remember that your employees are humans. Like it or not, they’re at work because they have to be, not because they care about it. Indeed, 70% of them don’t, according to Gallup. If someone’s mother is on her deathbed, and you explain how the customer sales report simply has to be done by Friday anyway, understand that you’re the reason when that person checks out emotionally from the job forever.
Create the “Chance To”
The final part of your job is making sure your people have the chance to do their jobs. You’re the Great Wall between them and people outside the group who would suck up their time and attention. When there’s a political problem, you take care of it so they can keep working. When they need a new laser printer, you make sure it’s there for them. If they need an enterprise-level subscription for PlorpYourCustomers.com, you find the budget. Then you help them master their email, their internet distractions, and manage their time. By recommending they all listen to Get-It-Done Guy’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Work Less and Do More, for example.
This is Melvin’s new job, and it’s changed. His job is no longer writing SQL code to get things done. Now, he has to get things done through other people. That means his job is people, not coding. And it’s simple. All he has to do is make sure his people know the what to, how to do, want to, and have the chance to do their work. It’s simple, but not easy: what to, how to, want to, and chance to.
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