Guest Author: Donna M. Genett, Ph.D.
Dr. Genett is a past speaker for Catapult Groups and the author of If You Want It Done Right, You Don’t Have to Do It Yourself! The Power of Effective Delegation. With over two decades of experience in management consulting, Dr. Genett speaks on the topics of managerial effectiveness, business, executive and management consulting.
This article is intended to spark a discussion between the company President and upper-level management when making the decision to promote an outstanding performer.
The transition from performer to manager can be difficult for both the new manager as well as for the organization. The transition is tough because the style and skills required to be an amazing performer are very different from those required to be an amazing manager. Top performers like to get things done, they like checking off the to-do list, the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment they experience and the recognition they get. Once they get promoted into management their job, by definition, is to get things done through others. Most managers I encounter are not trained in the skills required to make this transition. Further, they’re not even trained that there is such a transition required because the organization doesn’t recognize this paradigm shift either.
So how does an outstanding performer show he has what it takes to be an outstanding manager? And how does the organization better assess who will make the best managers and therefore who to promote? Here are some tips to make this paradigm shift:
If you want to get promoted into management, make sure your reasons for wanting to be a manager are sound. In other words, rather than just being interested in a loftier title and more pay, recognize how your job will change and be sure that’s the type of work best suited to you. If you’re a self-described doer, someone who loves to dive into the work, management may not be for you. If you truly enjoy helping others to be successful and you enjoy getting results by leading a team, then you may be well-suited to a management role.
The organization should perform an assessment by discussing motives and styles with individuals who want to be promoted to ensure there is a good fit before they promote anyone. Even better, test these people in managing others through projects to see how well they do and how well this role fits them. This is a sure-fire way to avoid the Peter Principle: promoting people to their level of incompetence. This principle leads to the loss of many good performers who don’t make it as managers.
Learn the skills to get results through others
If you’ve just been promoted or want to be promoted, learn what it takes to truly manage people. Management is not dictating and driving. Nor is it dumping and hoping for the best. It’s a balance between setting clear expectations and holding people accountable on one side and giving them room to make their own mark while still achieving expected outcomes on the other side. Delegation is the skill that it takes to be effective. It’s not hard to learn but it can be difficult to put into practice.
On their side, organizations would do well to provide training for newly promoted managers to ensure they have the skills they need to succeed. Such training would be a win-win for the manager, the manager’s direct reports and the organization.
Learn to manage up as well as down
Not only do new managers have to learn the skills to manage their direct reports, they are now in a “sandwich position” where they need to translate the expectations of their managers for their direct reports. This translation task can be a challenging addition to the responsibilities of a new manager. Learning the skills of “managing up” – how to get as much information and clarity on expectations as possible from one’s manager – can be an even bigger challenge than managing employees. Fortunately for managers and organizations the delegation skill-set fulfills both requirements.
Evaluate where your loyalties are
One of the biggest challenges facing new managers is to shift their alignment from their peers to the management team. This is especially true for those promoted from within. It’s tough to now hold the same people to whom you once confided your frustrations about management decisions accountable for implementing these same decisions. And even tougher when you may not agree with the decisions! In order to succeed, new managers must evaluate where they’re going to align their loyalties. It’s not to say they “turn” on their peers but rather, they embrace a bigger picture perspective in decision making and know what information they should and should not share with direct reports. Many a friendship has been lost as a result of a promotion but many a promotion has also failed as a result of loyalties to friendships.
Organizations would also do well to assess this alignment before promoting someone into management. If an employee struggles with authority figures, it’s likely they’ll struggle when they become an authority figure. While it’s wise not to promote those who constantly challenge authority, it may also be wise to think twice about those who are too aligned with authority, the “climbers”. What works best in management is a balance in critical thinking to challenge decisions for the right reasons and to “pick battles” wisely.
Ensure you’re in the role that’s right for you
If you want a better title and more pay but find through the above assessment that you’re better suited to being a performer than a manager, you have a couple of options:
1) Stay in your current role and be happy that you have a job you enjoy.
2) See if your organization can adopt a “technical track” incentive program where those who want to move up can do so within their technical expertise.
3) Seek a position with an organization that does have a technical track option.
Organizations could benefit from creative incentive and promotion programs that allow people more flexibility than only moving up through management. For example, organizations that have adopted technical track advancement opportunities have fared well in avoiding the “brain drain” that can occur when people who want to stay and perform well in a doer role find that role is a dead end street.
Career decisions can be very complex. Ultimately it is much better to have a great fit between a person and a position than it is to fulfill career path decisions based on desires rather than abilities.
About the Author
Donna M. Genett, Ph.D. is an author, international speaker, organization development consultant and president of GenCorp Consulting. With over two decades of combined consulting and senior management experience her information is highly relevant and immediately applicable. Her services of executive coaching, teamwork, organizational structuring, strategic planning and training are designed to maximize performance, productivity and profitability.
Dr. Genett’s internationally acclaimed book, If You Want It Done Right, You Don’t Have to Do It Yourself! The Power of Effective Delegation has been translated into sixteen languages.
Dr. Genett holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Kansas.