Now, we look at the all important “how” of transitioning into any new job; “how do I manage.”
When I say “how do I manage,” I am referring to the how you manage the relationships with your boss, your peers, with the people you interact with (in different departments or otherwise) to do your job, and in management roles- how to manage your new team.
Let’s start with your boss. While at first glance it may seem counter intuitive; wait, I thought my boss manages me, not the other way around. STARs realize that managing is a two way street. Besides doing your job, successful people seek to understand their boss and then adapt to support him or her.
When starting a new position it is crucial to learn how your boss likes to communicate, what his goals are and how he likes to run the team. Moreover, a great way to “manage” your boss is by understanding his strengths and weaknesses. Take note of his strengths but then do your best to mitigate his weaknesses. Often, a simple thing to you could mean a great deal to your boss.
I once had a manager who was a fantastic leader and solid verbal communicator, but had struggled at times with written communication. On countless occasions he would call me into his office to read an email, letter or presentation he was about to send out to ensure the grammar was correct and that he was getting his point across. This took little time and effort for me, but meant a lot to him. Seeing this as an opportunity, I proactively asked if there were ways to assist my boss with written tasks.
The same goes for communication with your boss. In my first job out of school, I made the mistake of deciding not to ask questions of my boss, instead using my peers; I wanted to show her that I knew how to do my job. A couple months later when my first performance review came around, my boss expressed her concern because she wasn’t getting any feedback from me and didn’t think I understood my job. I made the mistake of not learning how she liked to engage with her direct reports, leading to some misunderstandings. Make sure to learn these types of things early on.
Put differently, within the first 60 days of your job, you want to figure out how to make your boss look good.
The same goes for your peers or people in other organizations you need to work with to complete your job responsibilities. Learn how these people like to communicate and get their work done. Note whether the most effective way to get through to them is via email, text, phone calls or face to face meetings. If you adapt to their style, you will find that they will be more willing to help you or make the work you need them to do a priority- ultimately helping you do your job better.
Learning how to “manage up” and cross functionally from the beginning will set you down the path to success in any new role.
In the upcoming entry, we will look at the “where” in how to be successful within the first 2 months of a new job.
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Continuing our series on how to be successful within the first 60 days of any new position, we now focus on the “what”- as in, “what is my job.”
More than anything, the focus is a tactical exercise in fully understanding your job responsibilities. While I wish it was as easy as regularly referring to your job description (which I have found can be notably different than the work I actually end up doing), the goal here is to get a grasp of your day-to-day and make sure you can get to a point where you can work independently, with little to no help.
I recall my transition to a new position a few years ago when I began managing a sales team. Among a number of job responsibilities that I needed to understand, I needed to get a better grasp on how to conduct a coaching session with my sales reps and I had to learn how to complete a number of administrative tasks through our CRM (customer relationship management) software. In this case, and in any new job transition that you face, the key is to master two simple things: (1) asking questions, and (2) finding “mini mentors.”
What many people neglect to think about, is the importance of asking questions. Some feel embarrassed to speak up and admit that they don’t know something, not wanting to appear un-knowledgeable. This is the worst approach you can take. In most situations, no one will tell you every single thing you need to know and if you are not willing to ask questions (paired with some self-directed research) then how are you expected to understand something? Don’t be apprehensive about asking questions. When you first start a job, you are not expected to know it all. Yet if you don’t, then in the months that follow things that you aren’t expected to know on day one become things that you should have learned a while ago. It is important who you ask questions to (better your peers than your boss, and better to spread out the question asking instead of asking one person every single questions about everything).
Secondly, find “mini mentors.” When most of us think of mentorship, we think of a formal relationship we develop with an accomplished person in our field. Someone we can come to when making tough career decisions. While this research is important to have, mentors can also play a more targeted role in your day-to-day work. Find a resource for specific job responsibilities that you can go to when questions arise. In my case, for example, I had a mini-mentor to help me with conducting coaching reviews and a different mentor to help with the tasks I had to do in our CRM system.
When I needed to prepare for my initial coaching sessions or when I wanted to test out a new coaching technique I did test runs with my coaching mini-mentor. When I needed to pull a weekly report on my sales team’s results or wanted to create a new report on their prospecting activity, I reached out to my CRM mini-mentor to walk through how to do this in the system.
For any given job, you can have upwards of a half dozen mini-mentors or more, each providing something valuable to you during your transition to a position (and beyond). It’s a good idea to find ways to reciprocate with your mini-mentors to help them in an area that you are good at that they may need help in.
Remember to seek out and develop relationships with mini-mentors and be willing to ask questions of them (and anyone) when starting a new role.
Next, we will address the “How” in the first 60 days of any new job.
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This is the first of a series of blog posts that are focused on a very important topic- how to be successful at any job within the first 60 days.
Each year I receive a summary email from LinkedIn. It says something to the effect, “X number of your connections changed jobs within the last year.” As my LinkedIn network increased, so did the number of connections that changed jobs but maintained a similar proportion. With a few years of consistent results to back this up, it appeared that about one-third of my connections changed jobs each year. Whether at the same company or a new one, on average we have to start anew every 3 or so years. For some (especially earlier in your career) this happens even more frequently.
Because opportunities to experience a new position comes around so regularly, it is so important for us to manage the process and ensure we are getting off to the right foot.
Over the next few weeks, we are going to go through what I refer to as the Who/What/Where/Why/How of integrating into a new job. Each part of the series will detail an important thing that successful people (labeled as “STARs” in my book series) do when starting a new job.
First, we address the “Who” part of the equation.
When I say “who,” I am referring to you (of course).
The “who” portion of successfully transitioning to a new job mainly has to do with your understanding of yourself. Put another way, it relates to your self-awareness. Successful people understand themselves. They know what they are good at and they know what they need to improve on (i.e. Strengths and Weaknesses). They have a certain level of emotional intelligence and know what skills they have as well as what skills they need to build in order to be successful in their new work environment.
Let’s say, for example that you begin a new position as an analyst at a technology company. As you start, it is important to conduct an inventory of the characteristics you excel at, for example that you are detail oriented, but you must also know your weaknesses, possibly that you traditionally have found it hard to finish your work before deadlines. You want to be conscious of showing off your strengths (in a humble way) and mitigating your weaknesses (in this case, preparing better before deadlines).
The most important vehicle for mastering the “who” part of the question is to set and collect clear expectations. A STAR is able to learn what her boss expects of her. She also communicates what expectations she as an employee has of her manager so that she has the resources available if she needs help as she becomes more familiar with her new job.
Next week we will focus on another key element when transitioning to a new job, the “What.”
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153. That’s the number of work emails I received yesterday. And that doesn’t even account for the 45 emails that I had to write and send (nor does it factor in my personal email accounts). Pair that with 5 hours of conference calls and an end-of-day deadline and you have a pretty packed day. Then add in Facebook updates, tweets, text messages, news, TV, phone calls and staying up to date on blogs and articles (like this one) and you start to realize how packed with information a normal day is.
For many of us, this type of constant communication and bombardment of information is typical. It is also robbing us of our time. Beyond depending on these forms of communication and sources of information, we feel like we are “out of the loop” if we spend even a few moments disconnected from them.
While these forms of communication and information sources keep us in the know, they keep us from fully living our lives. They also create clutter and challenge our internal filters that tell us what is worth our time and what wastes it. It also creates a bunch of clutter as we access information from many places and are getting more and more distracted from what is important while the trivial replaces what matters.
Do you really need to monitor that Twitter feed or does it distract you from engaging in an important face-to-face conversation with someone? Do the 20 RSS Feeds giving you various forms of advice really help or do they become a chore or time waster?
What we really need to do is get rid of the clutter. Instead of seeking loads of information, seek simplicity. Take some time to shut things down and just think.
I have found time and time again, that when I resist the urge to become distracted by the various forms of communication and sources of information out there, I begin to listen. I start to listen to those around me and most importantly, I begin to listen to myself.
When you take a step back you start to ask questions like, “is this thing I am doing really getting me closer to my goals?” or “is all this added complexity really helping or distracting me?” things begin to get clearer.
With the publication of my second book approaching, I took some time to conduct a self-inventory. I realized that only a small subset of my activity promoting my first book produced a vast majority of the sales. I became so wrapped up in having to check off boxes and having a presence on every medium that I lost track of what was truly important: getting my message out and helping people.
I am not here to say that all this information and these social platforms are bad, I am just saying that in moderation (a la the age-old advice of Aristotle) it can be incredibly valuable but too much can be damaging.
This “disconnected” time will help you realize what is important and what to eliminate. It is remarkable the ancillary things we do that keep us from reaching our goals, preventing us from spending our time on what is important.
Take time to unplug and ask yourself whether what you are doing now supports your personal and professional goals or whether you are becoming your own biggest obstacle. Instead of adopting the complexities that life has created, seek simplicity and clarity.
Don’t come up with 20 goals to reach. Odds are, focusing on 20 things at once will stop you from accomplishing any of them. Pick 3 or 5 and align your efforts and activities on that targeted list.
Seek simplicity and welcome the moments of clarity that come from when you unplug, take a step back and listen. This is the one thing you can do to make you successful at anything you want to accomplish. Whether a personal issue or complex group project, suddenly complexities will be replaced by an identification of what you need to do to reach your goals; a key first step in finding success.
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Maybe it’s Hollywood, or stories from friends, mentors and parents, but it seems that a majority of us get nervous (or at least a little edgy) when we are “called into the boss’ office?”
It’s not a new thing either, but one that has probably gone back for generations when subjects were called in front of the king. Post like this are typical on career forums:
In this case, the person posting didn’t know of doing anything wrong, but was still concerned.
I think the genesis of this inherent fear comes from the fact that most bosses don’t reach out to their people or “want to talk” unless (A) You did something wrong, or (B) they want something from you. Either case is not all that pleasant for you, the employee.
Recently, I even noticed the feeling in myself. Upon hearing I needed to have a “quick one-on-one” with my boss that he didn’t seem to set up with my other peers, I immediately thought about any reason that he would want to talk with me. Since there didn’t appear to be anything particularly good I feared the worst. Maybe I was in for a big job change or something bad was on the horizon for me.
What made me even more concerned with the feeling I had was that I NEVER felt this way. I noted how my friends and peers would always express fear when being called into the boss’ office, but that I always was hopeful that there was good news coming.
It ended up that just like “Paul” in the post above, my boss had some great news for me. A big career development opportunity. And the reason that no one else was having the “quick one-on-one” was because I was the only one given this great opportunity.
As I left my boss’ office, with a pleasantly surprised smirk on my face, I thought about how I could make sure not to let this fear strike my heart any time in the future I was called in by my boss.
Focus on the Good- Most people’s immediate response to being called into the boss’ office being bad, we overlook great opportunity. Realize that when your boss has really good news or needs your help with something that will help your career (or show that he/she really trusts you), they like to do it privately and often in-person.
Ask for clarity- If ever I am concerned, I look for ways to set my mind at ease. One way of doing this is to ask your boss for clarification on what will be discussed during the meeting. Saying something like, “do I need to have anything prepared for the meeting” will give you more of an indication of the meeting’s focus. If you boss shrugs off your request, it may be an indication that the topic of discussion is no big deal.
Don’t get your boss a reason to call you in for something bad- I know this one is a bit obvious, but when you are always putting out 100% effort and that you make you boss aware of any mistake you make (or a heads up when an issue may be in the making) then you will have little reason to fear being called into your boss’ office.
If what you get called in for ends up being bad, focus on the solution. Don’t immediately assume that it’s the end of the world or that your boss hates you. Instead, brainstorm solutions with your boss and solicit his/her help to correct any mistakes or avoid making them in the future. While your boss has a number of responsibilities and things on their mind, most are mindful of your well-being and want to see you succeed.
For you bosses out there, remember how being called into the boss’ office feels and don’t put your employees through the same agony you know you would have felt. Mix in some good with the bad. As Ken Blanchard says, “catch people doing things right” and let them know you are aware of it.
So next time you get called into your boss’ office, don’t immediately expect the worst. Think about the good things that can come out of it. This type of mentality will help you stay disciplined and motivated to produce the highest quality of work. And when the result of the meeting is bad, don’t leave your boss’ office without at least some idea of how to move forward and do better next time.
With a number of the talks I have been giving at companies and universities, I recently reconnected with my alma mater. Feeling a bit nostalgic, I searched to see if some of the on-campus activities that I was involved in were still around.
Some extra curricular organizations I was involved in had been around for over 100 years prior to my joining, so it was no surprise that they were thriving as always. Yet what was more affirming was the success attained by a couple organizations that I was at the ground floor of.
One was the course I taught on Leadership through the undergraduate business school and the other was the Freshman Sophomore Business Club.
In both cases, I was not the official “founder” but was the second to have the top “executive” spot. With the Freshman Sophomore Business Club, an organization only open to lower classmen (mostly “pre-business” majors), I was Treasurer my Freshman year and then was elected President the next. My executive team and I took on a club with 10 members (mainly officers) and grew it by over 1000%. My focus at the end of my year as President was to ensure that the next executive committee didn’t face the same problem I had; having to run a young organization with no guidance or mentoring (given that the organization’s founders left office, barely providing a thumb drive with documents they had made over the first year). I worked with my executive team to elect the next set of officers early, pair them with their predecessor and begin to operate the club with the outgoing officers actively present, providing advice and best practices.
The result has been amazing. Besides the growth of the organization, it has continued to operate even though there is almost complete turn over of officers and members every 1-2 years.
For the leadership course (that operated through a program that allows students to gain sponsorship for and teach courses to other students), I took the class as a student the first semester it was offered. One semester later when the course founder graduated, I was selected as someone to take over the course. When my graduation neared a couple years later, I enacted a plan to ensure the course would continue on long after I was gone.
Throughout the semesters I taught the course, I had other students serve as teaching assistants to me. During my 2nd to last semester in college I beefed up the number of teaching assistants and watched them closely, as I planned to choose my successor. Then finally, my last semester in college I selected a successor (who I closely mentored) and monitored how the class was doing to ensure that no issues arose. This was a recipe for success and the course is now the longest running special interest course in the entire undergraduate business school, having run continuously for the last 20+ semesters while most other courses of its kind dissolve when the creator graduates.
The reason I describe these experiences is to offer an example of why building a legacy is important to the future of an organization (or anything you are involved in), but also to point out it is something that takes focus and effort to see through.
In both cases, I made a concerted effort to look toward the future. Being a big believer that good leaders can foster success while they are present but great leaders foster success in those that follow long after they are gone, I didn’t look at the organization’s success within the context of the limited time I led it. I saw that there were certain things that needed to be done with the future in mind.
As managers, or individual contributors within any team or organization there are a number of things you can do to increase the likelihood of future success. Here are a few:
- Share best practices, don’t hoard them. Don’t let the next cycle of leaders make the same mistakes you did. Share with them your failures, why they happened and how you would have done things differently if you could do it all over again. This will give future leaders perspective.
- Allow the next generation of organization leaders to sink or swim, but provide a safety net. Don’t hand-hold your successors too much. Give them clear guidance but then let them run small parts of things to start. When they succeed it helps build confidence in them; when they fail, be there to help them learn how to do better. Your exit shouldn’t be an abrupt stop, it should be a gradual fading out.
- Don’t make it about yourself, let the up-and-comers shine. Confident leaders know they don’t need to take all the credit to feel they have made a different. Let others around you (especially the future of the organization) share in the success and even be at the forefront of who gets the credit. This will inspire people to follow the lead you set while empowering them to strive to reach your vision.
It was really energizing and affirming to see that something I dedicated myself to years ago was still around and thriving. It also made me realize that the effort I put in before I exited stage-left from the organization was worth it.
Make something that is built to last; be purposeful in succession planning.
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First off, I would like to thank you all for the incredible support you have given me through the launch of my first book, The Young Professional’s Guide to the Working World. I so appreciated the words of encouragement, making my book signing a huge success, for all the books you bought and the messages you passed along to friends and colleagues spreading the word about the book and encouraging others to read it. No matter how we have connected with each other over the years, everyone has been so encouraging through this process.
The next installment in the “Young Professional’s” Series, The Young Professional’s Guide to Managing (also published by Career Press), is due out on May 20th.
The book builds off of the great insights in the first book of the series (The Young Professional’s Guide to the Working World) but focuses on advice for managers (and those who ever aspire to be one). I continued to use the STAR/DOPE archetypes as well as the house blueprint concept while keeping the chapters short and integrating some great online resources. Jim Kouzes, the co-author of one of the most successful books on leadership and managing, The Leadership Challenge, was gracious enough to write the book’s introduction. My years (and number of management roles) provide solid context for the advice I share. No matter your age, I imagine everyone will learn something new and valuable from the book.
Check out the book page on Amazon.
The book will teach you valuable insights like:
- How to successfully transition to being a manager, from the very first day
- The 10 skills all young professionals must develop to thrive as STAR managers
- Managing people of different generations
- How to hire, develop, and lead teams to incredible results
Here is some praise They Young Professional’s Guide to Managing has already received:
“Millennial Aaron McDaniel is one of AT&T’s youngest vice presidents ever, and reading “The Young Professional’s Guide to Management,” it’s easy to see why he has achieved such tremendous success so quickly. Aaron has the ability to pick up complex leadership qualities and behaviors and rapidly assimilate them into his everyday life – a must for every new manager. Current and future Millennial leaders are lucky to have the chance to learn from him.” -Alexandra Levit, Author of Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success.
“As Gen Y rises to leadership positions in the coming years, they could learn a two or thing from Aaron, who has been there and done that. Read this book to learn how to be a star manager just like him.” -Dan Schawbel, Author of Promote Yourself
“Aaron “hit the nail on the head” in The Young Professional’s Guide to Managing. If you follow these key lessons, you will be well on your way to a successful management career.” -Joan Massola, Manager AT&T Career Development and Leadership Assessment, AT&T Leadership Development Program for six years
This time around, I want to be more targeted about how the book launch goes. My goal (besides making the book a HUGE success) is to get The YPG to Managing on the Amazon Bestsellers Top 10 ranking for Business Management.
In order to increase the likelihood of this happening, a number of sources I have researched explain that it is best to have as many sales concentrated on a specific day (and even time of day) as possible. Amazon’s list algorithm looks at not only total sales of a book within a certain time but also concentration of sales. Knowing this, I figure why not give it a shot.
This is why I am calendaring Tuesday, May 21st as the book’s “BUY DAY.” (While I originally wanted to do it later in week on Friday, that weekend is Memorial Day, so I figure many people will be headed out of town and will want to think about anything other than work and buying me book. Monday is tough because everyone is just coming off the weekend, but with Tuesday it gives me enough time to give people reminders).
While I by no means want to stop anyone from purchasing my new book any time between now and then (or after 5/21 at that), I ask that if you are able (and if, of course, you had a desire to have a copy), you purchase the book on Tuesday, May 21st (and in the morning if at all humanly possible).
In additional to the book “BUY DAY,” I am also building a small “Launch Team” to help spread the word about the book. It will be a little time commitment but a BIG help to letting a ton of people know about the launch.While in subsequent posts I will ask that everyone Tweet/Facebook/LinkedIn/status/email about the book, I am looking for a team to be a little more engaged in the promotion process. I will pass along the specifics to those who are interested, but just know that it won’t be a ridiculous amount of time.
As a member of the “Launch Team” you will also receive the following:
- A free copy of my first book, The Young Professional’s Guide to The Working World
- A special discount code to a course that I am creating on the material from my first book, The Young Professional’s Guide to the Working World
- An opportunity to become a beta user of the online “career incubator” and mentoring community I am currently building on http://TheSparkSource.com
- A free mentoring session with me where we can discuss your career development or anything you are particularly struggling with at work
- The pride of being part of something cool and the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping others be more successful in their careers
If you are interested, please email address as a YPGManaging@gmail.com and I will follow-up with you.
Between now and “BUY DAY,” (May 21st) please feel free to share with with me any ideas you have for promoting the book and make sure to spread the word. If you, or anyone you know would be interested in bulk purchases of the book, please email me and we can talk over the details.
So come on and join in on spreading the word about the next generation of management books!
PASS THE NEWS ON THROUGH THE FACEBOOK, TWITTER and LINKEDIN LINKS BELOW.
Thank you again for your advice, help and support through this journey. My hope and passion is that The Young Professional’s Guide to Managing helps many people (of all ages) be more successful and fulfilled in their careers
“Yeah. In a couple days we are presenting to our executive team and I wanted to see if you had that one report we went over at our last team meeting. I wanted to include it,” explained one of the other managers in my office.
“What is the topic?” I inquired.
“The presentation is about (proprietary topic). The Senior VP wanted to learn more about it. (My boss’ peer) will be presenting about it.”
“Oh, ok.” I muttered, surprised by the comment.
I couldn’t believe it. That topic was something that I had been analyzing for months. I was not only part of the team that had conducted an in depth analysis and strategic recommendation but I had been assigned to lead the efforts by my boss’ peer. Now he was going behind my back, taking the work I had done, reformatted a few things and was going to present it to the executive team without even telling me.
The corporate world can be a jungle and not everyone will be looking out for your best interest. There will be people who attempt to get ahead by using your work and if you don’t stick up for yourself then no one will. At the same time though, kicking and screaming isn’t the right way to plead your case and mark your territory. In the situation I faced I had to be strategic about my response.
When facing these types of situations, there is a right and wrong approach. Here are a few ways to keep the credit for your own great work:
- Claim your work- The first way to maintain rightful credit for the work you do is to label it as your own. If you are making a slide deck or word document, put your name or a unique identifier in the footer of each page. Moreover, instead of sending a Microsoft office document, send a PDF so that your work can’t be easily taken or adapted. Finding a place to store it in the cloud that can timestamp your work is another good way to offer proof that you were the original author.
- Don’t assume the worst- It would be a mistake to assume that any time someone replicates your work they have done so with malicious intentions. More often it may be that they forgot who came up with an idea. This possibility intensifies when group work is involved, since there is a higher likelihood people think that a certain idea was originally their own because of the group brainstorming process many teams go through.
- Find a channel to object- When you find out that someone has been copying and taking credit for your work, remember to be professional. Don’t vow to have your revenge. Instead, find a way to prove that they stole your original work and that you should have a share of the credit. Value proof over confrontation.
- Be ok with others using your work- In some respects, sampling of your ideas and work you have done is unavoidable. To help control how your work is disseminated, create some simple guidelines that outline some terms you require if people are to use your work (so they don’t represent that it is their own). Be a team player but ensure that they reference you when sharing your work with others. It is important to do the same when you use the work of someone else. Credit those who rightfully deserve the credit. Moreover, when someone runs with one of your ideas, find ways to get involved in the project so you have some control of how your work is being used.
- Surround yourself with team players- One of the best ways to ensure that you receive rightful credit for your hard work is to find bosses and co-workers who value each other and foster a culture of teaming. If you work in a toxic work culture, where everyone is out there for himself and where your boss regularly takes credit for your work as if it were her own, find a way to get out. Look for healthy work environments where the credit is shared with those that most deserve it.
In the case of the situation above, I decided to keep my cool and instead of confronting my boss’ peer, I shared my concern with my boss. I explained that I felt it was unfair that the work I took the lead with creating was being presented to executives without my participation. I didn’t push to be the one to present it nor did I ask to receive all the credit; instead I just made a case that I should be involved. In turn, my boss breached the topic with his peer.
Soon after, I received a call from my boss’ peer who offered an apology for his mistake. He invited me to participate in the preparations for the executive readout as well as the presentation meeting itself.
Keeping my cool paid off, but so did sticking up for myself and letting it be known that I (just like everyone else) deserved to be credited with the hard work I had done. Leverage the advice outlined above in your workplace interactions to make sure to receive credit for your great work.
Recently I was working on an initiative for my job that involved getting some feedback from an Executive Director at my company. I had emailed him, asking a couple of questions and requesting a meeting to discuss what I was working on.
Over a week went by without a response. I found out that he was on vacation and wouldn’t be back for another week or so. A couple days after he was scheduled to come back in the office, I emailed him again. This time another week or two went back without any response. I was beginning to get frustrated. Why wasn’t he responding me? I’m sure he had a full inbox to look through when he returned to the office but surely he has cleared it out by now!
That week I was attending a meeting with a number of other local leaders and after the meeting ended I got to talking to VP at my company. I expressed my frustration about the situation and lack of response to my emails by the Executive Director, but was stunned with the VP’s response to my comment. It wasn’t accusatory or condescending, but more inquisitive.
“Why don’t you just give him a call?” she questioned.
Then it hit me. How could I have not done something as simple as picking up the phone? I realized how technology has caused us to put up so many barriers and in some ways has hurt the work relationships that are so crucial to build. We look for the easiest way for us to communicate something, instead of one that is the best for the person we are communicating with. I also felt like a bit of a moron, given that I had overlooked such a simple solution.
The next day I made the call and was able to connect with the Executive Director and get the information I needed for my project right away. All that stressing I did was for nothing and what I had built up to be a hassle in my mind, was really a simple fix.
Email is great, don’t get me wrong, but our reliance on it (especially at work) has caused us to forget about some of the most effective ways to communicate. Email can provide a better record of a conversation, but it is much easier for someone to say “no” when you ask them for something electronically. It is much harder to be turned down over the phone or in person. In using email, we also look to avoid confrontation and instead engage in a bunch of back and forth, as more questions come up or people pay half attention to what you write, asking for information that you already provided.
Talking to someone live or on the phone demands more of their attention and engages them in a way that sending an email cannot. Plus, it is a more efficient form of communication because you can get the answers you want immediately, instead of having to wait for a response (what will invariably come when you are distracted doing something else). Moreover, since many of us receives dozens of emails a day, our email may get lost among the others, while a call stands out more. One final, often forgotten, benefit of talking with someone live is that it improves your working relationship, helping you do your job better in the future.
Instead of only relying on less-personal forms of communication where tonality and urgency can be lost, go back to the “old school” and connect with people more directly.
Successful young professionals are willing to proactively pick up the phone to get what they want. They set up an in-person meeting to build a better relationship instead of just relying on technology platforms.
So go ahead and pick up the phone, or drop by your co-workers’ office instead of sending that email. Not only will it improve your working relationships, but it will help you get the answers you need faster. The worst that could happen is that you have to leave a message.
Going from peer to manager can be a difficult process. It is a challenge for you, taking on a management role where you used to be an individual contributor, and it is challenging for your team members, as they have to take orders from someone who used to be their peer.
A STAR manager (someone who is Savvy, Tenacious, Adaptive and Resourceful… for those not familiar with the archetype discussed in my book) is able to leverage the benefit of knowing what it takes to be successful at what her team does while being sensitive to the fact that it may be difficult for their old peers to see them an authority figure.
To start, STAR managers are conscious of the fact that this situation may happen, so they are sensitive about the reputation they create for themselves among their peers. It is much harder to get a team to believe in you as a manager if you were thought of as selfish, scheming or dishonest.
When transitioning from peer to manager, STARs do the following:
- Transition relationships: STAR managers work with their close ex-peers to help them understand their new role and to ask for their support during the transition. The book The First Time Manager, by Loren Belker and Gary Topchik, characterizes the complexities of being promoted to manage your old team well when it notes that knowing employees too well can be an issue because a certain comfort level has already developed. They go on to note the importance of setting the right expectations, rules and regulations, fostering accountability.
- Treat everyone equally: It is natural for people to like and get along with people at varying degrees when you are on their team. As a manager, however, you must make an effort to treat everyone equally. It is okay to have past peers/now employees that are friends who you socialize with outside of work, but you must not show them any favoritism or it will create a division within the team.
- Show your authority: STAR managers treat this as carefully as walking across a frozen pond. As mentioned, you will be challenged by your team. Especially as an ex-peer they will use all kinds of logic to get you to relax as a manager and cut them slack. Ensure that you portray yourself as an authority figure. Discipline rule breaking and seize coaching opportunities. While it is important to exert that you are the boss and that people must follow your lead, be careful how you do this; otherwise your people will develop an “oh you have changed” mentality and not trust you as a manager. It is okay for them to think you have changed, but openly discuss with them why.
- Find ways to show that you are their advocate: Make a concerted effort to show your team that you will stand up for them and support them. Find ways to make positive change. A great place to start is to take your new authority and find ways to remove obstacles that bothered you in the role before you became a manager.
- Keep the right frame of mind: Don’t lose sight of the fact that you understand how to do the job your people are tasked with doing and the challenges they face. Keeping this perspective will help you in shaping the appropriate culture, vision and management style to use with the team.
- Have fun and learn: Since you remember what it is like to be an employee on the team, further integrate what the individuals on the team would typically find fun and look for new learning experiences that are valuable.
- Shift the culture: While there may be pressure to keep things the way they are, make sure to leverage a contingency approach and change the culture to better fit your management style. You may face some pushback from your team on this, but follow through if you believe the change is important.
When taking on a management role in these types of situations, be mindful of not only being tested by your new employees but also of any resentment that exists. In many cases, one of your other ex-peers interviewed for the position you received or possibly thinks they are more deserving of the position than you are. This may cause them to hold a grudge and act in certain ways to make you look like an incompetent leader. This can manifest itself in many ways, like them purposely making mistakes on things that you ask for their help on that they know you won’t catch because of a time crunch or because you trust them with it.
One way to deal with this resentment and animosity is to address the issue head on, speaking to individuals on your team and acknowledging how they feel . When doing this make sure not to come off as if you have an “I won and you didn’t” attitude.
Another way to handle this kind of situation is to be nice to these employees and show them that you value and support them in their own career progression. Specifically seek out their advice and find ways to make them look good. This will calm the resentment and focus them on reaching the team’s goals.
STAR managers see situations to manage where she used to be part of the team as a unique opportunity to help the team be even more successful. She successfully leverages her past experience to remove obstacles, empower her employees and create a culture that the entire team believes will help the team achieve even more.
No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.
Every time I appoint someone to a vacant position, I make a hundred unhappy and one ungrateful.
- Louis XIV