Learn­ing how to be a boss

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - REPORT ON BUSINESS WEEKEND - VIR­GINIA GALT

A re­cent poll shows bal­anc­ing in­di­vid­ual re­spon­si­bil­i­ties with time spent over­see­ing oth­ers is the big­gest chal­lenge for new man­agers

The hard­est thing for Shawn Mintz when he was first pro­moted to man­age­ment was “let­ting go” of his front-line func­tions and mov­ing into a more strate­gic lead­er­ship role.

“That was the big­gest chal­lenge I had to over­come – and quickly, too. It was a very big learn­ing curve for me, un­der­stand­ing it was not my role any more to do ev­ery­thing,” re­calls Mr. Mintz, an em­ploy­ment spe­cial­ist and pres­i­dent of Toronto-based Men­torCity. The on­line plat­form matches men­tors and pro­tégés within or­ga­ni­za­tions and in the broader busi­ness com­mu­nity. (“It’s al­most like eHar­mony for men­tor­ing,” Mr. Mintz says.)

Pro­mo­tions typ­i­cally go to peo­ple who have ex­celled in their pre­vi­ous roles as em­ploy­ees, Mr. Mintz said in an in­ter­view, but it takes a “whole new skill set” to suc­ceed in a man­age­ment role over­see­ing a team of peo­ple.

In his early days as a man­ager, Mr. Mintz sought ad­vice from an in­for­mal net­work of men­tors who had been in lead­er­ship roles for a while.

“There are go­ing to be a lot of new chal­lenges that come to you as a new man­ager in terms of del­e­gat­ing, in terms of hav­ing con­fi­dence, in terms of peer re­la­tion­ships that have changed be­cause you have jumped into a more se­nior role,” he said.

Not all or­ga­ni­za­tions of­fer for­mal train­ing or men­tor­ship pro­grams for the newly pro­moted. Even so, new man­agers owe it to them­selves, and to the peo­ple re­port­ing to them, to seek the help they need, Koula Vasilopoulous, pres­i­dent of West­ern Cana­dian op­er­a­tions for re­cruit­ment firm Robert Half In­ter­na­tional, said in an in­ter­view. “I wouldn’t al­ways rely on your leader to tell you [what to do] if you are tak­ing on a new man­age­ment role … take it upon your­self to be pro-ac­tive with your man­ager to clearly un­der­stand and de­fine what their ex­pec­ta­tions are and to­gether you can work and de­velop some sort of plan.”

At the same time, new man­agers need to com­mu­ni­cate these ex­pec­ta­tions to the peo­ple re­port­ing to them and find out what sup­ports they need to get the job done, Ms. Vasilopoulous said. “One of the big items is em­pow­er­ing your em­ploy­ees. A rookie mis­take I have seen man­agers make early in their lead­er­ship re­spon­si­bil­i­ties is they feel it is their job to get it all done so they tend to mi­cro­man­age.”

In a re­cent sur­vey of 250 Cana­dian chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cers, Robert Half found that bal­anc­ing in­di­vid­ual job re­spon­si­bil­i­ties with time spent over­see­ing oth­ers is the big­gest chal­lenge for new man­agers.

“Man­ag­ing does not mean do­ing ev­ery­thing your­self,” a re­cent post on the re­cruit­ment firm’s blog about the sur­vey re­sults says. “[And] hov­er­ing over your em­ploy­ees’ shoul­ders is a sure­fire way to sti­fle pro­duc­tiv­ity and in­no­va­tion in your depart­ment and di­min­ish morale. While you are cer­tainly ac­count­able for the suc­cess of your team as a whole, your staff mem­bers are re­spon­si­ble for their tasks and meet­ing the spe­cific ex­pec­ta­tions out­lined for their roles.”

Ms. Vasilopoulous said “grow­ing your lead­er­ship skills takes time, no one goes into a man­age­ment role with a full bas­ket of all the tools and abil­i­ties they need.” Typ­i­cally, there are trusted se­nior man­agers and col­leagues will­ing to help new man­agers ad­just to their ex­panded re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, she said, but there are all sorts of ex­ter­nal re­sources as well.

One of the most pop­u­lar cour­ses of­fered by Cana­dian Man­age­ment Cen­tre cov­ers the tran­si­tion from self-man­age­ment to man­ag­ing other peo­ple, John Wright, pres­i­dent and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion, said in an in­ter­view.

For many new man­agers, the pro­mo­tion in­volves a com­plete change of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, Mr. Wright said, and they need strate­gies to man­age the height­ened ex­pec­ta­tions of their bosses, their peers and their di­rect re­ports. The new role re­quires sharper lis­ten­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and time-man­age­ment skills and – some­times – a thicker skin.

They have man­agers above them with cer­tain ex­pec­ta­tions and, in some cases, for­mer co-work­ers who feel they should have been pro­moted in­stead. “They could be pas­sive re­sisters or ac­tive re­sisters. Some peo­ple go in­stantly into judg­ment mode: ‘Okay, you are the new man­ager, im­press me,’ ” Mr. Wright said.

In ad­di­tion to find­ing what type of work­ing re­la­tion­ship best suits their bosses, new man­agers have to es­tab­lish bound­aries with the peo­ple now re­port­ing to them, Robert Half ad­vises in its blog post.

“Ex­plain what you will ex­pect from for­mer peers and pals and what they can ex­pect from you. The new re­la­tion­ship is not easy for them ei­ther. Ac­knowl­edg­ing it up­front is a great way to ease ten­sion and un­cer­tainty.”

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