This post includes excerpts from Part Two of my manuscript (working title: Mastering Your Role as a Manager in the 21st Century).
“There will be personal and professional issues that arise during the transition.
Strategies to address these issues include some of the following Key Concepts:
• Your vision of your role as a manager will provide you with a framework to address the intra/interpersonal dynamics at play during the transition period.
• The context of the situation will impact your management actions.
• Your personal/professional relationships will change.
To assist you in making the transition to management here are some questions that can jump start the process.
1. What are factors in making an effective and satisfying transition?
2. What’s new?
3. What are the opportunities?
4. What are the challenges?
5. What are your concerns?
It may be an easier task for new managers to assess their need to build up their skill sets than to attend to the intra/interpersonal aspects of the transition.
This may be due in part to the fact that we often don’t know the emotional/ psychological impact of a situation until we experience it. Assessing our ‘emotional intelligence’ and our capacity to be introspective and reflective can be more difficult because it is a very subjective process.
As a new manager there are a number of issues you’ll be addressing that weren’t part of your previous direct service responsibilities.
Managers will be responsible for oversight, supervision of staff and possibly programs, they will have administrative tasks (reporting, budget oversight, etc.) and often need to represent the agency in the community and with funders.
Since it is fairly common for folks to be promoted from within the agency, it is possible that you as a new manager will be supervising people who were formerly your peers. This section will explore the issues related to that situation.
Some elements of my management philosophy that are relevant to this section:
• Management is relational.
• Staff roles are interdependent; each one relies on the other to be successful.
• Every role in the organization is essential to its success.
Promoted from within: Managing staff who were your peers
Special focus in this section. If you are a new manager in your organization, and are now managing staff who were previously your peers/colleagues, there is an additional dynamic coming into play. To begin that exploration, there are some questions you can ask yourself:
• What will happen to your professional/personal relationships with these folks?
• What if any resistance may you encounter, how should you address the resistance?
• What might make you uncomfortable about your new professional relationships?
By asking yourself these questions you can begin to identify the types of issues you may face as a new manager.
A ‘best practice’ orientation for new managers. As the manager it is your job to work with the staff you have, rather than the staff you prefer.
What will happen to your professional/personal relationships with these folks?
Your relationships with your former peers will change. There are positive and negative elements to the changes that will occur. It is important to understand the why and how.
The ‘why’ is because as a manager you now have organizational authority, and the ability to impact on your former peers work life more directly than you did as their co-worker. There is now a ‘power dynamic’ present in all your interactions.
Power and Authority in the Workplace.
Given the presence of this power dynamic, one recommendation is for you to examine your views regarding power/authority in the workplace.
This is one issue that calls for you to do some thinking about how you feel about being in an organizational position of authority and subsequently how you ‘hold’ that power.
This is an intrapersonal issue, one that will more than likely continue to evolve. A related topic on management styles (how you implement your management tasks) will be covered later in Parts Two and Three.
However you are now at the beginning of understanding this in the context of your new position, so give yourself some space and explore it through self reflection and reading literature on the issue.
There are other elements of the power dynamic that are relevant (ex. as seen through a gender or racial perspective). In addition to addressing the different dimensions of this dynamic in our workplace, this issue is of particular importance to the nonprofit sector because the communities we serve often have firsthand experience with the same power dynamic.
It might be helpful to call on your personal/professional network to support your investigation.
One example on how to manage potential negative elements of the transition.
As the manager you have the ability to set the agenda for any discussions related to how you and the staff can work cooperatively to address any concerns that arise during the transition process. This ability provides you with great latitude to pick the process you think is appropriate to the situation.
Management ‘best practice’. Handling staffs’ criticism of you as manager.
I’ve experienced being criticized by staff I supervise and have developed a response that has worked for me.
Constructive criticism. When a circumstance arises where criticism (towards me) is being voiced, I share with staff my preferred approach to receiving criticism. My premise is that staff (including myself) has the right to describe what they may need from other team members in order to fully engage in the current discussion.
I mention that I’m open to hearing any criticism they may have if:
o The criticism is designed to be constructive.
o The criticism can be shared in a way that supports maintaining trust and openness.
o The criticism is framed so that it conforms to the ‘norms’ the staff and I have created to guide how the team will do its work.
This approach has allowed staff to express themselves and it re-enforces the guidelines for resolving potential conflict in a positive proactive manner. It is also aligned with my core beliefs (management philosophy) on team building.
I developed this response to being challenged by addressing my initial reactions to a situation where a staff person was being disruptive in a staff meeting. I began by reflecting on why I took the challenge personally.
It’s not easy to always think/respond objectively, some things will affect you on a personal level. I needed to understand why it made me defensive and how I could be more proactive and learn whatever the lesson of this situation taught me about myself.
I realized several things.
1. You don’t have to react to criticism (or any disruptive actions) in the moment. It may be a ‘one off’ situation. If it’s not, it will happen again. If you take the time to reflect on the situation (your core values on this issue can be a guide for you) you can decide how to respond the next time it happens. This will give you time to have a thoughtful response and potentially defuse the situation.
2. If the situation occurs in a staff meeting the other staff will be paying attention to your response. It will provide them with some insight into your management style.
Even if it doesn’t happen in a public setting, the word will get out to other staff, so be mindful that your ‘audience’ is not just the staff who engaged in problematic behavior.
3. You are the team lead and can set the agenda for any staff meeting. This includes setting the tone for how staff are expected to interact with each other (and you).
What if any resistance may you encounter, how should you address
Change can be hard, especially if it includes personal/professional relationships. Everyone responds differently. The key is to understand the implications of the change and its impact on the individual(s)”.
I’d be interested to hear any thoughts you may have (when you were a new manager) on this post.
Does the content from these excerpts raise any questions?
How have you navigated your transition?
Do you have any ‘lessons learned’ you care to share?