The role of an individual contributor is different from that of a manager. Many people find themselves in over their heads at the beginning of taking on this new role. Many people have difficulty sleeping and/or relaxing. These reactions are normal and don’t necessarily mean that the new position does not suit you.
It is not unusual to feel overwhelmed for the first couple of months! Therefore, it is important to be patient with yourself and take good care of your physical health. As part of this, I recommend increasing the intensity of your exercise program or starting one.
This is also a good time to make a list of all of your support systems and consciously choose to reach out. It is difficult if not impossible to achieve big goals alone. Your new role brings with it more challenge and therefore, this must be offset by additional support. Managing your important relationships is very important.
Interestingly, when one takes on a position of leadership, they become more visible and you might feel the weight of this. It feels like everyone is watching you or looking up to you. In reality, this is true, the higher you go, the more you become a symbol and the more important your words and image become. This could cause a feeling of isolation. You need to understand this and plan for how to offset it.
An important part of being a good manager is nurturing yourself on every level and that requires awareness. The people closest to you can reflect back a lot of what is going on at various levels, but you also need to make time for reflection and developing your capacity to notice what is going on internally. Ultimately, when you can create this reflective distance, you can avoid getting emotionally caught up in the drama and formulate better responses. You will also learn to manage stress better and working with people generate creative options and solutions together.
I have found that there are many different flavors of managers. A part of growing into the role is discovering your own unique style. During the experimental period, I would set the bar low and try to stay open and curious in order to learn about yourself. If you can’t manage yourself well, you won’t do a good job of managing others either.
As you adjust to your new role, keep the following principles in mind:
— No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
— Listen more than you speak and try to learn something from everyone.
— Strive to be both totally honest and totally kind.
— Walk your talk, don’t ask anyone to do anything that you wouldn’t do yourself.
— Set measurable goals, recurring feedback loops and solicit input on important decisions.
— Be a ‘good finder’ and be generous with praise.
— Nurture important relationships and say thank you frequently.
— Follow through on what you say and be careful not to take on more than you can handle.
— Consciously cultivate a sense of humor, be as compassionate toward yourself as you would toward others.
— Learn to say no gracefully.
— Find good mentors and/or hire a coach you have chemistry with.
Certainly, this short article is not a magic bullet to make the transitional from individual contributor to manager. However, it is a good starting point and will certainly help you to orient yourself in the direction of success. You don’t have to be perfect, people will forgive you for not being perfect, but they will remember if you cared and whether you did what you did with integrity. In other words, was your own behavior in alignment with your values and words.
Lastly, I suggest that at the end of the day you reflect on your successes and keep a notebook of things you would do differently the next time. As you go up in management, it usually becomes important to choose your battles carefully and learn to be content with moving the most important things forward steadily rather than changing the world overnight. Notice I said, the most important things and not the most urgent. Both are important, but the former moving will distinguish you from the crowd.