Be honest: did you get your promotion because of your technical skills or because of your leadership ability? Good managers ideally need to have a complementary blend of both these key qualities, so if your strengths lie more in one area than the other, then you’ve got some catching up to do in order to strike the perfect balance.
The good news is there are plenty of ways to improve your leadership skills – after all, most successful leaders are made, not born. When it comes to technical skills, however, there’s really nothing else for it other than to knuckle down and learn the ropes.
Understand processes and structure
Stepping into a new management role can often be a baptism of fire, particularly if you’ve come from outside an organisation rather than being promoted from within. There will be so many ropes to learn and an abundance of unique challenges to tackle head-on; one of the most important things you can do is familiarise yourself with operational structures and processes as soon as possible, as well as learn who to ask about what. Find out who your go-to people are and you’ll be half-way there. Here are some other points to consider:
Nurture your team – a successful team is one that operates like a well-oiled machine, so take time to facilitate effective communication and strong working relationships. Team-building workshops or even entire days can be an invaluable investment. It can build trust and encourage the two-way exchange of ideas, plus you’ll also benefit from greater team motivation and productivity.
Understand roles and their scope – whether your team is large or small, it’s important to see how everyone fits together. Think of it like a jigsaw puzzle, where a full and rounded set of skills, experience, knowledge and expertise complete the picture. Plug any gaps with additional training and be sure to view your jigsaw within the wider context of your company, in order to take a strategic and tactical approach to all goal-setting and decision-making.
Recognise your people as individuals – you’ll soon come to recognise what inspires, motivates and frustrates different members of your team, as well as how to get the best out of them.
Make the most of the honeymoon period – the breathing space and mutual goodwill to collaborate in the first few days, weeks and months in the job will only last so long, so plan ahead to maximise the opportunities this sweet period brings.
Be clear, honest and transparent about your expectations – only by letting people know about your goals, targets and aspirations will they be able to contribute effectively and perform to their best, as individuals and collectively. Work on this proviso and you’ll develop an autonomous, self-measuring team.
Make changes gradually – some projects demand swift decision-making and early action, but many require you to play the long-game rather than deliver immediate results. Take your time assessing the situation and introducing or modifying action chains and processes.
Listen – have your ear to the ground at all levels, from boardroom to shop-floor.
Be open to positive criticism – just because you’re a manager now doesn’t mean you don’t still have a lot to learn.