An Open Letter to Young Managers
by Bob Selden
Dear (please put your name here . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..),
If you are a young manager, perhaps recently graduated, then there's a good chance you are intelligent, confident and ambitious -- keen to make your mark in the world. Chances are also high that you have high expectations of both the job and the organisation, and that you are quite independent.
Additionally, if you have been promoted from within the team, then no doubt you have some very good ideas on what needs improving. Your own manager will see you as innovative, technologically savvy and willing to learn. He or she may have said to colleagues "My new team leader / manager will be like a breath of fresh air for the team -- just what the doctor ordered."
All of your traits and characteristics are highly valued by your employer -- probably the reason you have been promoted so quickly. Applied appropriately, they are very positive characteristics to have and will ensure your success in your new role.
On the downside, these same characteristics that are valued so highly by your employer, may count for nothing with the people you are about to manage. They did not appoint you.
Having worked with many experienced and not so experienced managers, I have seen what leads to success and what can impede success. Below are my nine principles for avoiding career derailment. They are in my own personal priority order and are what experienced managers call "learning how to learn".
Priority #1: Give recognition to your people for good work regularly. Find at least one of your team doing something well every day and thank them specifically for what they have done. This builds a positive culture within your team.
Priority #2: Ask for help when you need it. Use the experience within your team. It's easy to think that "I'm the manager. I'm supposed to know what I'm doing, so it may make me look weak if I ask for help." There's only a very slight difference between self confidence and arrogance. The self confident manager says "I definitely know there is an answer (somewhere) to this challenge or problem." Whereas the arrogant manager says "I have the answer to this challenge or problem".
Priority #3: Keep a Learning Journal. Jot down things in a small pocket book that you think may be important. In particular, when you do overcome a major challenge or problem, take time to reflect (and record) - What was the challenge? What did I do that worked well? What did I do that did not work so well? What will I do differently next time? Review your journal once a week on a designated day and time. Make this a habit.
Priority #4: Avoid snap decisions. Certainly trust your gut instinct, but before jumping into action, reflect - Is this the best approach for this issue at this time? What are some other alternatives?
Priority #5: Admit mistakes. The leadership research suggests that all great leaders share one common trait -- they are willing to admit when they are wrong. Admitting mistakes shows that you are human. It also builds trust and respect.
Priority #6: Build your network. Look at the organisation chart. Who are the successful managers? Who could possibly be of help to you? Make sure you build a network of colleagues from outside your team.
Priority #7: Be careful when giving negative feedback to experienced staff. Make sure you get the words right -- ask them for their input in solving the issue or improving their performance. If you have not had some training in giving feedback, ask your manager or consult a good book.
Priority #8: Check your results. Once you have been in the role for nine months, complete a 360 degree profile. As well as getting feedback from your own manager and perhaps informal feedback from others, you need to get an accurate view of how you are performing as a manager. If your organisation does not have a 360 process, see the link at the end of this letter.
Priority #9: Find a mentor. Look for a manager within your organisation whom everyone respects. Build a relationship with that person. Over time, this friendship should turn into a mentoring relationship. Mentoring takes time - take yours!
One final piece of advice from an old, experienced manager. You are young, energetic and have great potential to move up the corporate ladder. The only thing you lack is experience. In twelve months time, make sure that your manager will be telling his / her colleagues "Yes, that was a great decision I made promoting (put your name here . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .). What a fabulous young leader he / she is."
Bob Selden may be contacted at http://www.nationallearning.com.au/
Bob Selden is the author of the newly published What To Do When You Become The Boss– a self help book for new managers. He also coaches at the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland and the Australian Graduate School of Management, Sydney. You can contact Bob via http://www.whenyoubecometheboss.com/