November 17, 2016

Congrats on the promotion, 4 tips on how to be a manager not doer

By Paul Carroll

Returning to our current theme, of career development, its time to focus on the transition to being a manager.

As I’ve spent much of this month speaking at or chairing events, I have spoken to people at all different stages of their customer insight careers. From senior leaders, all the way through to graduates starting their first analyst job. All face different, but equally important challenges, to make the kind of transitions focussed on by the book “Leadership Pipeline“.

Given much of our content on this blog has previously focussed on senior leaders & strategic decisions, I think it’s time to give due focus to the critical change from analyst to manager.

I’m pleased to say that my good friend Paul Carrol (of Insurance Thought Leadership hub) pointed me in the direction of Susan Kearny on this subject.

As an educator, director & knowledge manager, with a technical background in actuarial science, Susan is well placed to offer advice on successfully making that transition from technical practitioner/expert to an effective manager. Over to Susan for more…

Repeat after me…

Congrats on the promotion. Now repeat after me: “It’s no longer my job to get things done. It’s now my job to make sure that things get done.”

No one can deny the great feeling you experience after earning that promotion. Not only does it validate the hard work you’ve done, but it’s proof that you excel at your job. It means that your organisation values your contributions and believes that you’re ready to take on more responsibility.

The bad news for new managers

Ready for the bad news? Being an effective manager is tough. Whether you were a claims representative, an underwriter, an agent or a broker, or serving in any other role in which you were an individual contributor on a larger team, your new role is entirely different. Your new responsibilities–managing and leading others–requires a whole different skill set that you likely never learned before.

It’s an all-too-common story. Studies say that up to 50% of new managers fail within their first year on the job. Gallup says that only one in 10 people possess the talent to manage. And there’s the notorious Peter principle – the idea that employees are promoted until they are no longer good at their jobs – a particularly common pitfall for first-time managers.

Those intimidating stats show just how jarring the transition to management is for many people. But don’t let them scare you. Instead, use them as a reminder that, as a manager, you need to begin thinking differently about your job, your role and your skills.

Making a Successful Transition

Repeat after me: “It’s no longer my job to get things done. It’s now my job to make sure that things get done.”

This is undoubtedly the hardest concept for a star performer turned manager to grasp. It’s a subtle distinction, but understanding the difference could make or break your career as a manager. You’re no longer a doer–you’re a leader. The emphasis is no longer on working harder, it’s on working smarter. If you’re staying late to correct and touch up claims long after your employees have gone home, you may be working hard, but you’re not effectively managing your team.

It’s a big mindset adjustment. But once you start thinking in those terms, you’ll start utilizing more effective and sustainable management practices and be a better boss as a result. Here are four more ideas to help keep you on track as you go from doer to manager.

1. Don’t solve every problem.

If you’ve worked in your role long enough, chances are that you have the solutions to a lot of problems that creep up. In the past, your job was to solve them and move on. As a manager, your job is more to give your employees the skills and understanding they need to solve problems and keep them from coming up again. Approach every new scenario with direct reports as if you’re their teacher.

2. Study up.

There’s a reason so many books are written on management. Most of them focus on what makes great leaders, not what makes great first-time managers, but regardless, management isn’t a natural skill for most people. Find reliable sources that teach you more about what it takes to be an effective manager and leader, whether it’s a book or two you can read over the summer or a comprehensive training session on management, like our Management Education at the Wisconsin School of Business program being held this October.

3. Check your relationships.

You may suddenly find yourself managing your long-time lunch buddy. Maybe your former boss is now a peer. How you handle these evolving relationships is key to your success as a first-time manager. In the Gallup study, researchers list five traits all great managers share. Notice that they all revolve around successfully handling relationships on the job:

  • They motivate every single employee to take action, and they engage employees with a compelling mission and vision.
  • They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
  • They create a culture of clear accountability.
  • They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue and full transparency.
  • They make decisions based on productivity, not politics.

4. Don’t stop at managing.

Once you’re a successful manager, you’re ready for the next challenge–becoming a leader. Managers are tactical. They put systems and logistics in place to make sure that things get done. Leaders are inspirational. They motivate and engage their teams to work hard and find new ways to get things done. Not all managers can be great leaders, but all leaders must possess at least a basic skill for managing. Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, sums up the distinction nicely: “Management works in the system. Leadership works on the system.”

What next, for you as a manager?

Well said, Susan.

Let me add my congratulations, to those of you successful enough to have recently been promoted to customer insight manager or analytics manager. I hope you found that advice useful in making the transition to managing your team well, rather than trying to still do it all yourself.

Mastering this transition can prepare you well for the others to come.