It can be a difficult transition when a practitioner or expert ‘becomes the boss. When the promotion happens absent training for managing others there can be a gap between expectations and reality for both the new leader and the team. That gap can become uncomfortable–or even detrimental–if left unresolved. It’s crucial that as a supervisor you make time to lead so that everyone excels.
I once worked with an accomplished public relations expert who excelled as a media relations expert. She promoted to a director of a communication position. Her days changed from writing, pitching and interacting with media to being responsible for a team of six. She also led a substantial department budget driving publication production, public relations and graphic design. Many people in her place might have relished this opportunity and jumped into strategic planning, team development and goal-setting. But not my colleague. She loved what she used to do and disliked much of her new role.
Unfortunately, the things she didn’t like about her management role were crucial both to the team and for her satisfaction. She strongly disliked spending time motivating, mentoring and supporting her team. It wasn’t that she disliked working with them. She in fact talked with them daily and continued to work side by side with them as she always had. She had her work and they had theirs. In her mind, it was showing them great respect to leave them to their work. She imagined they held respect for her because of her hands-off approach. They saw her continue to humbly work in the same manner she always had without consistently guiding them.
After only a year in her role, she also felt disconnected. Her team didn’t seek her support when they needed it. Though they all remained friendly, she often found herself blindsided by problems or missed deadlines. As soon as anything like this began to happen, she stepped up accountability and oversight. She even made a point to drop by others’ offices more throughout the day. It didn’t seem to be help. With all the respect and independence she was giving them, why couldn’t they step up and communicate with her?
The reality was that her team didn’t view her as someone who wanted to help them grow. Rather they sensed she had little time and interest in leading their efforts. When she began to hound them to communicate to her and inform her, they felt resentment and pressure. It seemed to them that the leader was asking them for guidance rather than driving goals. They felt disconnected too.
This story ends a little happier than many similar stories. After that first year, my colleague was self aware enough to consider what she wanted to change. Her reflection brought her to the conclusion that she’d really rather be doing her project work again. She didn’t want to lead a team. Within a few months she moved to another job and left the management role behind.
Had she wanted to, she easily could have changed her habits to spend more time on leading. There are some basic management communication steps that can make all the difference in leading a team well. Start with understanding how to spend most of your time. You must make time to lead. Your priority is now managing the people, projects, programs and goals for which you are responsible. If you’re the manager and you’re spending your time on the project work itself, you need to adjust right away. You want your focus on setting the direction, overseeing progress, removing barriers, and ensuring the right resources are in place.
Leading includes hands-on work too. You should dedicate the bulk of your time influencing the work of you team rather than on solo tasks. Effective management of others requires your focus, attention and effective communication. It’s not about watching over their shoulders and micromanaging every breath. You want to engage with your team and their work. Working with a coach can help you hone in your best management attributes and the areas you want to improve. If you give it your commitment, you’ll notice results. When you make time to lead, you might even find that it gives you back even more time in the long run.