The Reluctant New Manager: Making the Transition Part 1

As I work with organizations and teams around the country, I see two sets of common symptoms that may indicate a new manager is struggling.

A fear of not being accepted
– Reluctance to “impose” on people who report to them
– Concern for being liked
– Resistance to cross from personal over to professional
– Avoidance of being direct

A fear of losing control
– Overly aggressive, and sometimes disrespectful behavior
– Micro-managing team members
– Dictating without asking for input
– Asking for input AFTER making a decision

Some new managers will only exhibit symptoms and behaviors from one of these categories, but often a mixture of the two are present.

So, what is a new manager supposed to do?

The first thing a new manager should do is understand that making the transition into leadership requires a balance of sometimes opposing characteristics. On one hand, a leader has to be demanding – willing to step up, be direct, expect high performance, and make decisions – especially when the decision is a difficult one.

On the other hand, a leader also has to be empathetic. They have to be able to put themselves into the shoes of their people, be compassionate, and  caring. They have to be seen as a human being.
Balancing both is tricky, but good leaders do it well.

The second thing a new manager should do is to recognize that building trust and credibility is the cornerstone to making a successful transition into leadership. Building trust and credibility starts by aligning behaviors – both yours as an individual leader and those of your team. In this article, we’ll address the former. Aligning your behaviors is really about making sure your actions reflect your words. You have to walk the talk. In the Army we called this “lead the way,” and we lived by this mantra by never asking another soldier to do something we wouldn’t do first. The same applies to the business world. If you want your people to respect you, they have to believe you are credible. And, if you want credibility, you have to lead by example. That may mean demonstrating your competency. It may mean coming in on a Saturday morning when you have asked others to do the same. It may mean showing up earlier and leaving later. It may mean contributing first, prior to asking others to contribute. There are many ways to lead by example every day.

So, if you are making the transition from peer to manager, respond to the following:

1. Do you share any of the symptoms listed at the beginning of this article? If so, does your fear stem from a need for acceptance or concern for a loss of control?
2. Have you recognized that being a leader requires you to be both demanding and empathetic? Are you doing one? Both? What can you do differently?
3. Are you leading by example? Sometimes we think we are but in reality our team members perceive something different.

Making the transition from peer to manager can be difficult, but it can be done.  Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article and we’ll discuss how to continue to build trust and credibility by aligning your team members and their actions.

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