The shift from an Individual Contributor role to that of a Manager can feel a bit taxing, especially for people who have little experience in working with big teams.
How do you prove yourself as someone competent in leading, when you have no experience of it earlier? What kind of expertise will help to communicate that you are management material? And most critical, what skills do you require to prosper, if and when you eventually get the opportunity to take the leap?
Changing Roles and Perception – What is the Difference??
It seems like a congenital/natural development – You have worked hard as an individual contributor for years, so the next step is that of a Manger, right?
Well, not always. To be honest, there is quite less that is “natural” about this change. Odds are your expertise – the skills that made you a great individual contributor – are decidedly less valuable at a managerial level.
- A successful individual contributor talks about his/her views in the room. A great manager is more inclined towards listening to his team member.
- An individual contributor stands out by outdoing the expectations. A manager stands out by assisting others to exceed their targets.
- A successful individual contributor achieves his/her targets and goals. A successful manager works on safeguarding the team member’s goals.
Noteworthy managers understand inclusivity and how to entrust others. They have impeccable listening skills; know how to help evolve the individual performances and draw their career paths. Not every Individual Contributor has these skills but these can be developed and fine-tuned over the time.
Seven Ideas to assist in your Transition from an Individual Contributor to an Effective Manager
- Revisit Your Mission: The Manager is responsible for creating a new mission and build a working environment where team members are encouraged to do their best. One should not just concentrate on developing his/her technical expertise, rather enable your team members to develop and then showcase their expertise.
- Focus on developing Trust: Follow the golden rule of Seek Vs Tell. Avoid getting into a teaching mode and telling the team members to do certain tasks. Instead, ask questions and encourage individuals to offer and pursue their ideas. Your willingness to let them experiment and even stumble, showcases your trust and support.
- Assist in imparting your knowledge: There is a difference between getting the work done from your team members by providing them answers, revoking their ideas etc. and making them learn what you know. Managers who impart their knowledge, particularly at the front-line level, are supporting the development of their team members in a compelling manner.
- Resist Your Instinct to Answer and Instead, Ask One Simple Question: A manager should encourage critical thinking as a working culture within the team. They should seek answers and solutions from team members when they reach out for guidance rather than responding immediately to their queries. Your best course of action is to suppress the urge to offer an answer and instead ask for their ideas.
- Promote Team and Individual Learning: One important thing the manager should keep in mind is the development and growth of his/her team. Invest time and effort in your team members wherever possible; encourage sending them for technical or functional training. Delegate work by keeping in mind that they should also get time to attend educational seminars and soft skill training. Encourage them to teach-back to the group, what they have learnt from their endeavors.
- Listen and Learn: Many new managers want to make visible changes immediately to exhibit that they are in charge—and that is not a good idea. Control this urge and instead, take substantial time to thoroughly understand your organization and team. Initiate individual meetings with each of your new staff members to understand their roles. Enquire about what they like about their job, the challenges they face and the ideas they have for improving the organization.
- Address Relationship Shifts: What do you think could be the biggest mistake that new managers make? They continue having the same equation with the individuals who were once their peers but now are reporting to them, just to be in good terms. If you are now managing a former peer, you must address the shift instantly. You cannot be as friendly with the person as you were earlier, especially at the workplace because it might create a feeling of distrust and resentment from the rest of your team. Also keep in mind that, while your former colleague may be happy for you, he/she may also feel awkward or resentful.
To be a successful manager, technical acumen is required but the ability to draw it out from the team members is a far more superior and essential skill. The focus on skills should be changed; the expertise of Individual contributors should now take a back seat and replace it with new skills of supporting and developing others. Start by reevaluating your professional goal and then concentrate on developing a new layer of skills that will support your growth as a manager and a leader.