Being a new manager means facing new challenges and applying new skills. However, in many cases it also means letting go of old habits. Two of the most important behaviors that must be avoided are: 1) being a passive bystander when it comes to strategic decisions and 2) being the “doer” in project work.
Let’s start with strategic decisions. New leaders typically rise into their positions from an individual contributor role, in which they were assigned work and expected to complete that work as well as they possibly could. As individual contributors, they may or may not have worked with leaders who were strong communicators about strategic context. As new managers, however, it’s important that they understand the importance of being able to do this for their teams.
Now, it’s true that new managers may think that making big strategic decisions isn’t part of their job, and therefore they don’t need to stay awake at night worrying about them. And, that may be true – they’re probably not making the big bets in the organization. However it is their job to understand what those decisions are, and why they’re being made, so they can communicate to their team within that context. In doing so, they’ll develop their own strategy toolkit by finding ways to better understand the decisions they’re supporting, and their team will be far more engaged in what they’re doing.
The second behavior new managers may struggle with is the temptation to roll up their sleeves and help fix every problem they see. After all, they’re good at getting the work done. Otherwise they wouldn’t have been promoted. However, they can quickly use up all the time they should be spending looking at the big picture, developing their team and asking strategic questions, if they’re constantly jumping in to do the actual work and put out fires.
Bottom line? Being a new manager isn’t just about gaining new skills. It’s also about letting go of old behaviors that may no longer be beneficial.
Karen Maxwell Powell is an affiliate at Insight Experience, a Boston-based firm delivering contextually rich, immersive business simulations and learning experiences to accelerate and integrate leadership, business acumen and strategy execution.