Talent Management
October 15, 2018

How to transition from an Individual Contributor to a Manager

The shift from an Individual Contributor (IC) to a Manager does not come naturally to all. As an employee, you would have spent years perfecting a few technical skills necessary for excelling at your job. However, once you become a manager, you are required to put the 'Me' on the back-burner and focus on the 'We'. Consequently, the skills you will require to succeed as a manager are very different than those you acquired as an IC.

The following are some of the key qualities that you will have to develop to become an effective manager: 

  1. Delegate
    Warren Buffet has famously said, "We delegate almost to the point of abdication." Managers across the world and industries have also stressed the benefits of delegation to the point of notoriety. In order to focus on 'mission-critical' activities, you need to free up time and delegate a few responsibilities to your team members. Effective delegation also helps in empowering team members to take-up additional responsibilities and contributes to their professional growth. 
  2. Reach out to New Peers and Mentors
    As a new manager, you can benefit from existing managers' experiences and receive valuable advice on handling tricky situations and expectations of the team, amongst other things.

    Several organizations offer mentorship programs where newly minted managers spend time with top management personnel to understand the strategic goals and the managers' role in achieving them. You should use these opportunities to align your objectives with those of the organization. 
  3. Engage the Team and be a Part of It 
    The professional development of the team should be one of the most important points to focus on for you as a manager. You might overlook this as you get busy juggling several hats simultaneously but this can end up being a major error as the effect of a disengaged and demotivated team will impact overall output and lead to a vicious downward spiral in productivity. 

    For this, you should spend time with every team member to understand their aspirations and skills and assign jobs that satisfy both these aspects to the greatest extent possible. 

    Your actions are also closely monitored by your new team and it is important to set an example of what you expect from the members. If you want your employees to be on time for meetings, you certainly cannot always walk in 10 minutes late.
  4. Value Security Over Salary
    Your team will thrive when they believe that they can present ideas without the fear of ridicule. As per research conducted by The Association of Accounting Technicians, relationships with colleagues and self-worth outweigh the compensation received by the employee. You, as a manager, should ensure that all suggestions receive fair consideration and successful ideas are attributed to the respective team members.

    A great manager distributes the accolades amongst the team and keeps the brickbats for himself.
  5. Set Aside Time for Strategic Goals
    A manager should avoid getting caught up completely in the day-to-day team management and administrative tasks. You should find time for converting the organization's long-term goals into a tangible output. This requires spending time thinking and analyzing new ideas.

    You should consciously set aside a few hours every week to think without interruptions.

    Even if you have taken steps to ensure that your transition is smooth, you might face situations inherent to the job.
  6. Managing Former Peers
    An internal promotion often means that you will lead a team that you were previously a part of. This is a tricky situation and you might need to tread lightly at first to allow everyone to recalibrate their relationship. It is, however, necessary to reinforce authority by establishing credibility and indicating how you will function as a boss.
  7. Strive to be Trustworthy rather than Likeable
    As a manager, you are a bridge between the team and the higher management. This can create conflict if the team feels dissatisfied over certain requests not being accepted. It is your job to explain the context behind unpopular decisions to the team. Conversely, you should push for the team's legitimate requests to be accepted.

    Being truthful is also important while having tough conversations with team members. You will have to learn to deal with these situations patiently yet firmly and be transparent in your evaluations. Feedback about unsatisfactory performance, unprofessional behaviour, and communication of termination will almost always be met by push-back. In case of a disagreement, you should be willing to meet the team halfway keeping it's best interest in mind.

    For example, if a team member asks for a transfer to another department, an honest conversation with her about some lacking skill-sets is way better than giving false assurances and disappointing her later. You can then get her enrolled in training to help her achieve her goals.

The shift to a managerial role is tremendously exciting and nerve-wrecking at the same time and may be full of mis-steps. However, through all this, it is important that you believe that you can succeed and accept the process of constant learning as the new normal.

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