7 Tips to Keep Your Career on Track

by Frank Swiatek

If you’re good at doing the job, you can definitely manage the job.

This myth has caused the careers of many managers to derail and go off the tracks.  In some cases, of which I am aware, it has caused managers to give up their career as a manager in a highly frustrated state.

Here are a few things that I’ve discovered in my career as a performance consultant that deals with this myth:

  • The best baseball player does not necessarily make the best baseball manager
  • The best salesperson does not necessarily make the best sales manager
  • The best welder does not necessarily make the best welding foreman
  • The best teacher does not necessarily make the best principal
  • The best technician does not necessarily make the best technical supervisor

I think it’s important for organizations to recognize that going from a “doer” to a manager is a real challenge for employees. It is not an automatic and seamless transition. There is even some research that shows that this is one of the most difficult psychological changes that a person endures in life.

The fact that an employee may be managing people that they previously worked with can alone create considerable stress for the new manager.    The challenge becomes even more daunting when employees they are asked to manage are either older, have more seniority, or have more education. These are the ingredients that can spell disaster for the career of a first-time manager if they are unprepared for the assignment.

These new managers are going from a “known” to an “unknown.”  As a doer, they probably displayed some solid qualities that enabled them to be promoted to manager.  They were probably knowledgeable, accountable, and had a strong level of individual performance.  They knew their job and they did it well!

But then, they are often thrown into this new role of manager without any preparation, or very little preparation, to “sink or swim.”

While it is important for organizations to have a significant role in preparing a first-time manager, here are a seven tips that can help a first-time manager get off to a good start:

  • Determine your focus – What are you priorities? What is urgent now?
  • Communicate clear performance expectations to your employees – let employees know the results that are important
  • Once you let employees know what is important, take an ask/listen approach to understand barriers, obstacles, and opportunities for improvement
  • Communicate the importance of trust and respect to your employees
  • Give plenty of feedback, both positive and negative to your employees
  • Keep commitments to your boss, your peers, and your employees
  • Don’t be oversensitive – You might find some employees initially making snide comments about how you’ve have changed since becoming a manager.  Take it in stride and focus on results

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