Back in 2007 I was promoted to an IT manager, suddenly responsible for an evolving team of twelve analysts, all had varying degrees of skills and abilities, each of which also had a unique personality. I cannot speak with any authority on other organizations, but for me, it was a trial by fire. I think the hardest part was relinquishing my former responsibilities and focusing on being an effective manager. One of the most difficult things for a newly promoted manager was to delegate, as stated in many articles and books pertaining to management theory. This concept basically states that if a manager does not delegate effectively, they will endure much more stress because instead of being a manager, they will instead be working two jobs, neither of which will probably be performed well.
Delegating responsibilities is the first step for being a successful manager. However, sometimes it is rather difficult due to various circumstances. From my experience, the initial problem was I was not necessarily a manager full time, but what was considered “working” manager. This essentially translates to the mentality that an individual is a manager with all the duties and responsibilities, but due to insufficient staffing, they will still need to perform their former duties. One commonality with this concept is that most organizations will still only pay this individual one salary for performing two job duties. Welcome to being a manager!
One quick lesson that can save individuals trouble is to quickly assess your staff in order to begin looking at each individual, gaging strengths and weaknesses as well as personality traits. I am a firm believer that a manger needs to be flexible. Staff should not be expected to adapt to a manager’s traits, but quite the opposite. In any given scenario, an effective manager would be able to be an actor in a sense. My inherent style for managing is to keep my hands off and let the individuals on our staff perform this work without any interference from me. I do not like to constantly provide updates when working on a project or job, and automatically pass that philosophy along to those I am responsible for. When a situation requires it, I need to adapt to the specific situation. For example, an employee desires to work in an environment where they may be managed more than some of other staff. The question is whether or not they should be required to adapt to my style as a manager, or should I modify my techniques and be more hands-on to meet their needs. For me, the basic theory behind management and leadership styles is that I must sacrifice for the greater good. If individuals have to change their basic philosophy regarding working conditions, their morale, productivity, and effectiveness may be degraded. Allowing an employee to work under a situation where they are most comfortable will yield the best results.
There are many elements required for being an effective manager, but one final thought is to address issues as soon as they occur. One lesson I learned the hard way was allowing one employee to continue working with less than desirable results. Sometimes it may be easy to turn a blind eye and push a personnel issue to another day. I let things go for a while, hoping that things would naturally begin to improve as this individual learned more about what we do. Eventually I had no choice but to sit down with this individual, and went through a long list of issues that needed to be addressed. Had I done my duty properly, the list would not have been nearly as long as I would have addressed these problems when they were discovered. A resulting mental breakdown culminating in a suicide threat tested my mettle as a manager for sure. No amount of training of reading prepared me for that situation. On a positive note, nothing happened, and I ended up learning that this individual had a history of threats of that nature due to mental health issues. He did end up being eventually terminated, but I think it was the right decision for all parties.
The underlying lesson is that being a manager is not simply being good at the jobs being performed by the department, but rather to learn to read a staff of individuals, and to modify a management style to be the most efficient for any given situation. Sometimes a manger needs to be bombastic and lay down the law and light fires under everyone’s rear-ends. Sometimes the manger needs to not be seen or heard and the employees will be trusted enough to achieve the desired outcome. Some workers may want to be left alone, while others may desire constant feedback. Understanding the various generations of workers in the workforce today will generally allow for the correct course of managerial action for any given situation. There are days when you may need to be a friend or confident, others may require you to be stern and challenging. Who knows, maybe one day you may need to pull out a speech about why they need to embrace life and not make any rash decisions pertaining to their well-being. The Boy Scouts motto says to “be prepared”, but that is true for any supervisory or managerial level position.