Just because you have been appointed as a manager, or started a new business, it doesn’t mean you will be an effective leader.

Transitioning to a manager requires a different set of skills, the most important being communication and people skills.

5 ways to transition into an effective manager and leader

Managing staff is both the most complex and rewarding part of becoming a manager or entrepreneur.

You have a vision of how successful you want the business to be. Therefore, you need to transition into an effective manager and leader and create a high performing team.

Boss vs leaderBeing eager to get things off to a great start, you know what you want and jump in and begin to tell people what to do.

After all, you were once an operational team member and you know all the things that can go wrong, consequently, you want to fix everything immediately.

This is a trap for entrepreneurs and new managers, thinking everything will go smoothly because you are in charge and fix everything that’s wrong immediately. That’s because you are anxious to show everyone who’s boss and you mean business. All you must do is tell people what to do and they will do it!

This is a myth because people hate being told what to do. Being the appointed manager or business owner doesn’t automatically make you an effective leader. Being the boss is a title only and to be effective, you need to earn trust and respect.

To transition into an effective manager, you need to develop a different set of skills.

1. Develop a different set of skills

Very often what happens in average organizations, employees are promoted to leadership positions and not trained how to become a manager. It’s a case of “You are a manager now – go manage!” Alternatively, you start up or buy a business and jump into managing the business without considering the effect you might be having on your people. This is a recipe for disaster.

When you first start out working, you use your highly developed technical or specialist skills. This is what you are trained and qualified to do. As you transition into a manager or business owner, your strategic thinking and conceptual skills must increase accordingly.

As a manager and leader, you should be using less of your technical or specialist skills and more of your leadership, management and people skills.

To transition into a successful manager, you need to develop a new way of thinking. Forget about operating the business at a technical level and begin operating at a strategic or conceptual level. Consider the following:

In a technical role:

  • You use your technical skills
  • You have a heavy focus on doing
  • Your results are measured as an individual
  • You achieve individual success
  • You focus primarily on the present
  • Your focus is on your individual needs
  • You are evaluated from your boss
  • Few people make demands on your time

Manager and leaderIn a management and leadership role

  • You develop teams
  • You balance the needs of the team
  • You are measured by the results of your team
  • Your primary focus in on the future
  • You are evaluated by all stakeholders
  • You have major power or influence over others
  • Many people make demands on your time

To become an effective manager and leader, you must learn to lead your people and manage their performance. In other words, you must work on your business (by being strategic) not work in your business (by being a technician.)

Underpinning your transition into a new manager and leader, is the management of people. To successfully manage people, you must develop a high-level communication and people skills.

2. Grow your communication and people skills

The single most significant skill you need in transitioning into a manager and leader, is the ability to build effective teams and partnerships. This only works if you are able to influence and motivate others.

In any organization, sales, marketing, administration, finance, customer support, technology, purchasing and any other business function should all have management systems in place to control them. These business functions cannot work in isolation as they overlap. You need to ensure all your team pull together and work across all business functions to be effective.

Team buildingOne of the biggest problems you will face as a new manager and entrepreneur is to create an effective team around you.

If you don’t, you will find team members who will revolt and tell you, “That’s not my job!” and won’t do what’s asked of them. Alternatively, good people will simply leave and those who stay will do so reluctantly.

Your role as a manager is to bring everyone together and ensure the communication lines stay open. It’s important that individual team members contribute to the overall success of the organization and work across functions.  If you don’t, you will get people and business units operating in silos leading to a breakdown in communication. This causes internal relationships to go sour, teams become dysfunctional and customers become unhappy and leave.

An effective way to lead your people is to set the future direction of the business through a compelling and motivational vision they aspire to achieve.

3. Set the future direction

One of the traits of being an effective manager and leader is to set the direction of the business with a powerful vision for the future.

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his famous ‘I have a Dream Speech’ in which he called for the end to racism in the United States. There were over 250,000 people gathered that day to hear him speak along with many more watching on television or listening to him on the radio.

King did not say to all these people “I have a plan,” Martin Luther King was a visionary. He inspired a nation with his vision for the future.

Great entrepreneurs and managers lead with a vision.

In his highly acclaimed book the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey suggests we should always begin with the end in mind. An entrepreneur and manager need to gain an understanding of what the future of the business looks like and, clearly communicate this vision to their people.

Vision and values brainstormingDictating a top-down vision doesn’t work.

To build an effective team means you need to bring everyone together and create a shared vision. The only way for this to work is to involve your people.

Conduct a brainstorming session and ask them for their views, their thoughts their feelings on how they would like to see the business succeed. Collectively create a vision your team feels part of.

It’s not good enough to have your vision written in a statement somewhere, it must be consistently communicated to your people to the point they live and breathe your values and vision. The effect of not creating a vision for your team or don’t consistently communicate your vision is, you allow the business to control you rather than you control the business.

An important point to remember is, if you create the vision and push it onto your people, you own it, it won’t be motivational or aspirational. If you involve your people and create a shared vision, they not only own the vision, they will ensure you collectively succeed in achieving it.

For a vision become reality, you need good systems and processes in place.

4. Ensure your systems and processes are effective

A well-functioning business is only as good as your systems and processes.

Take McDonald’s for example, they have perfected their systems and processes so that when you order a burger and fries, it’s consistent every time, anywhere you go in the world. It’s the same with Starbucks – their coffee is consistent anywhere you go (even in Japan.)

When you transition into a manager and leader, one of your roles is to ensure that all your systems and processes work.

Again, involve your people.

Ask your team where the blockages are. Let them come up with the ideas on what works and what doesn’t. Collectively brainstorm ideas and agree on a process improvement plan and together implement the plan as a team.

Regularly follow up and review the systems and processes you’ve put in place.

The reason being is, business is never static, change happens around you with or without your permission.

It’s important to ensure your systems and processes are relevant to the changing needs of the business.

If you put good people in to operate poor systems and processes, you are setting them up to fail.

Why? Because what you will see is the people using the systems as failing, not the flaws in the system itself. In your role as a manager and leader, you will only see your people failing and not the systems and processes themselves failing.

This can be very demotivating for your team and will ultimately lead to good people leaving. Eventually, this will have an impact on how well your business performs.

On the other hand, no matter how good your systems and processes are, your people still need to operate them which involves adequate training and support.

One of the pitfalls new managers make is failing to induct and train their people. Even if you hire a new person who has all the skills and attributes you require, it doesn’t mean they know what to do despite their previous experience.

They may have worked for a boss who had different expectations. Regardless of their experience and qualifications, they will have to live up to your expectations as their manager, not someone they previously worked for. This means settings the standards you need and keeping your people accountable.

5. Keep your people accountable

When you assume responsibility as a manager and leader, you become accountable to some form of authority.

You are usually measured against a set of key performance indicators and are managed against these measures accordingly. If you have a boss, it might be how well you manage your budget, control labor costs. You might be measured by your health and safety record or how well you manage risk. You might be measured by how profitable your business is and how well you manage overheads.

Regardless of the metric, you will be kept accountable. This should be the same for your people.

If you are an entrepreneur and are in a start-up phase, you will still be accountable for performance. It might be your bank, a private equity firm or venture capitalist or even other shareholders and investors. Regardless, they will have expectations, usually financial, which you will need to live up to.

Keep people accountableFirst and foremost, before you can lead yourself and your team effectively, you need to articulate the expected standards.

This is usually in the form of a well-written job description or a set of key performance indicators (KPIs). Part of inducting new people and managing an existing team is to ensure these standards are constantly communicated so that your team member knows exactly what is expected of them.

You cannot manage what you cannot measure. More importantly, your team needs to know what the performance expectations are and how their performance will be measured.

One of the biggest failings of new managers and entrepreneurs is failing to induct, train, coach and mentor their people against clearly communicated standards. You cannot manage a team member effectively if they don’t know what is expected of them.

If any one of your team doesn’t know what to do, when to do it and how to do, they will not be able to perform their role effectively. As a consequence, if there is an under-performance issue, it’s not their fault, it’s your fault because you have either failed to communicate the required standards, failed to provide adequate training and failed to manage and monitor performance.

You cannot manage performance if there are no communicated performance standards to keep people accountable to. If your people are not properly inducted or trained in their role, you cannot expect them to perform adequately.

In summary

  1. Develop new skills by investing in yourself and your leadership and management skills.
  2. Grow your communication and people skills
  3. Set the future direction through a shared vision and consistently communicate the vision to your people.
  4. Ensure your systems and processes are effective and constantly monitor these to keep abreast of the changing needs of the business and market.
  5. Keep your people accountable through well-written job descriptions and key performance indicators.

How do you manage your people? What are the biggest challenges that you as a business leader face? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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