Transitioning From Being One of the Gang

orange fish leading school of fish

You’ve been one of the gang. You’ve been one of the star employees. You’ve been one of the leaders of your team just because you’re a natural leader. Nailed it. You’ve been a great person. You have a lot of friends on the team.  You’ve enjoyed your job.  You’ve done really well.  You’ve really shined and stood out.  Guess what? Now you’ve been promoted. That promotion has been eluding you for the last couple of years. It’s finally yours in the bag. You got it. You got the big chair.  You’re paid the big bucks. They’re really not the big bucks, but you got the bucks anyway.

There you are. Corner office. It’s not a corner office, but it’s your office. Good enough. How exciting. You’re there. What is one of the first pitfalls that most new managers make? They forget to embrace the fact that it’s a new job. It’s – a – new – job. It’s a new position. You’re not one of the gang in the more.  That’s worth repeating; you’re not one of the gang anymore. This is a new job. What you’re doing now is different from what you did before. You can’t hang out with the gang like you did before. I was told once by our operations officer when I stepped into a management role that I could no longer go to lunch with my employees. They would stab me in the back. I thought she was telling completely crazy. My people love me. They were not going to stab me in the back. That was not going to happen.

I was above that. It was all going to be good.  It was for a while, until I got stabbed in the back. That’s what happens. You are in a position of power over the people who were your friends. It’s a difficult position to be in. Embrace the fact that you have a new job, a new title, new responsibilities, and you are going to have to handle yourself and carry yourself differently. People that were your friends might be a little bit resentful and you’re going to have to be the bigger person day in and day out.  Only go to lunch with a group of your team, not individuals.

The next piece of advice I’m going to give you is to listen. Listen, listen, listen. It can be very easy to come up with brilliant ideas as the new supervisor on how you want to change things. How you want to make them better. You want to address all the things that you didn’t like, the way they happened and worked when you were the employee.  You want to fix them and you want to fix them all right NOW.

Well guess what? There might be reasons that they were being done the way they were and you may not have been privy to those reasons. Listen to what you’re hearing from upper management. When you go to staff meetings, when you go to conference calls, when you attend larger strategy session meetings. Listen to what is being said and listen to how it is impacting your people and what’s going on in your section before you start trying to make grand gestures and sweeping changes. Listen.  Listen to what your employees say.  Listen to what that they’re complaining about. Are they really complaining about what they think they are complaining about?  Is there a deeper issue that should be addressed?  Or is there something else going on under the current? So listen, listen, listen.

If someone comes in your office and says, “Hey, I need to talk to you for a minute.” Do you have a minute? If so, listen to them attentively. Put down your phone, look away from your computer, quit tapping on the keyboard and focus solely on them. You need to listen to what they’re saying and you need to remain professional at all times.

You might have times when somebody comes in your office and just camps out. They just want to complain and talk all the time. That’s a totally different situation. With those employees, you need to help them get to the heart of the problem and move on quickly. If you allow them to establish a habit of hanging out in your office, they’ll continue to do so.

The third tip on your transition from being one of the game is you’re going to have to shift your focus. The reason were promoted is you did a great job in the job that you held before.  You have been focused on minutiae. You have been focused on detail. You have been focused on step by step how to do a job. Now you need to focus on the bigger picture. You need to focus on meeting the goals. You need to focus on accomplishing what your division is set to accomplish. I watched a colleague of mine struggle greatly with her team because she was adamant they weren’t doing things as well as she did. Her goal, it appeared to me, was to convert all of her employees into being little robots who did everything exactly how she would. The question becomes, are they getting the job done? Is it acceptable? You can no longer remain caught up in the minutia, the mundane, and the teeny, tiny details of every single thing that every employee is doing because your focus needs to shift to the bigger picture.  Focus on how you’re going to bring everything together so that you have a cohesive team, a cohesive work product, and all works together. You’re going to have to shift your focus.

So as you transition from being one of the gang into being the leader of the gang, embrace that you have a new job. You have a new position.  You can’t keep doing things the way you did before. Listen, listen, listen and shift your focus. You are no longer focused on the minutia.  You are focused on the big picture.

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