"Congratulations! You've been promoted."
Sweet music though these words may be, they are often the prelude to a host of problems.
Perhaps the toughest part of being promoted is handling the new relationships the change creates. Suddenly the people alongside whom you've been working as equals find themselves reporting to you. The results may range from awkward to disastrous—for working against you are a host of understandably human emotions: envy, suspicion, even fear.
There will be some who are genuinely happy for you, who perceive your advancement as corroboration of the fact that hard work and talent are rewarded, but not every single one of your colleagues is likely to take so sanguine a view of your success.
How do you handle such a situation? There is probably no correct strategy because every person and situation is different. But there are certain general principles, adherence to which should help smooth the transition period.
Recognize that you have some things going for you. For one thing, unless the promotion also involves a transfer, you are in the enviable position of knowing your people—their weaknesses, their strengths, their pet peeves, what makes them tick. For another, you have the advantage of being on a first-name basis with them. You can talk, and be talked to, freely.
Don't apologize for your new position. Remember—you've earned your promotion. So accept it. Any uncertainty or air of apology on your part puts you on the defensive—a bad posture for any manager and potentially fatal for a new one.
Face the situation openly. Sit down with your people individually or collectively and tell them that your altered relationship is as new for you as it is for them, but it's a fact of life. You are now their manager. There is no reason why it should adversely affect the performance of either any individual or the department as whole. To the contrary, you might point out there are advantages to being managed by "one of their own"—you know their problems, their abilities, their workloads and you speak their language. Ask for their cooperation. People usually enjoy being asked for help and tend to respond positively. Give them a sense of participation. This is a good time to poll your people to find out what's on their minds, to determine if they have any ideas on how such things as work flow can be improved. You'll learn and, maybe, experience your first success as a manager—getting things running better. Remember what you wanted yesterday. It wasn't so long ago that you wanted to be told the reasons behind your assignment, thirsted for a word of encouragement and praise, liked consistent and predictable supervision, enjoyed working for someone you could respect. Remember what you wanted in a manager yesterday and you will have a reliable guide to what your people expect from you today
People are sensitive to whether or not the boss wants to be leveled with. There are ways to ask for an opinion that are as intimidating as the bald statement, "I want your agreement on this." If by intonation, gesture or eye contact you create an environment of hostility to candor, forget honesty; you will only hear what you want to hear.
A supervisor must send out clear signals of being interested in the cons as well as the pros of a proposition. Try prefacing your request with such openings as, "I value your opinion; what do you think of this?" or "This is tricky and I suspect I haven't thought it completely through. Any suggestions?"
Perhaps the fundamental characteristic of an efficient supervisor is energy, for without it even the best of intentions are thwarted. When you are tired, you cannot think, plan, judge, communicate, delegate, create or do anything else effectively. While it goes without saying that good health is a necessity, an often overlooked corollary is: Invest your energy in those things that are important to your job and avoid those that aren't. Among the nonessentials that too many supervisors allow to drain them are:
Worries over the distant future. It's pointless to worry past a certain date on the calendar, for too many imponderables may be introduced by the passage of time. From experience, you should have a feel for how far into the future you can look with any realistic hope of altering it. Past that point, forget it.
Regret over the past. There is even less point in dwelling on what has already occurred. You goofed? Well, who hasn't, at one time or another? If you have learned something from your error, it hasn't been committed entirely in vain. Remember the lesson; forget the rest.
Doubt over the present. Not every decision deserves to be arrived at painfully. Many deal with relatively unimportant matters—who should attend a meeting, whom should be copied on a memo, when a good time for vacation would be. Save the agonizing for the few truly big decisions you are called on to make.
Suspicion of others. Some supervisors, particularly ambitious ones, see plots where they don't exist. As a rule of thumb, it is safe to assume that your subordinates, peers and superiors do not lie awake at night thinking up ways to do you dirt. What you suspect others of doing may be a better index to your own character than to theirs.
When we get into an argument, most of us try to prove that we are totally and completely right, and the other person is 100% wrong on all counts.
Skillful persuaders, however, always concede something and find some point of agreement. If the other person has a point in his favor, acknowledge it. And if you give in on minor, unimportant matters, he will be much more likely to give in when you come to the main point.
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