Tag Archives: transition

Assume the Position: Defining Roles and Setting Expectations

The last few posts dealt with meeting task needs—achieving individual, group, and organizational objectives. I covered a bunch of topics in this area: setting performance standards, matching the person with the job, delegating effectively, analyzing performance issues, and giving and receiving feedback.

In the weeks ahead, I’m going to talk about a different set of needs: the needs of your team. Meeting these needs is about establishing team norms and managing group dynamics. Before you can do that, however, you need to assume your role as manager of the group. You need to define your role and set expectations for how you will work together as a team.

One of the most challenging aspects of making the transition from individual contributor to manager is establishing your authority while at the same time setting the tone for a collaborative working relationship. It’s a delicate balancing act, one that calls for establishing clear boundaries and also allowing an open and honest discussion about current realities and future possibilities. Setting the stage in this way is a vital first step, whether you are promoted from within your team or are new to the company.

Think back to when you first became a manager. How was it handled? Perhaps a company-wide announcement went out. Perhaps your boss introduced you to your new group. Then what happened? Did you meet with your team to clarify your new role, discuss current issues, and share your outlook for the future? No? Well, you’re not alone.

Of all the mistakes new managers can make, the biggest may be in assuming the position without first setting the stage for how the team will work together.

This was my biggest mistake and it caused no end of grief, for me and for my team. I was promoted from within the group. My boss made the announcement to my team and that was the end of that. It never occurred to me that I should meet with my team to talk about how things would change. (And boy, do things ever change!) I just assumed that they knew that I wasn’t “one of them” anymore.

What a mistake! My new role never took hold. My employees didn’t see me as their manager, a reality that came back to haunt me, especially when I had to make tough calls on policy or about performance issues. (Admittedly, much of my problems stemmed from my inability to assume a leadership role. My methods were often tentative and  inconsistent. I wanted to remain friends with my former peers and so I tiptoed—a lot. (I’ll address the challenge of managing former peers in a future blog post.)

If I could have my do-over, my first act would have been to hold a group meeting to talk about how things would change. Some of my talking points would be:

When Promoted From Within the Team

  • It’s important to talk about how things have changed so we can all make the adjustment.
  • There are some advantages to my being manager of this group: I’m familiar with the work and I know the people.
  • As manager, I’m expected to do things differently. I’ll have to make tough decisions. I may have to talk to you about your performance, and that may not be easy for either of us, because we’ve worked together as peers in the past.
  • I hope that my being manager of this group will be good for us and for the company. I look forward to our working together to create a team that we can be proud of.
  • If you have questions or concerns, we can discuss them now, or you can follow up with me later on.
  • Now, let’s discuss what’s on your mind regarding current issues and future opportunities. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts and ideas . . .

But what if you’re new to the company? You still need to set the stage as soon as you come on board. Here are some things you might cover in your meeting:

When New to the Team

  • It’s important to talk about how things have changed so we can all make the adjustment.
  • There are advantages and disadvantages to having been brought in as manager. As an outsider, I can take a fresh look at some of the issues. The downside is that I don’t know how things are done around here, but I’m willing to learn, and I hope I can rely on you to teach me the ropes.
  • As time goes on, we’ll figure out how we can best work together. You’ll get to know my style and I’ll get to know yours. Building relationships takes time, but I want you to know that I am committed to making this work.
  • I hope that my being manager of this group will be good for us and for the company. I look forward to our working together to create a team that we can be proud of.
  • If you have questions or concerns, we can discuss them now, or you can follow up with me later on.
  • Now, let’s discuss what’s on your mind regarding current issues and future opportunities. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts and ideas . . .

Even if you’ve been managing for a while and you haven’t held a stage-setting meeting, hold one now. You might begin with an apology for not doing it sooner, then fashion your message in your own style, covering the talking points above.

Until next time . . .

Managing: Knowing When You’re Doing It Right

Think back to when you first became a manager. Were you promoted because you excelled as an individual contributor? Were you were thrown into the position with little preparation and no training? Did you have any idea of what you were getting yourself into?

You may have felt disoriented for a while because you weren’t sure if you were doing the job right. Let’s face it. As an individual contributor, you knew how to measure your effectiveness (reduce cycle times, increase new customers). As a manager, however, the measurements aren’t so clear-cut.

It’s tough to measure success because many new managers don’t know exactly what they are responsible for. They have no idea if they are hitting the mark and it can be frustrating, to say the least.

I experienced the same thing when I first became a manager. I continued to have lingering doubts about whether I was doing the job or not. What was missing was a way to gauge my success. I could have used John Adair’s Action-Centred Leadership model (used with his permission). It would have made all the difference to me.

John Adair, a noted leadership theorist, devised the Action-Centred Leadership model during the 1970s. He captured his theory in a “three circles” diagram, illustrating three core management responsibilities:

  • achieving the task
  • building and sustaining the team
  • developing the individuals within the team

     

    The circles overlap because they are interrelated. Teams are comprised of individuals, teams and individuals complete tasks, and without a task there is no need for teams or individuals. If one element is missing or weak then the other elements will suffer. For example, if one individual is underperforming the team suffers; if the team is weak then task completion suffers.

    I think Adair’s model is a terrific guidepost. It provides a way to step back from the day-to-day business and assess whether you’re doing the job of the manager. Ask yourself every now and then:

    Am I meeting the needs of the task? The Team? The Individuals?

    If the answer is yes to all three, you’re on the right track. Of course, it’s not always feasible to focus equal attention on all three areas all of the time. There are times when a particular area needs to be given more weight. For example, during preparation for the upcoming performance year, managers are busy planning workloads and writing business objectives. Naturally, the task circle gets the focus. But if you find yourself focusing too much on the work while neglecting the team or the individuals within the team, it’s time to redirect your efforts.

    While Adair’s model serves as a useful guide, for me, it is not complete. I’d like to add a third circle to his model, if I may.

    The self. That’s you! Now, I realize I’m messing up a perfectly elegant diagram, but bear with me.  Managers are so busy attending to the needs of the team, the task, and the individuals that they neglect their own needs. And they do so at their own peril, for neglecting self needs will cause the other three areas to suffer. And what are those self-needs?

    • Managing the relationship with your boss
    • Going after your own learning and development
    • Managing your stress levels

    In my view, these are the questions to ask yourself every once in a while to keep you focused and on track:

    Am I meeting the needs of the task? The team? The individuals? Am I meeting my own needs?

    In the next several posts, I’ll take a look at what it takes to fulfill the needs in each of the four areas.

    For more information on John Adair and his work: http://www.johnadair.co.uk/