Mind the Management Gap; or What got you here won’t get you there
Being promoted to a management position can be a double-edged sword. The euphoria of being promoted can quickly fade into heady mix of excitement, anxiety and confusion about what to do next. In this article, we’re going to talk about the management gap: the difference between what got us promoted, and what we need to do differently as a new manager. This includes a 5-point help list, for those who might find themselves staring into a management gap.
Congratulations, you’re a manager!
Getting a promotion is a moment to be proud of. It’s a very public form of recognition. A promotion can often mean, a new title, a salary increase, or even a larger office or company car. Everything that comes with the new role stands as a visible signifier, a signpost that something has changed, and life will be different. No wonder it feels good.
We can feel justly proud; a promotion is after all an achievement. Being promoted can be the reward for a lot of hard work and past success. In fact, our past success is often a key reason driving a new promotion. Being “top performer” in a specific role can make us the top candidate for promotion.
A typical example comes from those in sales roles. The sales person with the best results, is often the one promoted to a managerial role. It seems pretty logical. After all, if the person is the best at sales in the team, then surely they are best positioned to manage all of the sales people”. But what seems sound logic, is often flawed in reality.
The key flaws are over-reliance on past performance and falsely equating functional or technical skills, with management abilities.
Past Performance and Future Success
This is such an attractive way of thinking, when it comes to promoting new managers. However tempting it may be, there’s lots of evidence to suggest that past performance, is a poor predictor of future results. Looking at football, there’s lots of great players and lots of great managers, but probably a relatively short list of 10-15 who managed to be great at doing both. There’s more instances of great players who struggled as managers, or average players who became exceptional managers.
If we think about promotion as a reward for hard work or results, then it makes sense to promote the high achievers.
However, is promotion about past success, or is it more to do with future expectation? Promotion often comes as a result of potential: someone has seen the promise of what we might become. So it is for the expectation of the future, that we are promoted. The role we succeeded in and the role we are promoted to, are often very different. This is the heart of the problem and a key cause of the management gap.
Functional skills don’t automatically mean leadership ability
Lets go back to the top performing sales person. They excel in the functional or technical skills of selling, but technical excellence doesn’t automatically mean management. Leading and managing people frequently has more to do with helping them to be successful, rather than one’s own success. The top sales person knows how to sell, but helping others to do it better, can be very different.
People with great functional or technical skills can become great managers, but only if their focus is on helping their team achieve success. To that, requires some teaching and coaching ability, some emotional intelligence, self-control and empathy and the ability to inspire and motivate others. In short, success in the new role is about recognising that the situation has changed, and new skills are required.
So what is the management Gap?
So as we’ve seen the newly promoted manager is caught in a dilemma. Promotion means a new role requiring different skills and abilities but the temptation is to revert to what they know they do well. Bruce Sevy, writes about the problems with promoting great sales people to managers. He identifies three key issues, which although based on his example of sales teams, could apply to any transition from functional role to management role. The three key problems are:
1 The roles are very, very different
2 The capacities required for success are different
3 They struggle translating their instincts
These are what contribute to the management gap
From Management Gap to Management Trap
We’ve already said there’s a difference in the skills abilities needed in a management role. Faced with the unknown and the discomfort of not knowing how to succeed, we can automatically fall back into doing the things we were good at. When the expectations are high and we feel under threat, we fall back to the familiar.
What the new manager does is revert to the behaviours of their previous role and this is the management trap. Instead of leading, motivating and helping others, the new manager gets too hands-on, preferring to do it all themselves. After all, they know how to do their old job, so rather than coach others on how to do their job better, they step in and do it themselves. Whilst this might deliver short term goals, it does nothing to advance the skills of the rest of their team. It teaches their team learned helplessness, and that their manager can do their job better than they can. Hardly a recipe for inspiration or motivation, let alone results.
The management trap, is to do the job we used to do, instead of doing the job we’ve been promoted to do. The Do-it-myself, or DIM manager will still perform as an individual and deliver results. But they probably won’t be delivering results for and through their new team.
Making a Manager
I subscribe to the philosophy that leaders are not born but can be made. Whilst leadership and management are not interchangeable, I believe that the same is true for managers. Managers can be made.
Management as a role relies on a set of skills or abilities. The management gap points to the chasm between functional abilities and management skills. However, it never suggests that the gap cannot be bridged. Those management skills can be learned and acquired, just like any other.
Lets face it, the newly appointed manager doesn’t arrive in their new role fully skilled and experienced. No, they need to learn and clock up some “flying hours”. When organisations, managers and their teams recognise that new managers need training and development, that’s when the chances for success really explode.
At Dove Nest we’ve helped develop management and leadership abilities for tens of thousands of people, from thousands of different companies, for over 36 years. Some of the skills we help develop remain core to making great managers, some of the skills have changed significantly. What has never changed is our commitment to helping people realise their potential.
Advice on Bridging the gap
Thankfully there is no shortage of advice or literature for newly appointed managers, regarding what they should do or should avoid doing. Having been a new manager on several occasions, and experienced my own failures, here is my advice on how to manage the gap, avoid the trap and succeed.
1 – Avoid Reverting to the familiar – Being promoted as a new manager can be scary and perhaps you might feel out of your depth. But you’ve been promoted on the strength of future potential. No one expects you to start out an expert. So don’t wobble so much that you revert to doing what you used to do.
2 – Recognise the change – its ok not to know exactly what to do as a new manager, that usually comes with time and experience. But what is important is to recognise that the role IS something new. It is different, and you will need to do some things differently, in order to succeed.
3 – Adaptation is the key to survival – business books abound writing about the subject of change and adapting to it. In short, most of us understand that when our environment changes, we will need to adapt to it. If we don’t, we die. If we learn to adapt, then we might do more than just survive, we might even flourish.
4 – Give it some Time – mastering a new skill, a new role or a new hobby, takes time. Allow yourself some time. To change and develop often means developing new habits. Habits don’t change overnight. Practice and time have always been critical to success. We all need to clock up “flying hours” whether we fly solo or as part of a formation.
5 – Invest in Learning – above all others, this is my favourite and most important piece of advice. Becoming a great manager is something which can be learned. Most of us don’t arrive in a new position fully formed and perfect. It takes effort and learning to achieve mastery. When we invest in learning we give ourselves multiple opportunities for success. Only when we learn new skills for the new position, do we achieve success. Do it really well and we might even be candidates for another promotion.
Dove Nest provides solutions in Leadership and management development. Talk to us today about accelerating the development of leaders and managers in your organisation. Call us on 015395 67878, email us at email@example.com or visit our website at www.dovenest.co.uk.