Climbing the professional ladder is a goal many people strive to attain. Motivated by the boost to self-esteem and confidence (not to mention the perks) that personal advancement can bring, we may be willing to endure longer commutes, work longer hours and/or sacrifice social time to secure a plum promotion. In many businesses, progression inevitably means managing a team. But transitioning from a position of being chiefly a technical expert to a role that includes people management can bring new demands. For example, managing a team can require you to adopt a less hands-on role as well as have regular conversations - some of which may be difficult - with your employees. Moreover, your performance in your new role will also come with what may be quite searching expectations from your new manager.
While everyone adapts to change differently, here are some measures that you can take to ease your transition to becoming a people manager:
Recognise how you deal with pressure and don't be afraid to ask for help
Recognising and being equipped to have a conversation with a member of your team when they are under pressure and need support are vital qualities for managers. But it's important to be able to spot the signs when you, too, might be feeling the pressure of your new role so that you can get the help you need.
We know from our own research* that 80% of bosses (senior business managers, MDs, CEOs and business owners) say they feel stressed at least some of the time. While it's not possible to remove all work pressures, there are things you can do to help to boost your resilience so you're better placed deal with them. For example, spending time with family, friends and doing activities that help you to relax outside of work and making sure that you eat well and you get enough sleep and exercise. And, importantly, don't be afraid to ask for help at work when you need it.
Learn to delegate
It's not uncommon for people who progress to a more senior role to find they miss their previous 'hands on' activities. It's a change that can take some getting used to and there can be a reluctance to let some tasks go. Learning to delegate is in itself a skill - matching work projects with employees' skills and interests. But you can use your experience to help employees to grow and develop for themselves and you might find that this brings you a different sense of fulfilment that's as rewarding as doing the job yourself.
Think about how the team dynamic may need to change
You could find yourself managing former teammates - a change in dynamic that has the potential to cause tension if not properly addressed. While it's not necessary to cut all your personal ties with members of your team, it's important to recognise that your working relationship with them may need to change. For example, continuing a closer relationship with one or two members of the team might leave others feeling left out, which could adversely affect team morale. Instead, it might be better to tend to your personal relationships outside of work and at work foster a culture of inclusion by being transparent and accessible to everyone in the team.
Be open to learning as you go
Despite your skills, knowledge and experience, there will undoubtedly be an element of learning 'on the job'. But don't put yourself under pressure to have all the answers. As well as asking colleagues for guidance and support, having an independent mentor either from within or outside of your organisation can be a great support for your professional development. For example, they may have faced some of the same situations that you're facing and be able to point you to sources of support and information as well as to coach you to help you to strengthen your own capability for problem solving. You could also ask them to recommend resources that they've found helpful in dealing with topics such as motivating a team, giving feedback, having difficult conversations and employment law.
*Online survey of 1000 senior business managers, MDs, CEOs and owners undertaken in February 2015 by market researcher OnePoll.