Today’s guest blog is submitted by Jay Steffensmeier, an Assessment Scientist at Kronos. He writes here about the challenges of making the transition from individual contributor to manager.
Catching up with a friend over dinner brought about the usual conversation of news, friends, family, and jobs. He was lamenting a recent career move from an individual contributor role to the lead role of his team. While excited, he also found himself in a bit of a pickle: what made him successful in his previous role didn’t really translate to his new role. For instance, he found himself mired in office politics that he could watch from afar when he wasn’t the manager. Trying to advocate for his team and resources was completely new to him. He also had the added responsibility to not let his former teammates down who were once his buddies and now were his employees.
For the uninitiated, the management track can seem like the golden ticket to so much more…more power, more money, more prestige. In many companies, it is the main conduit by which you move up through the organization. What may go unnoticed (until it’s staring you in the face, that is) is that you now have to tackle completely new challenges and there are new problems to solve. Scariest of all is that you are going to need to learn new methods and skills in order to be as good at your new role as you were at your old one. And if you don’t want to be a manager, trying to fill the role can result in you being dissatisfied and the company being dissatisfied with you.
Our conversation turned to the inevitable: college football. That week, University of Illinois was playing Northwestern University in historic Wrigley field. As an idea, this sounds like a great one. Wrigley Field is the home of the Chicago Cubs and had not seen a football game played there in 40 years. In reality, it wasn’t such a good fit. In fact, it was such a bad fit that the fundamentals of the game had to be changed to meet the new digs: Each team would run their offense toward the same end zone. The second end zone was deemed unsafe for play due to it being too near the outfield wall. Oops. We realized his management conundrum wasn’t all that dissimilar to trying to cram a football field into a baseball park.
So what does all of this mean? It depends on where you sit. For the company, it means making sure to hire or promote someone who can excel at leading others, not just the person who has been the most successful in doing the work. For the aspiring manager, it means taking a deep look at whether you want to move away from the work that has made you a success and into new territory. It can be exciting, it can be daunting, and it could be the career move you’ve been looking for…In football, as in life, just make sure you know what you are signing up for.
Have you made this transition yourself or promoted others into management for the first time? What does it take to make this transition successfully?