Advice for a new manager

Advice for a new manager

Dear Bob,

At age 42, I found myself once again looking for work. I had been in corporate sales for a software company. I am about to be hired for a computer retail store (part of a chain) as manager for corporate sales. I'll need to hire outside sales and shore up the inside sales team.

Although I've had success in sales, I have had very limited experience as a manager. I want to do this as well as possible at this point in my career. Any advice for the new boss?

Signed, Transitioning

Dear Transitioning,

Most of what you're going to encounter has to do with technique, and before you'll be ready to cope with technique, you need to think about basic attitude and style.

There's a basic attitude adjustment you have to go through when you shift from being an individual contributor to being a manager. You're used to accomplishing your goals by - well, by accomplishing your goals. You figure out a plan of action, execute it, and you're done.

Now you're going to accomplish your goals through the actions of others, and not one of your employees will handle an assignment exactly the way you'd do it yourself. And you're still going to be accountable for the results. Here's the toughest part: you may be more effective doing it your way than your employees doing it their way, and it doesn't matter. Your employees might do even worse doing it your way. You're going to have to know when to coach, when to direct, and when to leave well enough alone.

Here's another change in thought process: every assignment you give will have two partially conflicting goals. The first is to accomplish the assignment. The second will be to develop the staff member. That means letting people make mistakes because if you don't give them enough latitude to fail, they won't own their own successes. Good employees learn from failures and gain confidence from successes. You harm their development by depriving them of either - but you cost the company when you allow the failure. Tough trade-off.

And here's the hardest one of all: sometimes you have to make decisions that hurt perfectly decent people. You may have to give no raise or a minimal one, demote someone, transfer an ineffective employee out of your department, or fire someone - not because they're bad people but because they're not performing. If you can't handle this responsibility, you don't belong in management.

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