Letter to a new manager
Copyright © 2007 Wally Bock
Used with permission of the author (http://www.threestarleadership.com/bookreviewpermissionform.htm)
Author: Wally Bock
13 December 2007
Congratulations on your promotion. I'm flattered that you're asking me for advice, because even though I've devoted my life to studying this stuff, I figure you already got great advice your dad, who's one of the best managers I've ever known. Anyway, here goes.
Even though you are now a manager, you still have a boss. Part of your job is to help your boss succeed. And remember that it's generally a good idea to figure that it's your job to adapt to your boss and not expect your boss to adapt to you.
Learn how to update your boss in ways that are helpful. Learn how to handle documentation and paperwork in ways that protect your boss and your company, as well as yourself.
You have two basic jobs. One is to accomplish the mission through the group.
The difference between being an individual contributor and being the boss is that last phrase: "through the group." If you're accomplishing the mission because you're doing the work, you're not doing what they're paying you for.
You must accomplish today's job through the group. That means making sure that the most important things get done.
You must make sure that tomorrow's job gets accomplished. Part of that is helping your people grow and develop. Part of that is planning for the future.
You must handle the inevitable emergencies. Those are infrequent, but emotionally charged events. Prepare for them and deal with them effectively and they'll have a big positive impact on your reputation.
Your other job is to care for your people. This is not soft stuff. Your people with their personal strengths do the work that you get credit for. Your team is your destiny.
Care for your people by helping them succeed. Make sure they have the resources to do their jobs well. Set clear expectations and check for understanding. Give them frequent and usable feedback, with as much legitimate, positive feedback as possible.
Care for your people by helping them grow and develop. Help your people discover their strengths and build on them. Help them prepare for the future.
Care for your people by protecting them when necessary and dealing with their inevitable crises. Everyone has times when they're not productive for a whole variety of reasons. Part of your job as a boss is to protect them so they can produce another day.
Care for your people by getting rid of people who can't or won't do the job. People who don't produce, especially ones who complain and grouse, are corrosive. They eat at teamwork from the inside out. Help them move on as quickly as possible.
You probably figure that you'll master your new job quickly. You won't. My research and experience tell me that it will take you a year to a year and a half before you're comfortable in your management skin.
Thanks for the question about whether you can hire me as a coach. The answer, of course, is "yes," but you may have enough resources right there around you.
Find experienced bosses to talk to. Start with your dad and any friends who've been bosses for a while. Talk things over with them. Get feedback.
Identify role models. Use them to work out how to handle a challenge.
Make it a habit to critique your own performance and to get as much feedback from others as is reasonable and possible. You'll learn more and develop faster if you get lots of feedback from as many sources as possible.
Congratulations again on your promotion. I hope this advice will help you and I know you've got the ability and desire to make real success for yourself.
Sometimes you'll do everything right and things won't work out. Sometimes you'll get lucky and succeed when you shouldn't. Over the course of your career, though, you'll succeed if you do the right things most of the time.
One last thought. Always do the honorable thing. Even when it's hard. Even when it hurts. Keep your promises and treat people fairly.
Best of luck. Greet your father for me.
Wally Bock helps organizations improve productivity and morale, as well as deal with the challenges of massive Boomer retirements. He is the author of Performance Talk (http://www.performancetalk.com/). He writes the Three Star Leadership blog (http://blog.threestarleadership.com/), coaches individual managers, and is a popular speaker at meetings and conferences in the United States and elsewhere. Read more about him in his own words: http://www.threestarleadership.com/learnwally.htm and contact him at email: and website: http://www.threestarleadership.com .
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