Becoming a manager at age 24 was a dream come true for me. I’ve been praying and preparing for it for a couple of years so it was a big moment for me when I was finally given the opportunity. It opened a lot of doors for me to grow and develop both personally and professionally; but it was more challenging than I imagined.
I knew I had the experience, skills, and knowledge to excel in my job; but I had a couple of wrong mindsets that impeded my performance. Later on, I realised that the things that helped me succeed as an individual contributor were not necessarily helping me succeed in my new role as a manager.
There were definitely a lot of lessons learned over the past several months. Here are four key takeaways:
1. Humility is the first step in becoming an effective and competent manager
As a newly appointed manager, there’s a tendency to think that not knowing everything is a sign of incompetence. However, I realised that being a manager is not about knowing it all. In fact, I have learned that it is important for managers to acknowledge that there are people in the team who might be more knowledgeable of certain situations and could offer better solutions. Hence, it is important to develop a habit of asking questions. Not only will it help managers make better decisions, it will also help build rapport and credibility with the team.
As Amy Edmonson, my professor from Harvard Business School Online, had pointed out, “You need to recognise what you still don’t know and show that you’re willing and able to learn it.” I believe that this is really valuable advice. My boss also gave me a similar reminder a few days ago -- that it is very dangerous to be overconfident and to pretend that you know something you don’t.
2. Having a process lens is key in management
I realised that I need to stop looking at decision-making and implementation as single events. Both decision-making and implementation entail a series of processes that involve different people -- key individuals and teams. Failing to do so will only doom any initiative to failure.
To give an example, prior to having a process perspective on management, I used to write down projects on my timeline as single events. The problem with this approach is that it overlooks certain steps required in order to get the job done. As such, when things get busier and work starts to add up, it becomes very difficult to monitor progress and take hold of people whose work directly affects my outcome. Later, I realised that it is important to design a clear and crisp process right from the very beginning.
Moreover, it is also important to establish the fact that there's no single reason or culprit behind any failed project or initiative. Most of the time, it has to do with dysfunctional processes; or sometimes, because there was no process to begin with. Resorting to finger pointing and blame game do no good in helping organisations learn from their mistakes. It also stands in the way of identifying what went wrong and how things can be done better next time.
3. Management is not about being a superstar doer
Another challenge that I faced as a new manager was adopting the managerial mindset as opposed to the superstar doer mindset. I was so used to doing the work by myself that it was hard for me to let go and let others do the work. It was only later that I realised that in order for me to serve well as a manager, I must learn to step back and focus on communications, coordination, and aligning with other teams.
4. Make mistakes early
There’s value in being willing to ask others for feedback early and avoiding spending too much time on a certain job or project before ‘making it right’. In this way, plans can be adjusted accordingly as early as possible.
As a manager, it is also important to provide the team with constructive feedback regularly, whether formal or informal. This aids in getting work done more efficiently and effectively. Honestly, this was one of the things I learned the hard way. I realised later that I need to learn to stop waiting to give feedback until after the job is done.
To sum up...
Becoming a manager was truly one of the most humbling experiences I had. It made me realise that there is much to learn and unlearn -- about myself, my craft, and the world around me.
As a young manager, I realised that I had to let go of a couple of wrong mindsets in order to become better in my role. Although knowledge and skills are crucial, having the proper mindset is just as important. Hence, I’m thankful to all my mentors who offered feedback, spoke encouragement, as well as corrections. Moving forward, I’m picking up these learnings and using it to do better.
I hope you find these valuable. If this has helped you in some way, show some love: leave a comment or share with your friends!