Starting a new role as a team manager can be intimidating, even if you are already have management experience. The reason? The natural impulse of anyone in a leadership role is to feel that they need to be the expert, have all the answers, and be able to jump in, take control and solve everyone’s problems. This approach, unfortunately, assumes that those you are managing are nowhere near as creative, resourceful and intelligent as you are. While it might do your ego some good to make this assumption, it is likely not true – especially if you are working in white-collar industries that rely on specialized knowledge workers to deliver on the company’s product or service.
Here are three habits to cultivate to ensure that you are maximizing your value as a manager — and your chance to be a successful manager — right from the start:
1) Stop, Look and Listen
Don’t be too quick to jump in and start giving suggestions, or worse, orders. Instead observe, ask questions, be curious and get to know people both personally and professionally. Be curious about the team dynamic. Watch how they work together and try to identify where the flow is happening and where the friction points are. Ask them what is working well and what isn’t. Get their ideas on what needs to change and how they would change it if it were up to them. Once you have a full understanding of how things are, what has led them to being organized the way they are, where they want to go, and the perceived blocks to getting there you are ready to step in and offer your ideas.
2) Don’t Try to Be the Expert
What if, after all of the observations above, you have a good idea of the problems and opportunities but you really have no idea how to solve them? This definitely could be the case if you are managing a team whose expertise is very specialized and different from your own. The good news is that you don’t need to be the expert. What’s more, trying to figure out the solutions will likely frustrate everyone involve and will not lead to the best results. You need to be the expert at helping the team to understand the issues and opportunities. You are the expert at bringing them together and guiding the processes that will help them figure out a plan and then implement it.
3) Look for Ways to Increase Their Impact
Increasing your team’s impact involves helping them to work together better as a team. This might involve helping them to better understand and leverage each individual’s strengths, going to bat for them with senior management for resources they need to work more efficiently, or even resolving long-standing conflicts or communication issues that are creating unnecessary complexities in how work gets done. You can also increase impact by help them be more relevant to other functions. This could involve learning more about how the work of your team contributes to overall business objectives and how the product of their work could be shifted to better meet the needs of other teams. Remember, your team is busy with their heads down doing what they need to do in order to turn out the results they are accountable for. It is your job to keep your head up and look around for opportunities to make their work easier, while also improving quality and results for the company.
Check out the following Harvard Business Review video where Jim Keane, President and COO of Steelcase Inc., tells his story of leading a research and development group who all had far more expertise in their roles than he did.
Find out more on how to be a great manager on the Kyosei Consulting blog.