New Manager’s dilemma of getting things done

Almost every single new manager I met falls into this trap. It is not just a trap that keeps you captive, at the same time it has a huge impact on your team.

Let’s start with early symptoms. Since I am working in IT, I will try to explain this from an engineering manager’s perspective.

EM: I am the most knowledgeable engineer on this topic, I spent years working on it, I don’t understand why they just don’t listen to me.

Me: When you say “they”, who are you referring to me?

EM: Other managers.

Me: Oh, so not engineers, just other managers in general.

EM: Yes, indeed. With my team we have a good relationship, we understand each other.

Me: Have you built that kind of relationship with other managers that you are referring to?

EM: Not necessarily. I did not have enough time to do that.

Me: Have you ever mentioned that you worked on that topic in a conversation or do you expect them to know that?

EM: I would expect them to know that since we have been working in the same company.

The keyword here is expectations. Engineers newly turned into managers expect human beings to also act like machines. They have to collect relative info, keep it always in mind, and act based on that knowledge. This, unfortunately, rarely happens.

It is not just about expectations; most engineers have certain rituals or behaviors they like to continue as managers and they sometimes try to push them onto others thinking what worked for them must work for others as well.

When I work with managers, my approach is using a reflection strategy. Reflecting certain behavior of theirs to them and understanding how they would experience the same situation if it were to be made to them. It is not because they lack sympathy or empathy altogether. It is because it is their ability to get stuff done that made them managers and they want to continue to keep doing it. The only downside is that they are no longer deep in operations instead they have to start taking care of people.

People, when forced to do something, can develop different reactions. Some stay silent, some start following and some can be totally lost. Each requires a different approach. In short, management is all about understanding your people, your surroundings and most importantly understanding yourself.

Deep down they all know if they start doing things, things will be done faster, what they don’t see is this would cause their team to feel inadequate or this can easily turn into a one-man show. If they don’t do anything, their team can/may lose trust.

Long-term thinking beats short-term wins. My advice to new managers is to:

1- Getting to know things (people, strategy, self)
2- Understanding them (why do things happen in the way they do)
3- How to interact without disturbance (requires lots of trial and error)
4- Knowing when to ask for help (don’t fall into the hero trap)

There is more to suggest of course. But for a beginning, this should cover a lot to think about.

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