Don't Let That Management Title Go to Your Head
Climbing the corporate ladder is a curious adventure. We're often tapped for supervisory roles not because of our leadership potential but because we've excelled as individual employees. But once you're a manager, your output is no longer widgets—it's people. This is a hard transition to make, and one reason letting a management title go to your head is a big mistake. No matter what type of team you are managing, consider the following truths as non-negotiables.
Your job is now helping others succeed
As mentioned above, you are no longer an individual contributor. Your success is your employees' success. When you assign an employee a task, you need to set that person up for success from start to finish. Make sure they have a clear understanding of the outcome you expect. (A good tip is to summarize instructions and expectations in writing.) Check in with them at appropriate intervals, but avoid micromanaging. Offer guidance, and find out what internal and external obstacles you can address for them. Then, when they succeed, acknowledge their success to your superiors. Consider this: Metaphorically, you're the producer or the director, and your team members are the actors. You're still contributing just as much to the project's ultimate success, albeit in a different way.
You have to build trust
In order to earn your team members' respect, you have to build trust with them from day one. Your title alone won't give them confidence in your ability to lead. They need to see it in your actions. Building trust means you treat them with respect: Honor confidentialities, deal with performance issues discreetly, and keep their whole person in mind. They aren't work robots. Cars break, children have orthodontist appointments, and dogs and cats need to go to the vet. Be flexible and be human.
You must assume positive intent
When your to-do list is long and you're putting out fires as a manager, it's easy to assume the worst when a mistake occurs or a deadline is missed. And there are definitely times when such problems are symptoms of a bigger issue that must be addressed. But initially, your best bet is always going to be taking a deep breath and assuming positive intent. Don't jump to the worst possible conclusion. Ask questions such as, "Can you walk me through your thinking?" or "How could we have worked together to achieve a better outcome?"
Your way is not the only way
Again, you are likely now in this supervisory role because you were an excellent employee who knew how to get the job done. But just because you're now the manager, it doesn't mean your approach to the team's work is the only way to succeed. Your team members don't have to be your mini-me. They bring their own ideas and aptitudes to the table, and you should let them experiment with their own styles.
Another truth for managers to remember: The world evolves. The longer you are on the management side, the further you are from the day-to-day, and the methods and tools you employed as an individual contributor may become obsolete.
Your goal is done, not perfect
Closely related to “your way is not the only way,” this lesson is hard for managers who are perfectionists by nature. But without question you must learn to delegate. There simply aren't enough hours in the day for you to take everything on yourself—and if you did, what would your team be doing, anyway? You have to accept that your goal as a manager is ensuring the work is done and done well, but not done perfectly or exactly the way you would have done it alone. As a manager, you have to take a step back and look at mistakes along the way as teachable moments that make your team better.
The truth is fancy titles aren't worth much more than the business card they're printed on. Embrace the opportunities you have to learn and grow along with your team.