Advice For First-Time Managers
Draw your map, and help others draw theirs.
Several years ago, I wrote book titled Managing People In The HVAC/R Industry, and in it, I dedicated a chapter to those who take on the challenge of being a first-time manager. In this chapter, I touched on several important facets of what needs to be done by this freshman manager, beginning with having a management plan.
If you are one of these newly promoted managers, think of your business journey and get out a map, just like you would do if you were taking a trip cross country. You wouldn’t just get in the car and head west from the east coast, and you shouldn’t think you can begin to manage other people in your group based on gut instinct. The business plan should embrace what the company has set for their end-of-year goals (sales, profit margin, and backlog, to mention three key parts of the plan). If you believe you can enhance these goals, then don’t hesitate to try as part of your management plan.
You should also document your business plan for the individuals whom you will be managing. Crossing over from the worker-bee side to the management side, it is important that you look out for those employees who will play an important role in the success of your group come years-end. So, you now need to put to paper a business plan that will offer individual opportunities (performance goals and technical achievement goals, to mention two key segments of the individual’s professional development) to each person you are responsible for in the group. At the same time, you need to recognize that not everyone is going to want to rise up the corporate ladder, but it is part of your job to assist them in achieving job satisfaction at whatever level it is that theses individuals want to set on their own.
Here are some suggestions for a management plan.
It is important to note that being a registered professional engineer, although preferred, doesn’t assure the individual that she will be a successful manager. In fact, some of the not-so-great managers I’ve known were registered professional engineers, and the analogy here is to think of a superstar athlete who was successful through natural ability but could not transfer that knowledge to others when he became a manager/coach, because throughout his career he responded on inherent skills and instinct as well as learned game skills. Most players don’t have those unique superstar skills.
As a group leader, department head, etc. you need to set the pace. Just like a coach on the sidelines, your job is to get the best performance out of each individual in the best interest of the company and the individual. To do this, you must demonstrate work ethics and leadership through example. If you become a pessimistic leader, then I can assure you there will be a group of chronic complainers (refer to my column, January 2007). I believe you need to come into work every day with a positive excitement that will be contagious.
When managing people, I have never worried about losing someone to a competitor, and I encourage first-time managers to take on this philosophy. I go so far as to tell each person in the group that I assure them that they will get ahead in the next couple of years or it will be their fault for not achieving the goals we mutually agree upon. As the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” The same applies to individuals you manage. If professional goals are set for years one, two, and three, and these goals are monitored and progress status is reported back to me by the individual, then it is safe to say that failure to achieve these goals is really the responsibility of the person. Again, you are the coach, not that player on the field or court who contributes to winning or losing the game.
More on managing people next month.