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The recently promoted manager looked really hassled. The strain was clearly telling on him and his health- even if he were to deny this strongly. When I had met him a few months ago – before his promotion- I had been struck by his alertness, his enthusiasm and his overall sense of confidence. Obviously things had changed- for the worse.

In our conversation, he confessed he was wrestling with the totally different aspects of the new role. To give him an opportunity to think things for himself, I asked him to make two columns on a sheet of paper and list the differences between his old and new roles. This was important to give him focus on the things that were now more important for job success.

The list we made looked something like this:

  • Moving from “doing ” the job to a more uncertain managerial role
  • Being responsible for his own work to being responsible for the work of others
  • Using largely his technical skills to having to use a combination of technical and people skills
  • Being delegated tasks by his boss to having to delegate sensibly to his team
  • From being ” one of the boys” to being “the boss”.

Of course, there were more points but you get the idea. If these inherent differences are not recognized and worked upon, he would remain running around working himself to the ground. He has to change not only the way he works but indeed the way he thinks! He has to gear himself to understand the new context and requirements and prepare himself- not merely in acquiring new knowledge and skills but in understanding what he is going through and how he can come out successfully.

Most people going through a major change go through this process:

  1. Shock- initial reaction on finding the task to be very different from what you had expected
  2. Denial – building a feeling that things can’t be that bad
  3. Depression- sinking on finding out that if changes are not made, things could get much worse
  4. Accepting Reality- understanding the situation and realizing that you need to make changes
  5. Testing- putting the new learnings and working style into practice. Observing reactions and outcomes. What works. What does not.
  6. Searching- understanding what these changes mean to you. What are you comfortable with.
  7. Acceptance- accepting the changes you have made and beginning to live and work on the new terms

Once he understood the inherent differences and got the hang of the new requirements, my young friend became far more confident of himself.

In a recent meeting his boss mentioned the young manager was really picking up things quickly and looking quite promising. I was glad that the young man had shifted gears before it was too late for his organization and himself.

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