“Know what you don’t know” and other tips for the newly promoted company manager

Promotion

While getting a promotion is a wonderful way of being acknowledged for the hard work you’ve put in to improve both yourself and your company, taking a step up – particularly into management – comes with a fresh set of hurdles to overcome.

There’s nothing quite like being made management to see all your old work mates start treating you like a leper, while the c-suite, who previously referred to you solely as ‘mate’, suddenly know your name – generally because they’re asking a whole lot more of you and your team.

When moving up in the world, the aspect that is most overlooked is that the higher up you are, the higher the stakes become with regards to maintaining the tightrope that is managing both the expectations of your superiors and the health and happiness of your team.

Like anything in this world, a combination of practice, time and your own personality will determine how you go about getting this balancing act right. But there are a handful of tips worth keeping in mind from the minute you get handed your key to the Executive Washroom (because that’s not just a thing from the Springfield Nuclear Plant, right?).

  1. Accountability is key

There’s nothing wrong with maintaining friendships with people who were once on equal footing, but now you’re their boss.

The key is to foster a culture where accountability is key.

Your mates can still be your mates, but if they’re letting the team down and leaning on you to cover for them – “because remember that awesome time when we …” – you’ve got to act.

You set the tone for what will and won’t be accepted, and if you haul one person over the coals for a missed deadline but take it easy on someone else, how will anyone respect your leadership?

Of course, as long as we’re talking accountability, you’ve also got to factor in self-accountability. If someone isn’t hitting their targets, maybe you need to take a look in the mirror? Are you asking too much of someone, or have you failed to equip them with the tools they need to really tackle the task you’ve asked of them?

  1. Take genuine interest in others’ progression

There will always people who, for whatever reason, have no interest in promotion. As long as these people are both happy with their place and do a good job, then that’s their prerogative, and good luck to them.

More common though are people who are constantly looking to make the next step up. But rather than seeing this as a threat to your position, it’s as an opportunity for you, them and the company to benefit.

The logic is maddeningly simple: if you help someone in your team to be better, you in turn will have more time to focus on other tasks, which will improve the company as a whole. They are also going to be far more willing to work for you and to support you.

It’s a bit of wisdom that Google’s nice-guy CEO, Sundar Pichai, imparted to his alma mater earlier this year, saying that his leadership style at the head of a company with some 60,000 employees was based on the mantra “let others succeed”.

“As a leader, a lot of your job is to make those people successful,” Pichai told the students of Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur.

“It’s less about trying to be successful (yourself), and more about making sure you have good people and your work is to remove that barrier, remove roadblocks for them so that they can be successful in what they do.”

  1. Know what you don’t know

The man presently in the White House has become known in some circles as ‘the Dunning Kruger President’.

It’s based on a 1999 paper written by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, entitled ‘Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments‘.

Basically, their hypothesis – which is now known as the Dunning-Kruger effect – is that gaps in one’s knowledge can lead to a belief one knows a lot more than they actually do.

Generally, it’s easy to self-acknowledge – with a bit of self-reflection, or by simply being asked to explain in detail a concept with which we claim to be familiar – and we’re all guilty of overestimating our abilities from time to time.

But big noting your skills and knowledge, only to be found out as a bit of a fraud can be a tricky one to come back from, particularly if you’re supposed to be in charge of a team.

No one knows everything, and there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that someone else might be better equipped to act as lead for a given project.

It’s not about passing the buck, simply showing a bit of humility from time to time.

  1. Allow for down time

Anyone who’s ever worked at a McDonald’s will be familiar with the old saying, “If you’ve got time for leaning, you’ve got time for cleaning!”

Basically the idea is there’s no such time as down time – there are always improvements to be made, which means there’s always work to be done.

And it makes sense for anyone working casual hours. If you pay someone by the hour, it’s reasonable to expect them to work the full hours for which they’re being paid.

But how many people in nine-to-five jobs are casual? Most of your team are likely to be in for the long haul, which means they’re going to put in long, hard hours on the days when the pressure is on. So maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world to let your team take things a little easier when things on the work front are a bit chill.

This isn’t to say you neglect the opportunities for growth that quiet days can present, rather that it’s important to have a long corporate memory. You’re unlikely to have a huge week followed immediately by a quiet one, allowing for people who have done long hours to receive ‘instant karma’ on time in the office.

Ultimately, it’s a question of trust. If someone has done extras for you, they should have earned your trust to get done what needs doing, so if they decide to take a half day when things are in a bit of a lull, you should back them.

To put it simply, getting a bump upstairs into management can seem like a dream, until the reality kicks in and suddenly you actually have to do the job. If you can develop methods of dealing with the people around you, you’ll be in a much better position to excel.

See also: “It’s like Vegemite” – Why the business world has a love-hate relationship with culture


About the author

Phil Reilly is the SEO Lead with Sydney-based creative media agency Atomic 212°. He recently contributed comment for Let’s Talk… Ecommerce.