Hear about a real-world example demonstrating what it looks like to have impact when shifting from being a technology professional to becoming a manager.
In this section, we discussed the foundational skills that are essential for technical professionals who want to excel in a leadership role. I'd like to tell you about one of my coaching clients named Alex. I worked with him later in his career, but he shared with me an experience from his initial transition to management, one that had a huge impact on him. Alex had been a top performer in the IT division of a commercial real estate company. He was flattered when they promoted him to IT Director, but also really intimidated.
He knew technology from every angle, but management was a whole new frontier. In a moment of panic, he reached out to a long-time colleague named Carmen. She was a seasoned manager at the company. Alex figured that Carmen would dive in and tell him about her favorite organizational app for managing programs and people, or give him the latest scoop on some of the senior executives. He was wrong. Carmen asked Alex about his communication skills, his ability to read other people and handle difficult situations, about how he thought others might describe his leadership style.
Alex's first thought was, wow, can't all that wait until I'm settled into the new office? But, Carmen persisted. She challenged Alex to think about his typical patterns of conversations and interactions and how they would form his leadership reputation. She even took it a step further, asking him whether some of his natural tendencies would make him more or less effective as a manager. Needless to say, this was way out of Alex's normal line of thinking.
So far, the panic was intensifying. Then Carmen made a suggestion that gave Alex some real peace of mind. She said, you know, the truth is, you've never managed before and your team knows you've never been a manager before. So don't feel like you have to suddenly show up as a completely different person. Be honest with your team. Come clean. Let them know you have certain tendencies, or even habits, that aren't yet manager ready, but you're working on them.
Be real and authentic, people appreciate it. Alex took her advice. When he met with his team, he was upfront about the situation. He joked about being a tech guy forced to swap out his graphic tees for button-downs. And he asked for their patience during the transition. He admitted that early on, he would probably ask for more details than necessary and follow-up frequently. But hoped that they wouldn't interpret that as him being a micro-manager.
Alex assured them that as he became more familiar with each person and their work, he'd be able to back off and be a little less intrusive. Until then, he asked for their understanding. Having that kind of honesty upfront, that vulnerability of saying, hey, I'm learning something new here, really helped him to bond with his team. When Alex started getting a little too much into the weeds with the details of a project, they gave him the benefit of the doubt. They knew he was a work in progress and his authenticity helped to smooth out a variety of rough edges.
Alex built a reputation as a solid manager. He was transparent and honest. He crafted an authentic leadership style that felt natural with his personality and demeanor, and he made a continuous effort to improve his emotional intelligence and communications. That was a game changer in helping Alex build a high performing team and make a positive impact as a manager.
- Moving from technical skills to relational skills
- Becoming more self-aware
- Communicating with greater impact
- Moving from individual to team results
- Broadening your perspective
- Building productive and meaningful relationships