While reading The Leadership Pipeline last week, I was reminded of my own journey from technical professional to manager and leader. At the time, I had limited management skills, yet was tasked with growing and developing a top-flight technology team in a very competitive high-pressure start-up environment. So I did what every other person in my position would do and winged it to varying degrees of success.
Three keys to transitioning with success
On the one hand, I did not sink the company and on the other, I did not deliver what the oraganization needed from me in order to increase performance and profits. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out new skills and methodologies while continuing to think and operate like a technology specialist. While the approach sort of worked, my real management and leadership came to fruition only once I started the following:
- Learning new skills necessary for my new role
- Being uncomfortable and letting go of the way I used to work
- Requesting developmental assistance
Learn new skills
I was a fairly productive and knowledgeable technician with drive and determination to become a great manager. One of the biggest tasks before me was learning new management skills such as hiring talent, reviewing employees, budgeting, team building and learning to operate as a business unit rather than a single entity. And this was only the beginning…Understanding I did not have the skills, I reached out to other mangers and leaders for mentoring, I read books and blogs on management and I hired a leadership coach.
By far the most important step I took was coaching. My coach helped me explore who I was, what my natural strengths as a manager were, what my development areas were and how to learn and practice in real time. My coach was the one-on-one learning partner I needed to challenge, support and work with me towards developing my own unique management/leadership style.
Be uncomfortable and let go
In the beginning, I was a hands-on manager, retaining some day-to day technology duties. As our team grew, I became less hands-on and one of the biggest challenges was moving away from tasks and jobs that I was comfortable doing.
Through coaching I discovered I needed to take two actions. First, I had to step into my new challenges and out of my comfort zone. Second, I had to trust those around me to do the work. While I was still available to assist, I no longer took it upon myself to solve the problem. I let my team solve the problems and I supported them.
Request development assistance
It is critical for organizations to provide professionals, managers and leaders the classes, mentoring and coaching needed to succeed in their new roles. I remember my conversation requesting funds to attend Georgetown University’s leadership coaching program. While it took a few discussions and laying out my business case, my firm eventually agreed. As a transitioning leader, you must express the importance of developmental training and request the resources you need in your new role.
To sum it up, be willing to learn, be uncomfortable and ask for help. Moving into new levels of leadership is always challenging, yet by following a few simple rules you will greatly increase your chances of success and be more likely to enjoy the journey along the way.
image courtesy: TheBusyBrain