When I first became a manager, I felt a little lost and unprepared as I entered my office on the first day. A few weeks prior, I had been a lower-level employee in a small business. Suddenly, I found myself managing a team of eight individuals in a large corporate office. Although I had experience working with peers within an office environment, the movement from peer to manager brought many unforeseen difficulties.
I quickly learned that managers have to learn to take a certain level of criticism from employees, typically pertaining to my own decisions and as well the company’s choices. These complaints were simply part of the job. Many of my employees felt the need to vent and disagree about managements’ decisions, yet they often failed to take the initiative to address the concerns themselves. They were content critiquing upper-level administrators but failed to provide any proactive solutions for addressing their criticism. As a manager, I had to realize that this type of behavior was common and my willingness to work longer hours and address tough problems is what positioned my job apart from the average employee. It was not an employee’s job to solve the tough problems; it was mine as member of the company’s leadership.
Although it was easy to address that a problem existed, it became clear to me that solving the problem through critical thinking was a more challenging and crucial aspect of my job as a manager. When a staffing problem arose or a project had a setback, it was my job to make sure the situation was resolved. This meant often engaging in reflective thought and deep, critical thinking-skills every manager must possess. I realized that it was not enough to merely employ the easiest option; instead, I had to think about the advantages, risks and unforeseen possibilities when addressing the situation.
I also realized that managers prioritize their responsibilities to ensure they can provide enough time to critically address a problem. Knowing when to delegate menial administrative tasks to ensure time to address more important issues was key to my development as a manager. If a setback arose that demanded my immediate attention, I had no qualms putting aside my current task to tackle the more significant problem. My role as a manager required me to designate what responsibilities were critical to the mission of the business-a task I was not asked to complete as an employee.
During the first week at my new position, I sent out more emails than I would have in a whole month at my prior job. Communication between staff, clients and customers became a central component of my work as a manager. I quickly reduced the number of emails I sent weekly by synthesizing information into larger messages. However, communicating effectively meant much more than simply being efficient and responsive to emails. I had to invest in my employees to ensure they were not only motivated but also developing as a professional. Weekly meetings with my employees became a time where I could challenge my staff to improve, provide motivation and ensure any inter-office conflict was resolved. Moreover, I soon found out that managers were the “face” of any business. Clients often wanted to hear from me and expected that I communicate in a professional manner. Being able to efficiently answer client questions and concerns while establishing a sales relationship was a vital aspect of my position as a manager.
More important than communication, critical thinking or attitude, I realized managers must display an unmatched work ethic in the office place. I had to ensure tasks were being completed-no matter the difficulty of the assignment. Yet, I soon realized that trying to fit every item into an eight-hour workday would prove to be quite difficult. As a manager more was demanded of me, and I had to prioritize my time to ensure everything was complete. Time management became one of the most vital aspects of my job. I had to ensure I set aside time for certain responsibilities, developed a system to keep track of assignments and delegated tasks to my employees based on their skillsets. Suddenly, an extra fifteen minutes in a day made a significant difference in my work output.
My transition from an employee to a manager helped me realize that the mindset and expectations of a manager are far different than an employee. Managers have to stay positive, motivate employees, communicate effectively with clients, and manage time in a way employees simply do not. The effectiveness of a department rests on the shoulders of management, and, ultimately they are the ones that have to answer for results.
Luckily, the transition is not as daunting as it appears. Most companies provide an ample amount of time for a new manager to adapt and form the necessary mindset for the position. Yet, there remains a significant learning curve involved in moving to a management position and a constant drive to become better is crucial to success. I certainly did not enter into my first manager position with a fully formed skillset; rather, I developed those skills through experience. Comprehending the difference between my role as an employee and manager was crucial to my development, and I only obtained that understanding through a series of both successes and failures.