Dear Coach Paradise,
Help! I have just been promoted to a management position where I am responsible for the performance of 20 people and for the overall operation of my department.
Its not going well. I feel like a substitute teacher avoiding spitballs. To make matters worse, people are jealous because I used to be one of them. I am frustrated and spend a lot of the day pulling my hair out and yelling. I have definitely gotten off to a bad start and dont know whom to turn to. My former friends are avoiding me, and I feel funny about the new wall between us. I am scared to talk to my bosses for fear they will realize they made a bad decision and demote me. I have had good managers, but have never been one. I cant keep this up and am desperately seeking help.
Manager in a mess
First things first: Congratulations on the promotion, and even bigger congratulations for realizing that being a good manager is not as easy as it looks. Its a big step in the right direction to know that yelling doesnt work and that you need help. Before you take any action, I would encourage you to do some prep work so that your actions are in sync with your values and vision.
What kind of a manager would you like to be? How would you like to be perceived by the people in your department? By your bosses? It always helps to write down the answers to these questions and take your time. Picture yourself showing up at work and things going the way you would like. How would that look and feel? Think of the managers youve admired and consider why you admired them. Were they organized, fair, supportive, clear? Did they provide the tools and information you needed to do the job? Did they give you a chance to make mistakes and learn from them? Did they take every opportunity to acknowledge you when you did something right, and offer help when you were at sea?
There are different management styles. The hands-off delegater, the micromanager, the authoritarian and the laissez faire person of the people. There are definite skill sets that help managers do a better job: people skills, organizational skills and a commitment to the success of the organization, which includes the success of the individual employees.
I would suggest checking if your employer will make some sort of management training available and, if not, I would seek some training on your own, either through a local college, an online course or going to the bookstore or library and looking through books on management. You are on your way up -- you might as well take this opportunity to upgrade yourself and be the best manager you can be. There will be a learning curve, and in order to grow and prosper you will need to figure out a way to get your 20 people on board with you -- 20 against one are not good odds.
Id like to share a relevant tale told to me by a recently retired zoo manager. He said that his zoo was known as the Happy Zoo in his urban zoo system, that he had little employee turnover and that the zoo had been rated one of the highest in the nation. He shared that when he first started in the business he made lots of mistakes, but had a boss who let him make mistakes and learn from them.
By the time he had his own zoo, he knew that empowering people helps them to do a good job and feel good about themselves and their manager. He said that unless there was danger to a person or animal, he gave people a lot of freedom. He said he was fiercely protective of his employees and intervened when he found out that someone was having problems -- in order to help. He was dedicated to his zoo and fought for innovation and expansion and for his vision, and his employees knew this. He was proud to say that his zoo was known as the Happy Zoo.
I hope that that story is inspiring to you, even if you do not manage a zoo. The details may be different, but the role crosses industries and departments. I will set an intention for you to be a great manager, loved by your employees and lauded by your bosses, bonuses all around and that your department be know as the Happy Department.
To your outrageous success,
Editor's note: Coach Paradise (AKA Anne Nayer), Professional Life Coach, is a member of the International Coaching Federation, an MSW clinical social worker-psychotherapist and a medical case manager with 30 years experience working with people of all shapes, sizes and challenges.
For further information about her services, call 774-4355 or email her.