Ready to Step Up as a Manager?

Picture this, it is year end and you just completed your appraisal with your reporting manager. You have had a solid year as an individual contributor, and you know it. You put in solid efforts through-and-through and over-delivered what you needed in your Key Results Areas (KRAs)/Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). 

And outcome of the appraisal – you have earned yourself a promotion to be a Manager. You are confident that with all your accumulated knowledge, know-how and prior results, you have what it takes for the Manager role – but are you really ready? Here are top three key traits of a good people manager that you should have first and foremost. 


Literally, this means: “Don’t expect your team members to be doing what you are not prepared to do yourself.” Let me share an example. 

There is a huge backlog of work at the office and you know that overtime is needed; for at least 2 full days, Saturday and Sunday this weekend. You decided hence that you are going to ask the team to clock in the hours to ensure that all tasks are completed clean by Monday next week. Now, the deal is: are you also going to be working WITH them, or are you going to clock in as-and-when you wish, or half-day for each day or worse still, never show up at all (with or without reasons).

You do any of the above, except the first and you are going spiralling down the rabbit hole; faster than you can say “ready, GO”! Your words, your reputation, your integrity, whatever initial trust that they had in you, everything – these do not hold anymore meaning to the team. And if you do this often enough, and at some point in time, you would just have no more team to manage – staff turnover.


Challenge:  Remember this, as a Manager, first become a leader who grooms and inspires and not instruct. Have you ever seen successful generals in history fighting battles where they say “CHARGE!” and they don’t move, expecting only their army to move? NO! They are the first to move, right up there in front. One of the best example I have come across on this topic is this (quoting from TEDx Vienna blog page):  

Have you ever heard of US Army Captain William D. Swenson? He recently received the Medal of Honor from US president Barack Obama for putting his life at risk to rescue other soldiers on a battlefield in Afghanistan. Not only did he run into the fire without a helmet on to pull his camarades out of the scene, he also got caught on camera giving one of his wounded guys a kiss on the forehead.

Management theorist and leadership expert Simon Sinek, who also gave the extremely popular TED talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action, has looked into the dynamics of organizations that continuously evince loyal, motivated members. He has asked some of these “heroes” why they do such things, and they all responded with the same reason: Because they would have done it for me.

Now, that’s leading by example, folks!


I believe that one of the biggest step-up for a new Manager is this: empowerment. With her inherent maturity and the official remit assigned to the role, does she feels she is empowered to discharge her duties properly? Is she going to be seeking for her manager’s instructions (or worse still, waiting for them) before she go ahead to execute the task(s) on hand. Mind you, this was a previous individual contributor (IC) who may have thrived in receiving and executing instructions and hence, her prior successes.


Challenge:  Hence, as a new Manager, she first need to know her boundaries of authority and given her KRAs/KPIs, she now need to exercise DISCRETION in her role. Definitely a new vocabulary in her repertoire as ICs are mostly (simplistically speaking only – don’t get me wrong) about taking in and executing on instructions.

Meaning given a tough situation on hand, she needs to figure out what is the best course of action(s), given the time frame, headcount resources, tools, etc that the team has, plus the authority level she has. In a fast-moving critical customer complaining situation, she needs to draw upon other skills too – customer engagement, negotiation, situation diffuser skills, etc and to then use her discretion to resolve the situation on a WIN-WIN basis. 

Really, without the art of wanting to execute discretion, she would tend to want to shy away from taking the responsibility herself and rather seek further instructions from the boss. Definitely not what a Manager should be doing (with a red-faced customer in front of you)?!


Now, you may be all gung-ho moving into the new role, and wanting to step up as the best Manager for your team and to have their best future interests in mind. That would mean ensuring that the team grow together, maturity, capabilities and all.

However, it is totally another point of view from your team’s perspective. They may be happy and contented where they are now, maybe doing just enough to get a middle point in their appraisals and to leave on-time every day.


Challenge:  are you able to inspire your team to perform to the next level? Question on their minds is WIIFM – “What’s in it for me” mentality. Do you have an answer to that for them. What will the destination look like if they were to take the road less travel in a month’s time, 6 months’ time, end of this year? If you can help them paint that picture, and they are inspired to follow you on this journey (even if it was one inspired team member for that year), you would have succeeded in this respect – you have inspired and built.

The whole idea to this is “succession planning”. You are building your team so that they are able to step up into your role in X period of time – which then ideally elevate you for the next level of growth in the hierarchy of your team/your organization.

But guess what, many Managers tend to do the opposite! They are overly protective of their “own turf” worried that their team member might one day replace her as Manager. Now, can you kill this thought – “let go of this baggage”? If you can, you are definitely in a better position to succeed as a Manager, more than ever before.



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