Krug: The recent past holds back the newly minted manager
Krug: The recent past holds back the newly minted manager

In only rare circumstances will a company hire an associate that has not had previous managerial experience to come in and lead one of its teams.

It happens, but it is unusual. You would be far more likely to see something like that in a family-owned company, where someone from the next generatio.....

In only rare circumstances will a company hire an associate that has not had previous managerial experience to come in and lead one of its teams.

It happens, but it is unusual. You would be far more likely to see something like that in a family-owned company, where someone from the next generation is pulled into the organization and installed in a managerial role – theoretically pre-loaded with enough passion or understanding to make a go of it.

In virtually every other business situation, managers are birthed from within – especially those managers that take on the challenge of making their way through the junior ranks.

Entry-level managerial hires typically focus on raw talent that has been identified for its potential. That person then was groomed or shepherded along.

Later, when an opening arose as a result of attrition or for any other reason, the person that had been primed for this opportunity was celebrated for their exemplary contributions in their current ranks, offered a shot at management and then rewarded with increases in salary and responsibility.

The best companies – big or small – put that new manager on a clear path of progression, guiding the way toward an opportunity to lead a larger piece of the organization. The best companies also focus on their young managers, offering them the constructive feedback, training and support they require to make the leap into their new roles and succeed there.

Management and leadership are two different things, of course. Good leaders need not be managers, but all managers must be good leaders to hold onto their gigs.

There are infinite challenges for the first-time manager, and almost all of them can be kind of scary.

You have been handed the keys to the car. It’s now your turn to drive. It’s easy to imagine driving the car from the backseat – viewing the road ahead with few obstructions – without experiencing the pressures of actually maneuvering the car.

It only is after the new manager is handed the keys and asked to place both hands on the wheel that they learn what it is truly like to drive. After the new manager finds himself or herself in that position, having to weigh what must be done in the best interest of the company, the backseat and a few thousand dollars less often may appear to be a much better deal.

Completely understanding the bigger picture can be a challenge for young managers in many companies – especially those that are walled off by politics, divided into fiefdoms or run like warring tribes – because they have only been exposed to pieces of it. Learning to navigate those traps can take time, and almost always requires a mentor. Management is challenging enough without the worry of friendly fire from somewhere else within your organization.

There are countless other challenges for the minty fresh new manager, but none can be more difficult to survive than the pull and tug of his or her former peer group.

It can be rough when your buddies or the people that you hung around with at lunch for the past two years become your subordinates on the organizational chart. And as much as the new manager would like to remain tight with the friends that they’ve made in the organization, they must learn to separate themselves to be effective.

This decoupling can be awkward and problematic. Think about it: One minute, Joe is John’s wingman on the Thursday night pub-crawl. On Friday morning, Joe is reminding John to put the cover sheet on his daily report – the same cover sheet they both mocked during their days as colleagues. That cover sheet has become more relevant, if only because Joe now catches grief from his director when they show up in her in-box without the appropriate formatting. Of course, there will be larger matters than sheets of paper in their proper order.

Younger managers must prove that they can lead. Leading, at least within the environment of business, can be complex. But in its simplest terms, leadership in business is about focusing your team in the direction where it needs to go, working through the issues collectively and, without question, achieving results.

Some eventually will resent the new manager’s role, even if his or her behavior in the job is even-handed and fair. And that’s because the dynamic has changed – for everyone in the environment. Some people can’t handle that, for all of the reasons you might imagine.

Work is a place where you can make and maintain friendships, almost all of us will in our careers. It is important to remember that a friend is someone who accepts you for who you are. As humans, we are constantly evolving and, with our vested effort in our own development, improving.

A friend will understand that you are the new manager, and will accept that your world has changed. A friend will respect the decision that you have made, and support the new manager.

As for you, your leadership ability, cultivated over time, will allow you to keep your real friends.

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As always, stay classy.

Chris Krug is president of the progressive media communications firm No Limit Agency in Chicago. No Limit is a full-service agency whose practice focuses on strategy, brand management, creative campaigns and delivering unparalleled placement in the media. No Limit Agency works with some of the best-known brands in North America, and that’s not a coincidence. Contact Krug by calling 312-526-3996 or via email at [email protected].

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