Here are five situations new managers typically encounter. Each contains its own set of potential challenges--and rewards.
- Replacing a popular manager The worst case scenario occurs when the former, well-loved manager remains in the immediate environment as a negative influence. It feels natural and comfortable for the staff to address their questions—and loyalty--to the former leader. The challenge is to achieve control without micromanaging such interactions.
- Replacing an ineffectual manager The former manager may have made poor decisions, or no decisions. There could have been a total mismatch between manager and department, either in competencies or personalities. The staff initially greets the new leader warmly, and all enjoy a brief honeymoon period. Then the atmosphere deteriorates, and the challenge is to remain equitable and calm, putting aside any personal feelings of having been deceived.
- Assuming management of a formerly autonomous department Expect some initial resistance and resentment. It either will be overt or passive-aggressive, depending on group dynamics. Staff continues to do “as we always have.” A number of decisions are made quietly, without deference to management. Even--maybe especially--when the group decisions are good ones, the challenge is to gain trust and control.
- Accepting a promotion within a department Regardless of former popularity, the shift from staff member to manager alters department dynamics. Initial supervisory decisions will be questioned by the former peer group. When promoted from within, the challenge for new managers is to utilize tact and diplomacy they were unaware they possessed.
- Creating a new department This scenario appears to put the manager in an enviable position. However, it also involves an enormous workload. There is a learning curve while the dynamics are discovered and the departmental culture evolves. One challenge is to begin delegating tasks as soon as feasible.
Whichever scenario transitioning managers encounter, there are amazing opportunities for them to advance and perfect their leadership skills. Has that been your experience? Feel free to share stories of your journey and successes here.