After more than two decades in the Executive Search
business, I have learned a lot about what goes into a
successful hire. I try to impart my knowledge to both hiring
managers and candidates. Nevertheless, at many job
interviews I find myself listening to questions that make me
cringe and answers that make me want to cry.
Now it's my turn to talk.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Congratulations! You're a Manager.

It has happened.  After years of being the lowest frowning face on the totem pole, you have earned a promotion to management level. You now have underlings.  You are the boss of someone.   After you shake hands and thank your boss for the opportunity, it’s time to call your spouse or BFF and make dinner reservations at a nice restaurant.  Have that second drink (unless it’s a Long Island iced tea – stick to one) and enjoy the affirmation of all your hard work to date - because tomorrow, everything changes.

Not everyone makes a good manager.

When I first started in the search business, one of the largest regional offices in our nationwide firm had a partner who was knocking the cover off the ball in sales.  Richie was producing two to five times the revenues of his partners.  Obviously, we all wanted to know how he did it.  What was his secret?  Could it be duplicated?

Company management was also intrigued by Richie’s success.  After a brief investigation provided no insight into his methods, they decided the best thing to do was make Richie the manager of his office.  This way, he could teach his revenue-generating secrets to all of his partners.  Instead, what resulted was the most precipitous drop in sales that any office in the firm had ever experienced.  So what went wrong?  Well, pretty much everything.

Richie’s biggest thrill was closing a deal.  He liked working with the clients.  He enjoyed the thrill of the search for the right candidate for a position.  He really enjoyed being known as the biggest biller in the firm.  Once he became manager, he continued to enjoy all those things.  In fact, he continued to be the biggest competitor to all the people who reported to him.  Do you see a problem here?

Upper management, in its wisdom, had made Richie a manager, a position for which he had no training, aptitude or desire; and in doing so, had diverted his efforts from what he did best – recruiting and sales.  His sales plummeted and the sales of his staff did not increase.  It was a lose-lose for the company, for Richie, and for his staff.

Back to you.  You are now sitting in your office regretting that third drink last night and contemplating the responsibilities of your new managerial role.  Your first inclination, like Richie’s, may be to do what you have been doing very well for the last two years.  That would be your first mistake.

As a new manager, your focus must completely change.  The individual achievements that gave you great professional satisfaction in the past must be relegated to the past.  You are now responsible for your direct reports.  You must provide an environment in which they can learn what you already know, as well as the freedom to generate their own ideas.  It would be so easy to give them all the answers or do the project for them, as you have all that experience and can certainly accomplish a task faster than a newbie.  Don’t do it.

In your new role, your job satisfaction must be rooted in the growth and success of the people that report to you rather than in your own achievements.  Their achievements become yours.  You must strive to keep your reports challenged and learning, praising strengths and pointing out errors, always with an eye toward improvement and increased productivity.  If you do your job well, you will have moved smoothly from the ranks of individual contributor to successful manager.  Believe me, it is a very small club.

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