You’ve been promoted. You’ve got a team to manage. Now what?

First of all, congratulations! You must have been doing something right to get promoted (and you may need to remind yourself of just what that was from time to time).

People often get promoted because they deliver – on time, to standard, on budget and so on – or to put it another way, they are strong on operations, on getting stuff done.

People can get promoted because they possess rare skills that the employer values highly.

People can also get promoted because they are very smart at getting noticed for all the right reasons by those who have responsibility for deciding who gets promoted.

Sometimes, people get promoted because they are great at getting the best from others. But it’s my observation that this last is rare. What that means is that what got you here will serve you well but now you’re managing a team of people you also need some new skills – and fast.

Ideally, your employer will have thought of this and you’ll be able to join a course or programme of development that will equip you with the skills you need to manage people (even better if it involves some focused, fast-paced and frill-free Zoomly workshops – shameless plug). But what if you’ve just missed the boat for this year’s course? Or what if they don’t really do management development at your employer?

Don’t leave this to chance, or fall into the trap of thinking you’ll ‘just know’ how to manage others. Sooner or later, you’ll get feedback about your ‘lack of leadership capability’ and it will hold back your career progress. Happened to me. Until I moved to a more enlightened employer and was placed on their leadership programme, where I spent the first few days cringing at all the mistakes I’d piled up.

You need to take action to build your people management skills. Here are five suggestions you can try, starting now:

  1. Ask people
  2. No, not just anyone – ask people you know well and you can trust, who are already managing others. Think broadly – they may be gym buddies, neighbours or relatives. What do they know now that they wished they’d known when they first stepped up to a manager role? What advice can they give to a newbie?

  3. Know yourself
  4. You can always boost your self-awareness (a key facet of Emotional Intelligence). At some point you’ll no doubt get feedback from your manager and your team. Pay close attention to how others experience you at work and practise modifying your behaviour where needed. You can also complete online assessments, such as the excellent VIA character strengths.

  5. Get a mentor
  6. A mentor is someone you know who’s a few levels higher up the career ladder than you. They may work at your employer, or maybe you know them from a previous job.

    What’s important is they’re not your line manager, so they can take a more objective view and focus on your development rather than the task at hand. A mentor is someone who knows how organisations work and can be invaluable as a sounding board for your ideas. Check out my post on differences between mentoring and coaching if you want to find out more.

  7. Read up
  8. Get your hands on some robust leadership texts – rather than this week’s latest thing. Try Rob Goffee & Gareth Jones, Jim Collins and Patrick Lencioni. Daniel Goleman’s books make Emotional Intelligence accessible and Dan Pink’s highly readable work writes up recent academic research. Sign up for Harvard Business Review’s blog feed.

  9. Get a coach
  10. You can often get no- or low-cost coaching from a coach who’s completing their training course and needs to get x number of coaching hours under their belt before they can get certification. These people can be highly experienced professionals making a career change, so whilst they may be novice coaches, they’ll have heaps of wisdom to bring to coaching. You can check out leading coach training providers and professional associations such as Association for Coaching.

You may also find this blog post useful: What kind of leader do you want to be?


Dawn is the author of ‘How to be Zoomly at work’, available now on Amazon and ‘The Feedback Book’, due out in September.

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