Are You Ready For Management?
At some point in their careers many (ok most) high performing sales reps will feel the gravitational pull towards management. It’s a logical impulse – I’m a good seller, so why shouldn’t I take my career to the next level by managing a team of reps just like me? But as many would-be managers have discovered, working as an individual contributor requires a different set of professional skills than being a team leader.
So how do you know if management is right for you, and what’s the best way to insure a successful transition? As someone who’s been in media sales management for the past 23 years (yes, I’m old), I have some ideas. To that end, here are five tips to get yourself in the right management mindset:
- It’s OK, You’re Not Perfect: Accept the fact that you’ll make mistakes early. Trust me, we all do some cringe-worthy things in our first few years as a team leader. Accept these as a given and don’t beat yourself up over not being perfect. The key to making mistakes as a manager is learning quickly so that you don’t repeat them. What we learn from our failures defines us.
- Get In The Trenches: The biggest mistake a new manager can make is getting chained to their desk. Yes, you’ll need to spend time on internal projects and everyone must pay homage to a budget spreadsheet or two. But always make time to walk the talk by leading in the field. If you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and do the same work you’re asking your team members to do they’ll walk through walls for you.
- Filter Down, Take Responsibility Up: Front line managers are usually squeezed within the thermal layers of a larger org. Expect to have directives rained down on you by upper-management, but don’t just boomerang those down to your team. Instead filter the message with a tone and frequency that’s right for your team. Then be prepared to take full responsibility for mistakes your team members will make. No, you didn’t make the mistake. But if they’re on your team you need to take responsibility for the problem and find a solution.
- Try New Ideas And Fail Fast: Picture yourself at the epicenter of an explosion which is radiating outward in all directions. The flak burst coming from the middle are all the ideas and initiatives you have. Be fearless about trying several of these at once. Some will fail, and that’s ok, as long as you recognize them early and quickly course correct. Then other parts of the explosion will succeed – those are the ones you divert more resources to. By fearlessly trying multiple new ideas at once you can find the right path and grow faster than a one-at-a-time approach.
- Consistency Above All Else: As a leader you’ll be asked to make subjective decisions. Sometimes you won’t know if you’ve made the right call until months or even years later. That’s why it’s so important to be consistent in your decision making. As an added bonus your team will grow to respect and rely on the consistent principles you operate by.
This is by no means a complete list of what it takes to be a successful manager – whole books have been written on the topic. But hopefully these ideas can serve as a checklist to get yourself prepped for first-time management.