Nothing really prepares a person to what they’re about to do through when they move to a management position. Before becoming a manager, there are a couple of things I wish I had known. It wouldn’t have made me change my mind, but it would have certainly helped me in the first year. Now that I coach leaders in their journey to manage and motivate people, I understand it wasn’t just me: we don’t always know what it’s going to be like. So here’s the truth no one tells you.
1 | This is one of the hardest things you’ll do in your career
It is genuinely going to be one of the toughest things you’ll ever do. The amount of new responsibilities that will be put on your shoulders from one day to another is more than you anticipate. Expectations (your team’s, your own manager’s, and your own) will be different. Stakes will be higher. And you won’t be fully ready. And it will be normal. Just accept that and make your best to step up and learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible.
2 | Your team will remember everything you say and don’t say, everything you do and don’t do
As the manager, you will become a reference for people in your team. If you are not at your desk, they will notice. If you say something and then not do it, they will remember. If you give too much or too little importance to something, they will do the same to some extent. This puts you in a position where you need to be consistent between what you ask them to do and what you do yourself. Be consistent, talk the talk and walk the walk at all times.
3 | Your team’s successes will be theirs. Their failures will be yours.
That’s probably one of the most important things I learned as a manager. You’ll let your team take credit for their successes, but you’ll have to take credit for their failures. If numbers are good, the business will want to know who is working well in the team. If numbers are bad, the business will want to know what you (not your team) could do better. The sooner you understand that and take full ownership, the better you’ll do.
4 | You will not get the recognition you deserve
Not taking credit for your team’s successes despite being involved in it means you won’t get the recognition you deserve. It is your job to make your team work efficiently and have a good performance, and you will not get any special recognition for that. Brace yourself for the lack of recognition from the people you manage. This is probably the most difficult one to accept, because in the end you work for them. You won’t get a lot of thank yous. I told you, expectations will be much higher. Find recognition from your manager, but ultimately, it’s crucial that you know yourself when you’re doing a good job.
5 | You will have to understand people like you never did before
Your job will be to support people in their day-to-day and in their career. They will have personal issues that will impact their work, they will have relationship problems with other colleagues, they will make mistakes, they will expect something you can’t give them. You will be facing many different personalities and traits of character. You will need to understand what motivates people and you will need to find an approach that works for them, without compromising too much on who you are. It’s difficult at the beginning to find the middle line, but with time you will.
6 | You will be between the hammer and the anvil
As a manager, you will be stuck between a rock and a hard place, the rock being your team, the hard place being the senior management. It is expected and asked of you to always support the decisions that are made by senior management, and to communicate them to your team. You, as part of the greater management group, will have to show unity and trickle down decisions from the top to the bottom of the hierarchy. If you disagree with a decision and tell your team, they will follow your opinion and senior management will lose credibility.
7 | It will be lonely
Management can be lonely. There are some things that will frustrate you that you won’t be able to share with your team (see point #6) because it will sap their morale and will make them worried and tense for nothing. You need to find peers (so other managers) who are in the same position as you and who will be able to support you. A support network is essential to bounce back ideas and get feedback.
8 | You are going to work late at night and during weekends
Even if you don’t want it, there will be times where you will have to work late or during weekends. You are even going to check your work emails during your holidays. You will eventually find a way to manage your time better, and to set healthy boundaries between your work and your personal life. At the beginning though, there will be emails to answer, reviews to write, spreadsheets to fill in that you’ll only be able to do on your personal time, since your day will be spent helping your team and attending meetings.
9 | It will change you
This job will change you for the best. It will push you to learn things about yourself, about others, about how a business runs, that you didn’t know anything about. It will broaden your horizon and change your perspective. It’s like stepping into the other side of the mirror: you look at the same things from a different perspective, and nothing will be the same anymore.
There is a saying in French that says: “To win without risk is to triumph without glory” – I find that it encapsulates perfectly what moving to management is: difficult but very rewarding.