Such is the reward for being good at your job: the poisoned chalice is all yours. Going from numbers, codes and mechanisms to the murky world of people is like jumping from being a great Mechanical Engineer to Chief Architect. The skills needed for one role seem to have no bearing on the other.
As you stare into the screen and bite your lip, you realise 5 reasons that you should have said ‘no’ to the offer of a step up:
Suddenly I’m managing my peers. I used to sit and take the p*ss out of management, complaining about stuff with them. Now I realise that: a) I’m going to have to get rid of Bob/Jo/Mo if they don’t buck up their performance b) they expect me to do something about whatever we were grumbling about. As some of those concerns were related to difficult people, I’d rather be playing Candy Crush Saga and not making difficult decisions.”
If you avoid a problem, you could risk this becoming a crisis, so it’s important you know what to challenge and when. With a few techniques and help in developing understanding about how your teams work, instead of avoiding challenging conversations, you’ll learn to face them with confidence. That doesn’t mean you’ll bound out of bed in the morning, elated at the thought of slapping your colleagues down (although I know one or two who rather warm to this idea). However, the dread does subside and a clearer sense of resolve results. The outcome is greater respect from those around you.
This leads to my second quandary. I’m now appearing at Senior Management Meetings and have to prove myself but they’ve an entirely different way of conducting meetings and it’s all so political. It’s like an episode of The West Wing, and I’m nothing more than the notepad, such is my ability to influence them.”
There are many techniques for influence and persuasion, some of which you’ll find here. Every situation is different and yours is unique so you may need help in getting clarity on your specific situation. It’s worth thinking about how you the impression you may be giving others, non-verbally as well as verbally.
They’re talking to me about Business Development. What? Was I trained in a souk? How the hell am I meant to go from code to drumming up business. What are Sales and Marketing doing?”
They need you to translate the technolingo to suppliers, distributors, resellers etc. and you’ll probably be doing 121 and team meetings and presentations, if not already, very soon. Also, if you were to look at who you’ve already been working with, you’d realise you’re the best person to make the contacts: people know you and trust you. Building on that secures opportunities for you and your team. Even if you understand the rationale behind Business Development in your position, one IT Director with whom I was working with was at a loss at to how he could gain from networking. With a bit of coaching he was able to recoup the £1000s he was spending on a major trade annual networking event in won business and surprised himself by having a lot of fun in the process.
I’m hiding behind two 22 inch computer screens at the moment but I know they’re going to find me. I can’t run and I can’t hide. I’m now accountable to the forces that be for how my team perform.”
Managing up, as well as across and sideways are essential skills for you to develop if you don’t want to be that supplicant, begging to your boss for mercy as you see a metaphorical blade in suspense above your head. Get good at the managing up and it will help you manage down and across.
Apparently, my focus needs to shift from detail to ‘big picture’: manageable short term tasks to reach those obscure long term goals.”
Suddenly, you have to be more bi-lingual than you were before, being able to understand the large goals, how they translate into your remit and spread this across to your people. Motivation is increased when you know why you’re doing something and it’s meaningful. This also means, a finer grasp of the relationships between departments.
All 5 of the toxins in the poisoned chalice have one characteristic in common: communicating with others. It’s not the technical challenges but how you handle others to achieve that’s more important in a new role.
Ella Fitzgerald created a message especially for you but Bananarama’s is the version that I sing to, so here they are (and, oh my, you’ll just love the hair!):
Click here to see how I’ve worked with different teams to get them back on track in their interpersonal communication.