Organizations often move the “best technician” into supervision or take their most efficient employee and expect them to teach - usually without any training or support. Employees who were but “one of the gang” Friday are expected to be “leaders of the pack” Monday – with nothing more than a “personnel change notice” and a congratulatory memo. New managers are often expected to correct all that was wrong in the past by reclaiming lost efficiencies and improving employee morale – often only because they demonstrated unique initiative or innovation in their own work. Such an expectation (implementation of change without preparation for the ramifications of change) is destined to fail. Any employee considering a move into leadership should consider the following:
As a Supervisor, you are no longer a friend to your past peers. You must confront and address the weaknesses you once accepted in others. You have to praise good work, discipline to correct marginal performance, determine pay increases and treat individuals equitably rather than equally. Rather than striving to be “popular,” the best testament to a successful transition is hearing that you are “consistent.”
Accept the fact that some turnover will occur within your department when you take over. A new supervisor or leader creates change – and some employees do not accept change easily. Identify where you cannot afford turnover, taking steps to protect your vulnerabilities.
You must embrace and communicate corporate direction, oversight, goals and visions. It is your responsibility to show people not only where the organization is going but also how they are instrumental in completing the journey successfully. As an employee, you may have complained about “oppressive Company policies.” As a manager, you must support and enforce these same policies unless or until they are changed.
Give credit for success while accepting blame for false starts and “learning experiences.” You must often minimize your need for personal recognition by giving credit to your employees for the ideas you have planted. You must typically encourage them to take the road less traveled more often than you tell them what to do. You must often accept the “pain” so that all may “gain.”
You must praise in shouts while criticizing in whispers – recognizing that as determined as you may be, you cannot make the journey alone. You must develop others behind you as you grow – being lifted towards the top upon their shoulders rather than using them as rungs to step upon as you climb the ladder of success – as individuals rarely rise until a competent successor has been identified and developed to take over.
As a leader, you have greater responsibilities and are accountable for better results. You will take larger risks in order to gain potentially greater rewards. You must determine the direction not only for yourself but also for a group now counting on you for guidance. You must administer the directives of others while remaining true to yourself. Should you disagree with a policy or directive, actively seek to modify it rather than blindly accepting it – BUT support it until changed.
The transition to leadership is not easy. Recognizing the potential risk (as well as the inevitable reward) when making the change, however, will allow you to move forward with a sense of purpose. Most importantly, identify a mentor or confidant with whom you can speak openly and honestly – seeking their assistance whenever necessary to resolve issues before they become problems as you actualize your full leadership potential!