We are working in an age where employees are expected to adapt and excel faster than ever before. While this is true at every level, today I wish to focus on middle and senior-level managers. As these ladies and gentlemen transit to new roles, enhanced job descriptions or brand new jobs, I see many of them struggling.
They particularly find it difficult to :
- Embrace the new realities of their role
- Manage expectations of diverse stakeholders
- Deliver to goals that are no longer unidimensional, often with conflicting objectives
Strong commitment to their jobs in terms of time, passion or both doesn’t solve for these challenges. Neither does functional competence. These are necessary but hardly sufficient. In my experience, I have found the following 5 strategies quite effective in handling the transition smoothly and emerging victorious.
Your First 90 Days
Initial days in the new role can be daunting. Many employees try to make the “right impression” while a better strategy would be to make the “right assessment” of the situation and then “right positioning” yourself. In my view, the first few days are the times of maximum learning. Your team, supervisor and stakeholders would most probably allow you to have this small window of time to ‘settle in’; no more and no less. Hence, it may serve you well to structure it meaningfully.
Divide every week into the number of hours you will spend on each of the below:
- Get to know your team, engage in groups as well as one-to-one with them. Have individual sessions with your supervisor and skip level leader;
- Familiarize yourself with functional goals, operational plans, performance parameters, what’s working and what’s not and what’s coming ahead
- Understand the pulse of the business, its key levers, and voice of your customers and stakeholders
- Your immediate deliverables on the job.
Give this rhythm 90 days and notice how this gives you a head start. A good start is a job half done!
Become a Master of your Time
So you have broken down your formidable goals into detailed project plans and are keeping a watchful eye on what could derail or delay timelines. Now what?
How about putting your KRAs to the ‘Calendar Test’? Slot your calendar hours into KRA related activity slots, such as diagnosing, workshopping, stock-taking and reviewing, and making necessary changes along the way. This will help you stay on track and also ensure that other demands of work do not come in the way of your critical projects. Introspect on this daily for 10 minutes and course-correct weekly, if needed.
Prioritizing also helps you make room for personal, family and social time. Nurturing your passions, taking breaks or spending quality hours with people who matter to you, all become more achievable.
Focus on Downward instead of Upward Management
The adage, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is true. Attending to your team’s needs, showing them a new way to solve a deep-seated or persistent problem, or teaching them ways to systematically solve new issues that could potentially arise – all these efforts will not go unnoticed.
One cross-functional team I closely worked with, named themselves ‘RETRO‘ - Rightly Engaged Team that gives Roaring Outcomes. And when desirable outcomes come by, the ‘upward’ folks won't need to be “managed”.
Over Manage Intersections
Everyone reading this has been in one or more situations where cross-functional members have played a vital part in the success or failure of a project. Yet, we mostly take it as a given or a necessary evil. However, converting these interactions and co-working scenarios into a win-win is eminently doable as long as we practice the 3 As:
- Accountabilities are clearly set at the start and monitored;
- Alignments at key levels in the hierarchy and at key milestones in the project journey are taken;
- Appreciation for members stretching themselves, volunteering new ideas or proactively leading tasks, is given in the right dose at the right time.
Many challenges become manageable and many problems won’t even see the light of the day, if this approach is followed.
Work with a BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) mindset
When it comes to meticulous execution, I believe diligence and tenacity have no substitute. So give the work all you’ve got and it is highly likely to result in an outcome that both you and the organization can be proud of. Whether it takes you once, twice or more, create an operational model that is built to last.
Also remember, that transferring ownership of projects is just as important as investing your heart and soul into them. Not only does this pave the way for others to learn, but it also frees your bandwidth to grow further and engage yourself in newer, interesting ways. Being engaged (with your work) and detached (from its fruits) at the same time can be tough, but truly liberating, as you would realize in the long run.
So that’s that... the five mantras I believe can help you stay on top of your game. Good luck!