Stepping Up to the Challenge
As an employee, you had a clear-cut definition of your role and responsibilities. The line around “my job” was fairly solid and easy for you — as well as others — to see. It was fine for you to show initiative by doing more than what was expected of you, of course. But most everyone knew when your efforts went above and beyond the call of duty.
As a manager, you may find that very little is clear cut. Your job description no doubt includes the phrase “and other duties as necessary,” which often seems to be the core rather than the periphery of what your daily activities entail. You are expected to wear many hats and to know which one to wear for each circumstance. Don't worry. Odds are good that you will enjoy the diversity of your roles, once you figure out how to play them all.
Not everyone is cut out to be a manager. Many people who are at the top of their professions are among the worst when it comes to managing other people because that's not where their strengths lie. Only by being truthful with yourself can you know if you are one of these people. And remember: It doesn't mean you're less valuable than those in management; a business needs all its constituents to succeed.
One thing you may be wondering about is how to fill your predecessor's shoes. Hold it right there. It's not possible for a new manager to step in and maintain the same atmosphere that existed under the previous manager. Each manager has different abilities, interests, and priorities. The work group will eventually reflect this, and everyone knows it (even you).
Even when a change in management is desirable, employees might meet it with resistance. It's frightening and threatening to lose a manager. Even if the new manager is someone promoted from within the company, he or she is still an unknown. People may outwardly agree that the new manager offers new opportunities, but inwardly they feel worried. They want to know answers to questions like these:
What will happen as a result of the new arrangement?
Will things be better or worse than they were before?
If the previous manager was fired, what happens to former allies who still work in the department or work group?
How will job descriptions and responsibilities change, if at all?
When you step into a new position, be sure you communicate consistently and diligently with all of your employees. You must both talk and listen. You need to hear about what concerns the people you manage. Even if there's little you can do about their worries, listening to them acknowledges that those worries are valid. Explain your perspectives and expectations, and discuss the expectations of your superiors. You can't talk away disappointment, disagreement, disapproval, or fear, but bringing these emotions out into the open gives everyone permission to begin dealing with them.