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Are you managing?


Many years ago, I spent about six months or so as a manager.  In common with many managers, it wasn’t a role that I had particularly coveted or even particularly wanted but, in order for my career to progress, management was the next step.  And, to be honest, management looked pretty easy.  I was going to be managing the team of which I was currently a member, so there were no problems there – I knew them and they knew me.  I knew the job they did, so I wouldn’t have to learn anything about that.  About the only difference I could see was that I’d be earning a bit more money and I’d have a new job title.

Of course, I know now that I was in the learning phase that development experts call “unconscious incompetence” – in other words, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  Of course management looked easy – I didn’t know the first thing about it.  Sadly, this state of blissful ignorance didn’t last very long and reality hit me like a bucket of cold water.  Within the first day, I was brought face to face with a whole bunch of things that I didn’t know about management and I learned very quickly that I had a great deal to learn.

This is the phase that development professionals call “conscious incompetence” and it’s painful.  It’s that point in development when you are suddenly confronted with the depths of your own ignorance.  You’re suddenly painfully aware of just how much the job involves and how much you have to learn.

For me, that pain lasted for about six months; I tried to learn more about management on-the-job but the company I worked for at the time wasn’t particularly enlightened on the subject and so I was left to fend for myself.  I was wholly unprepared and I failed: I was eventually put out of my misery and mercifully removed from the role.  

It wasn’t a total failure, however, because it taught me a few lessons that have stayed with me.  First and foremost, it taught me that management is actually a lot harder than it looks and people who do it well have a real skill and my undying respect.  Secondly, it taught me that there often isn’t a lot of support out there for people who move into the role and that support is the one thing that can make a real difference.  If I’d been able to find someone to support me through, to teach me what I needed to know and help me avoid a lot of the mistakes I was making, the transition might have been quicker and easier; it might even have been successful.

Since then, I’ve spoken to a lot of managers about the lessons they’ve learned and the mistakes they make and two consistent themes seem to come out.  Consistently, managers berate themselves for not listening and for micro-managing.  The odds are, if you’re a manager, you make these mistakes too, so over the next couple of weeks we’ll look at these two common mistakes and suggest some ways in which you could avoid them.

One Response

  1. Progression to Management

    Your honesty is inspiring and beautifully captures the experience of a newly promoted manager.

    I am always intrigued and equally puzzled why majority of organisations invset and spend heavily in marketing or new product develoment, both systems and procedures yet are so tight when it comes to investing in their star performers. It is through people performing, applying their learning and knowledge that deliver the results.

    — Career Development Coach for Executives

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