Everyone in management has gone through the transition from individual contributor to manager. Each person finds his/her own way to “survive.” The following guidelines will help you to keep your perspective and your health.
1. Monitor your work hours.
The first visible, undeniable sign that things are out of hand is that you are working far too many hours. Note how many hours you are working per week. Set a limit and stick to that limit. Ask your peers or boss for help.
2. Recognize your own signs of stress.
Different people show their stress in different ways. Some people have “blow ups.” Some people get very forgetful. Some people lose concentration. For many people, they excel at their jobs, but their home life falls apart. Know your signs of stress. Tell someone else what they are. Ask them to check in with you every two weeks to see how you are doing. Every two weeks, write down how you are doing – if only for a minute. Stick in it a file marked “%*#)%&!!#$.”
3. Get a mentor or a coach.
Ideally, your supervisor is a very good mentor and coach. Many other people have “been there, done that” and can also serve as great mentors to you.
4. Learn to delegate.
Delegating is giving others the responsibility and authority to carry out tasks. You maintain the accountability to get them done, but you let others decide how they will carry out the tasks themselves. Delegation is a skill to learn. Start learning it.
5. Communicate as much as you can.
Consider the following guidelines:
a. Have at least one person in your life with whom you are completely honest.
b. Hold regular meetings with employees – all of them in one meeting at least once a month, and meet at least once every two weeks with each of your direct reports. A common problem among new managers and supervisors (or among experienced, but ineffective ones) is not meeting unless there is something to say. There is always something to communicate, even if to say that things are going well and then share the health of your pets.
c. Err on the side of too much communication, rather than not enough. New managers and supervisors often assume that their employees know as much as they do. One of the first signs of an organization in trouble is that communications break down.
6. Distinguish between what is important and what is urgent.
One of the major lessons that experienced leaders have learned is to respond to what is important, rather than what is urgent. Phone calls, sick employees, lost paperwork, disagreements between employees all seem to suddenly crop up and demand immediate attention. It can seem like your day is responding to one crisis after another. As you gain experience, you quit responding to the crisis. You get an answering machine or someone else to answer the phone. You plan for employees being gone for the day – and you accept that people get sick. You develop a filing system to keep track of your paperwork. You learn basic skills in conflict management. Most important, you recognize that management is a process – you never really “finish” your to-do list – your list is there to help you keep track of details. Over time, you learn to relax.
7. Recognize accomplishments.
Our society promotes problem solvers. We solve one problem and quickly move on to the next. The culture of many organizations rewards problem solvers. Once a problem is solved, we quickly move on to the next one to solve. Pretty soon we feel empty. We feel as if we are not making a difference. Our subordinates do, too. So in all your plans, include time to acknowledge accomplishments – if only by having a good laugh by the coffee machine. Do take time to note that something useful was done.
Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD – Authenticity Consulting, LLC – 800-971-2250
Read my weekly blogs: Boards, Consulting and OD, Nonprofits and Strategic Planning.