What it Takes to Excel as a Manager

an article by Barb McEwen

You’ve worked hard, you’re dedicated, you have good technical abilities and you have shown that you are a willing team player. The right people have noticed and now you have been promoted. Congratulations! But before you grin too widely and settle into your new position, it is important to realize that the hard work has just begun!

Although managers differ in their style, approaches and skills, it is essential that they master the basic functions of management -- planning, staffing, organizing, directing, and controlling results. It is also essential to continue to build liaisons and become more attuned to the corporate culture.

When you are an employee, your performance is based on what you do. However, now that you have been promoted and have the responsibility of managing others, your performance is no longer about you. It is about your ability to accomplish through others. This is how you will be judged.

Managing a diverse workforce is no small task and too often great employees are promoted without any concept of the new skills set required to succeed.

Here are a few concepts that you may want to embrace:

1. Communicate for Results:

One of your primary responsibilities requires that you communicate effectively. That simply means being specific -- stay away from unnecessary words, be confident, and plain spoken. Don’t beat around the bush but don’t be overly blunt either.

A good communicator creates trust. They are clear on what is expected and provide the necessary support. They allocate responsibility to others but are ultimately accountable for the results. They have worked on gaining personal insight and realize the trap of expecting everyone to be ‘just like me’ with the same drives and aspirations. They resist making premature judgments about their people. They discipline themselves to ask appropriate questions in order to learn the context of problems and determine how best to manage.

2. Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions:

Now is the time to listen and observe. Welcome feedback, it is the breakfast of champions. Keep an open mind, things aren’t always as they seem and even your most challenging employee may have points for you to consider. Stay focused on the issues at hand and resolve to address sticky problems. Most managers dread giving feedback for less than satisfactory performance. It is important to be constructive, not destructive, to be honest and sincere. To learn more, go to How to Give Effective Feedback.

3. Build your Interpersonal Skills

Now that you’ve been promoted your relationships with your former peers will change. You are encouraged to be friendly not friends. We cannot overstate the importance of getting along with people at all levels of the organization – your direct reports and those at your level of the organization and above. Actively engage others. Focus on the positive. Anticipate what others need from you. Look for the learning experiences and volunteer for important committee work. Discover the secret of networking by “connecting” with those important to your career development. Create coalitions with people within the organization you can trust.

4. Support Change

We’ve all heard is said that in today’s business environment the only thing that is constant is change. It’s true. Some people embrace change others fear or resent it. In all change people experience a sense of loss.

You will need to embrace the positives and show how your staff can benefit from this change. Invite questions and give real, honest answers. If you don’t know, tell them you’ll do your best to find out and get back to them. You don’t need to have all the answers. What you do need to do is to support the change, not undermine it. Resist sharing any personal reservations with direct reports.

5. Think Strategically

As an employee you were expected to be tactical and handle “on the ground” problems and solutions. As a manager, you are expected to be able to take a balcony view of issues. Make it your business to find out the direction that the company is headed, its mission, its vision and how your area of responsibility fit into the strategy. Before jumping to conclusions or speaking ‘off the cuff’ do a quick SWOT analysis (strengths, weakness, opportunities, threats). Ask questions and delve beneath what is obvious. Be known as someone who wants to get the root of a problem. Then use your coalitions to look at options and leverage ideas.

6. Make a Difference

Envision yourself making a difference. Start seeing yourself rising to a new level of competence. Challenge yourself to create and define your own personal management style – determine how it is that you would like others to see you. Consider what is it you would like your direct reports and peers to say about you when you are not in the room? Will they say you are fair, hard working, trustworthy, open, honest, committed, and sincere? Your management style should reflect the values you aspire to. In other words if you are going to make a difference, you need to first see yourself in that role.

Leaders are always in training

Professional athletes understand the value of year-round training because they desire continuous improvement. Today, those who take their careers seriously are also embracing the concept continuous personal development. Personal Executive Coaching has proven long-term benefits because executives have a confidential environment in which to address areas in which they would like to improve.

As one CEO recently said, “If we expect the best from our people, then it needs to start at the top. Coaching has definitely elevated the skills of our management team from strategic integrated initiatives to improved inter-personal relationships. We are already seeing an obvious trickle down affect. Our senior people are passing the skills they have learned on down to the next level. We all agree that if we expect the best from our people then setting high expectations for ourselves is both natural and positive.

Not all Human Resource departments have budgets to support coaching, however, those dedicated to their careers are financing it themselves. If you are considering coaching and have questions or would like to find out more about our services, please feel free to drop Barb an e-mail.


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Barb McEwen is a Master Executive Coach and Organizational Strategist who works with corporations and individuals worldwide. As founder of 20/20 Executive Coaching and 20/20 Executive Women she has spent the past twelve years working with high potential individuals to help them hone their leadership and management skills. Contact Barb at