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Six ways to avoid being an 'accidental manager'

If you’re on the verge of being promoted into a leadership role, or you would like to be, here are a few pointers to ready you for the management world.
16 May 2019 , Rob Wall

Here at the Chartered Management Institute we have a term for people who move into a management role because they’re good at the technical job and then are left to sink or swim without training: ‘accidental managers’.

We estimate there are about 2.4 million in the UK. Management is a discipline that needs training and practice – something a lot of people realise only after they’ve become a manager.

If you’re on the verge of being promoted into a leadership role, or you would like to be, here are a few pointers to ready you for the management world.

1. Make the most of your induction
Whether it’s a formal induction or simply a grace period, you won’t get this time again, so don’t miss the opportunity. Take the time to understand how your role and your team fit into the wider organisation, and how your role supports the organisation’s aims. Make a note of it somewhere you can refer to regularly: once the day-to-day of the job gets under way it can be easy to lose sight of those aims.

2. Get your team on board
That’s often the most daunting challenge for any new manager, especially one that has been promoted over colleagues. You might be managing former friends now, in which case it’s less about you getting to know them and more about letting them get to know your aims as their manager. There’s no silver bullet for this, but honesty and integrity are key. You can achieve more when people respect and trust you.

3. Get to know your manager
Part of understanding your role in the organisation is to know what your manager expects of you. Your relationship with your own manager is as important as your relationship with your team, so find out how they work, understand your performance measures and try to ensure you have regular one-to-ones with them.

4. Don’t neglect your development
We think it’s important that good managers continually develop and refresh their skill sets. If you’re wary of managing other people, focus on what good line-management skills look like and consider what training you could do. Management affects every aspect of an organisation: it drives productivity, it motivates individuals and is a factor in their wellbeing. If you’re managing people, you can’t shy away from the fact that you need the skills to do it. If your organisation has a mentoring scheme, that could be a great help to you as a new manager.

5. Learn to delegate
This is one of the biggest challenges for new managers. But you have to do it. If you try to do your job plus the one you used to do, not only will you take on too much but you’ll also alienate your team. No one wants to be micromanaged. Planning skills are key here.

6. Be cautious in the early days
Avoid making unnecessary promises that are difficult to keep. Before you’ve found your feet, when you’re eager to show willingness and competence, it can be easy to say yes to everything. And be careful of making alliances based on first impressions. Take time to understand who does what and what people’s agendas are. This could save you a lot of trouble later on.

Rob Wall is head of policy at the Chartered Management Institute

This is adapted from an article that appeared in the May issue of EHN (login required) 

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