Transition from staff to management takes planning, patience and skill

Congratulations — you’ve just been promoted to manager. You’ll be earning more and making important decisions. Are you ready?
For new managers, preparation is the key to making the move from “worker” to “facilitator.”

“It’s never too early to prepare for this change,” says Deborah Spencer of the Canadian Management Centre (CMC). “In today’s corporate environment, greater opportunities are opening up for the employee at every level to demonstrate their leadership and, potentially, to move into a managerial role.”

Explains Spencer: “When you accept your first management position, you are effectively changing careers. In order to deal with the tasks and challenges that come along with this change, new managers need to acquire a variety of skills to help them build credibility with staff, management colleagues and the senior people they now report to.”

The important thing to remember is that a first management role will involve a period of transition. “The transition begins with an ending and a process of letting go, primarily of friendships with former colleagues — at least, as they once were,” says Spencer. This is usually followed by a period of uncertainty in which you need to reorient and redefine who you are and what you want to become.

The third and final step in the transition — a new beginning — is only possible after taking the first two steps. “Not acknowledging these steps, or trying to skip over them, can be harmful to you and to the organization,” she says.

To help facilitate the move toward management, remember the following:
Allow yourself a period of transition: It’s unreasonable to move from the old to the new in one quick step — begin with simple, short-term goals and don’t try to change everything at once, or you and your staff will become overwhelmed. Be prepared to communicate openly with staff, including former co-workers who may have wanted your new job.

Set achievement goals: One of the greatest challenges new managers face is attaining a sense of accomplishment, since so much time is spent getting things done through other people on the team, and aiding them in their own accomplishments. Generate a list of goals and present it to your boss for discussion. Ask yourself: What goals would I like to accomplish over the next three months, six months? What information and skills do I need before I can move forward with these goals? What steps can I take to get the information and the skills I need? The answers to these questions form the basis of an action plan.

Establish credibility and presence in the new role: People will not automatically listen because you are in charge. Respect and credibility must be earned, which will come in large part from the ability to communicate, make decisions and solve problems.

When working from an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, as well as a perception of how others see you, you can begin to build a solid foundation of credibility with staff, the boss and colleagues.

Dedicate time to professional development: In addition to reading management magazines and books for guidance, and to keep on top of new management philosophies, invest in some formal training. Taking a course provides focused time to learn new skills and create an action plan, as well as an opportunity to interact with peers facing many of the same issues.

With time, patience and commitment to acquiring the requisite skills, the transition to manager will be complete. Of course there will still be challenges ahead, but you should be ready to face them head on. This isn’t the end of the road, but the beginning of another, the next level of professional success.

Diane Kelk is with the CMC. For more information, call 1-800-262-9699 or visit

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