A Critical Transition: From Employee to Manager

Written by Don Phin, Esq. | Aug 20, 2019

Blog Image_Transition Employee to Manager

Perhaps no one is more important to the success of an organization than its frontline managers. Unfortunately, many employers do not have a formalized process for this critical transition. Use this report as a checklist to help you get it right.

  1. Don't assume that the person really wants the job – Studies show that more than half of all employees do not want their boss's job. Why should they? Very often times they will find themselves going from a 40 to 50 hour workweek without a 20% increase in their income. Other employees do not have the self-confidence necessary to fill the job. Always start up by asking, and not assuming, if someone would be interested in the promotion.
  2. Good technical skills do not equate into good managerial ones – Most companies take their best contributor and turn them into a manager, making the dangerous assumption that this is some kind of natural progression. Other companies will do the same thing based simply on one's longevity. Fact is, technical skills and longevity seldom equate with managerial competence. Managerial skills require competencies all their own. Given our organization, we should define what these competencies would be and then test and assess for them. These competencies can be designed by our leadership team and/or by profiling the best of our existing managers.
  3. Define how their performance will be assessed – See if you can answer this question: How would the manager know they were doing a good job without having to ask or be told? What type of feedback and benchmarks will they be given related to their performance? How will they be ranked and rated verses other managers? Will they be getting 360 reviews from subordinates?
  4. What will we do if they don't succeed? The time to have this conversation is before the promotion. Fact is, half of your managers are above average and half are below average. How do you handle poor performing managers? Do you demote them and cut their pay? Do you outsource them? Do you search out other alternatives through mutual agreement? The way to avoid ill-willed feelings is to have this conversation up-front.
  5. Help them understand they are responsible to their employees and not for their employees – New managers will often have their time gobbled up by "got-a-minutes". Because of their technical expertise, they will find themselves doing the job of their subordinates. It is akin to throwing them fish instead of showing them how to fish. Help the new manager to understand that the only job they should be doing is theirs. Help them to understand how to deal with employees who are constantly asking for assistance.
  6. Help them to understand the distinction between being a "buddy" and a "manager" - One of the most difficult things for a manger to do is to confront a former peer. The old "Oh, now you think you can tell me what to do because you are my manager – and I knew you when you were just one of us!" problem. Clarify the guidelines in this area. Perhaps your company doesn't want them going out with former co-workers anymore. Perhaps there is a place to go when they are having difficulty enforcing.
  7. Assign a mentor – There is nothing like being able to speak to somebody who has been there and done that. They don't even have to be from the same department. Just someone who checks in on them on a periodic basis and allows them the opportunity to openly discuss their concerns. See the White Paper on Executive Coaching.
  8. Train them – Education is the greatest form of leverage. The greatest method for reducing the propensity of a manger to make mistakes is through education and training. A combination of in-house and outside training is best. Consider many of the HR That Works Training Modules.
  9. Have them join the American Management Association – Make sure they read about management. Attend functions with other managers. (www.amanet.org)
  10. Do it one step at a time – Becoming a great manager does not have to happen all at once. Sometimes we think that promoting someone into management is an all-or-nothing proposition. Fact is, we can make them a lead on a project, put them in charge of a training session, assign them to contribute at a community charity event, and so on. See how well they do on these projects; find out what they have learned and what they could have done better.
  11. Reward and reinforce good managerial conduct – Nurture your good managers and reward their good conduct. Don't take it for granted.
  12. Teach them to dress and act the part – When you give them a promotion also give them $500 to go out and improve their wardrobe. Also share with them that profanity, off-colored jokes, stereotyping and similar conduct are a thing of the past.
  13. See if they any previous leadership experience – Whether it is being a senior patrol leader in the Boy Scouts, the head of the church choir or lead on a fundraising drive, where have they been in leadership positions in the past? What did they observe and learn from such experiences?
  14. Don't give them more than seven people to manage – As we stated in the White Paper Building Teams, it is very hard to manage the performance of more than seven people at a guidelines with former co-workers. Since you won't be there to police every situation, values and guidelines can be the guiding light they need.

About the Author

Don Phin

Don Phin, Esq. has been a California employment practices attorney since 1983. He litigated employment and business cases for 17 years and quit once he figured out that nobody wins a lawsuit. Since leaving litigation, he has written numerous books and presented more than 500 times to executives nation-wide. Don was the founder and President of HR That Works, used by 3,500 companies and acquired by ThinkHR in January of 2014. Now in his “wisdom sharing years,” Don loves coaching executives and investigates challenging workplace problems. He continues to inspire with his speaking and training.


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