If I knew then what I know now…

While preparing for the arrival of our first child, we couldn’t get our hands on enough literature. There was this onset of anxiety around this new and daunting set of responsibilities. I had pretty much faked it up until that point – made it up as I went along. I was smart enough to realize, though, that I wouldn’t be able to fake it any longer so I read and talked to other parents…and bit my nails. As I look back on that time (with two kids now in tow), it turns out it was a cake walk: make sure they eat, that they get enough sleep, that they are dry and clean, and that they get a lot of stimulation. That’s about it. It also turns out nothing we read prepared us for what is obviously the more challenging part of parenting: when your kids get a mind of their very own. Holy smokes! Sure, there are a lot of books out there on raising the adolescent. But does anyone with adolescents really have time to read?

There are a number of places during the career lifecycle when we ask our employees to take on new and daunting responsibilities. Most of the time that comes with some more money, maybe a better piece of office real estate. We might even throw a little training at it. But more often than not, we take the stance that these are big boys and girls, they’ve made it this far, and they should be able to figure it out just fine on their own. And they probably will…eventually. But they will likely do so less productively. Take a first time promotion to manager, for instance. Here’s someone who has earned their career advancement through hard work, perseverance, and subject matter expertise. They probably built the right relationships along the way, said all the right things. And then we ask them to do something they’ve never done before – lead people. Maybe they have the dna and they’ll be naturals. But chances are they don’t and they won’t.  It will be awkward, mistakes will be made, balls dropped, and toes stepped on. They might even alienate a few employees along the way. In fact, they might even get themselves into trouble; I’ve watched a number of employees fail because they were moved too quickly into positions they weren’t ready for.

There are a ton of books out there on managing and leading. I haven’t seen many, though, that focus on the nuances that come with a that first-time transition from subordinate to supervisor. Kevin Eikenberry and Guy Harris recently released one that tackles this very challenge – “From Bud to Boss.” I pick up a lot of business books and after a while they all start to read the same. Despite having been in a leadership role for some 13 years now, I actually found myself really enjoying this one. I can’t say I learned a whole lot that I didn’t know, but I very quickly realized how pertinent it might be to a new manager. And as the book aptly points out, “adults don’t need to be taught so much as they need to be reminded.” But here’s what I really love about the book: it’s organized in a way that allows one to get to the salient points quickly (“Remarkable Principles”) and it reinforces those points with a methodical process (“Now Steps”) that one could use to make almost any transition or personal change more effective.

  • “The skills of interacting with people are a bigger portion of your leadership responsibility than is your personal ability to accomplish tasks.”
  • “Focusing on others will give you more influence and power than focusing on yourself.”
  • “No change will occur if people are happy with the way things are now.”
  • “Your desire to listen is at least as important as, if not more important than, your listening skills.”
  • “You can facilitate a conflict resolution process for others. You cannot resolve conflicts for others.”
  • “Effective performance reviews must be focused on performance, not on forms.”
  • “The single biggest reasons to set goals is that they improve your chances for success.”

I’m all about sound bytes and Kevin and Guy pepper their book with pithy nuggets like this throughout. It really makes skimming – and referencing – the book much more meaningful. I would recommend* you pick it up and see if there’s a place for it in your organization – give it to all your new managers, for instance. In the meantime, I’m going to keep it on my desk because I know I need a lot of reminding.

*I am not affiliated with Kevin Eikenberry or Guy Harris in any way nor do I stand to gain from having made this recommendation. It is made purely in the spirit of knowledge sharing.

Image Credit: Amazon

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