Worried about making mistakes as you move from coworker to leader? Chances are good that you already have many of the tools you need to be a good manager, but the transition can be daunting. We’ve put together a handful of tips to help guide you through the process.
1 – Trust your abilities.
Why: Your project management expertise will see you through sticky patches, so don’t waste time second-guessing yourself. You really do know what you’re doing.
How: Leadership takes time to master, but remember that you aren’t starting from zero. Focus on moving your project forward—your experience will kick in. For the management aspect of things, consider finding a trusted mentor to help.
2 – Solicit input.
Why: Your fellow team members are still the same experienced, knowledgeable folks they’ve always been, and there’s no reason for you to suddenly solve problems in a vacuum. Tackling tough issues as a group leverages the team’s strengths.
How: Ask for suggestions on addressing resource issues, improving efficiency, and dealing with other glitches that may crop up. Create both group and individual forums where members can feel comfortable offering their expertise.
3 – Be direct.
Why: Whether you have praise, feedback, or concerns, it’s critical that you be clear and direct with your team members. Ensuring they understand what you need and expect is one of your primary jobs, and providing them with unambiguous communication is the foundation.
How: Offer clear direction, along with an opportunity for the employee to ask questions, share their perspective, and even disagree. Be mindful to gather all the details, and keep sensitive conversations private.
4 – Support your team.
Why: Some teams have a lame-duck boss and some have a supportive boss—which one do you want to be now that you’re leading the team? A significant part of leadership is helping your team succeed, and to do that you need to ensure they have what they need to accomplish their objectives.
How: Ask them what’s standing in their way, and make it your mission to remove those hurdles. Whether it’s pushback on budget requests, cumbersome paperwork, or a lack of cooperation from a key supplier, it’s your job to figure out how to get rid of roadblocks and help your team do their jobs.
5 – Be willing to be tough.
Why: Every team needs some course correction now and then, and sometimes it’s necessary to get tough in order to get things back on track. Project professionals are usually high achievers with excellent judgment, but most will need a little coaching on occasion.
How: Tell it like it is. If tasks aren’t being done the right way or at the right time, then you need to stand up and make your expectations for change known. Listen to the team’s feedback and reasoning—and be prepared to compromise if it’s the right answer—but be ready to stand your ground if needed. The team’s success reflects well on you, just like any failure to achieve objectives will certainly knock points off.
6 – Don’t dread performance evaluations.
Why: If managed correctly, evaluations offer a perfect opportunity for team members and leaders to openly and candidly discuss past performance while jointly creating a plan for increased success in the future.
How: Identify each team member’s strengths, and develop a plan to leverage those strengths in the next year’s objectives—you’ll be setting individual employees and your team up for greater future success. For areas where the employee needs to boost their skills or expertise, work with them on ways to support their growth, including ongoing education or a mentoring program.