For many of us, after toiling in the trenches for years, aspiring to move up and into Management is a natural progression; in fact, we all probably know of the coworker who would say “what took you guys so long to promote me?” That, however, is a topic for another day.
Technology contractors generally benefit from being independent, but they are more often than not working as part of a bigger team. At some point or another, you may find yourself at the head of that team and managing a group of contractors or your client’s full-time employees. While such responsibilities tend to come with higher rates and valuable experience for a resume, it isn’t always sunshine and roses.
No matter the field, most professionals are thrilled with their first opportunity to manage people, but may be painfully unaware how their new job will change so drastically. When one goes from doing whatever it is you have become so adept at — programming, sales, accounting — to assuring others or a team of your peers accomplish what you may have seemingly mastered, well… now the “fun” begins.
Many organizations make the assumption and sometimes serious mistake that the star developer is the next Team Lead or Project Manager, but often that path is not natural. The business world needs look no further than the sports community. In sports, it is widely accepted that the star or legendary athletes very often do not make good coaches. Wayne Gretzky holds every NHL record there is and many that will likely never be broken, but suffered a post-playing career to a very unimpressive sub 500 record while coaching.
There are likely many reasons why the “star athletes”, who often have an extraordinary skill set at doing what they do alone (ex. sales, healthcare, programming), are abject failures in driving others to excel and accomplish the way they did. We can reasonably ask why those who are so accomplished inherently fail in the ability to coach, motivate, develop and truly lead others on a Team. Is it that different from managing oneself? The short answer is yes.
Star performers have an intense focus and ability to perform and accomplish at the highest level. They control their single most important resource — themselves. A Manager or Coach, on the other hand, must prioritize, multi task, coordinate and motivate a multitude of others, often like a Symphony Conductor and his orchestra with the hope the end result is sweet music. First time Managers will often struggle with this lack of “control” and will mistakenly try to do the job themselves, reverting back to their “me” instincts or micro-manage their way to success. Their new job, though, is a “we” job that requires an entirely different skill set to manage a team of people. An ability to delegate and empower others is not natural to the recently promoted “star”.
While we know the micro-manage scenario is a morale killer that often diminishes productivity on teams, it is a leap for many new managers to understand how important communication is to a Team. They may know what to do inherently but are poor at communicating that skill or ability. New managers or Team Leads will need time to acquire these skills and in the interim will likely need a ton of resiliency and perhaps a thicker skin as they take on the added responsibilities of other people’s actions.