You got to this point because you were good at your work, but now you will have to let the details of the work go. Your job now is to grow and position your organization so that others can perform the work in a way that positively impacts the bottom line.
There are many mistakes that new leaders make, but the biggest is refusing to operate at a higher level and spending too much time personally attending to their prior tasks. In this, they limit their contributions as a leader and fail to grow the people on their team.
Patty Azzarello, a Silicon Valley management consultant and the author of Rise: 3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, and Liking Your Life, calls this phenomenon missing the “level transition” and claims that it leads to the following management problems:
- Leaders compete with subordinates about who is smarter
- Leaders torture their teams for inappropriate amounts of detail
- Leaders fail to hire smart people beneath them because they feel threatened
- Leaders fail to develop team capacity to do more
So if you’re no longer supposed to do the work that you’re good at, what should you be doing? Ms. Azzarello suggests working on the business instead of in the business and spending more time thinking and less time doing. This includes:
- Building a plan to drive the overall strategy for your team and its role in the business
- Tuning everyone’s workload so that your team delivers on the most important priorities
- Ensuring that there is alignment of your team, peers and managers
- Assessing your organization’s fitness for what it needs to do, and making changes, training, and/or upgrading talent where necessary
- Creating systems and frameworks to execute, track, and measuring the work so that you feel comfortable that you know what’s getting done without getting mired in specifics
- Supporting your team members in becoming better leaders themselves by promoting continuous learning
- Finding ways to steadily reduce the cost of things you do every year to make room for new approaches
- Improving communication and relationships inside and outside your direct organization
- Making connections outside your direct organization to generate positive visibility for your team and create a broader base of support
- Finding senior-level mentors who can advise you on how to raise your focus
Hopefully, if you’ve made the transition to management already, you’ve realized that you enjoy this work, maybe even more than what you were doing before. But if you are still in discussions to advance to the next level, it is worth considering whether or not this is how you want to spend your days.
There is nothing wrong with remaining an individual contributor, and if you truly love what you do, who is to say that you have to advance up and out of it? The desire to rise to the upper echelon of an organization is a matter of preference, so give it some serious thought and don’t allow others to sway you to their point of view.
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