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8 Things I Wish I’d Known In My First Management Job

8 Things I Wish I’d Known In My First Management Job

Having started out my career as a building site engineer, then a software programmer, all I really wanted was to become a manager. Managers have status. Managers get big pay packages with company cars. I took some time off, and enrolled onto an MBA. The MBA was intellectually stimulating and full of fascinating case studies about how supreme managers had steered their organisations to fabulous success. So I applied for, and got my first management job working for a large pharmaceutical company.

It was not a complete success.

Here are some of things I wish I’d known before starting that first management job.

1. Theory isn’t the same as practice

My MBA taught me a cartload of theoretical techniques for managing people, most of which turned out to be a load of rubbish when I tried to implement them! It’s one of the reasons that people with MBA’s have a bad reputation in some quarters. I think my team were really confused by all the theory I tried out on them. One or two ideas worked well, and I still use them today.

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I learned to be a bit more skeptical and a bit more selective about which theories I should use, and I learned to discuss my ideas with someone else in the team before trying them out.

2. Don’t pretend to know more than you actually do

If you do this, the team will smell a rat very quickly. They will also lose any respect for what you DO know because they can never be confident that you actually know anything really. While you your bosses clearly think highly of your potential as a manager, it is unlikely that they will expect you to know everything immediately. Even if you suddenly realize several weeks into the job that you don’t understand something, don’t soldier on if help is available. Don’t feel bad about asking questions, especially at the beginning. Nothing will sound too silly, and the relief of knowing the correct answer will be enormous.

It’s a funny thing, but I learned that your team will respect you more for being human and asking for their help, than they will for lying to them about what you don’t know.

3. Delegate but don’t abdicate

Another mistake I made, was to try to do everything myself. I was used to being the expert, and found it hard to take a step back. I forgot that I was now the manager and my role was to guide the members of my team into learning how to do things themselves. I soon found myself working nights and weekends, because I didn’t empower my team and delegate work to them. But when I tried to give them chunks of work, I couldn’t understand why it didn’t get done.

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I learned that delegating will give your life back, but only if you train, inform and support your team members – not just dump tasks on them. Think ‘trust but verify’.

4. Focus on the outcomes, not on the process

One reason I didn’t delegate well is that I expected everyone to do thing the way I would do them. Well they didn’t. Sometimes they did it differently, sometimes they did it better and sometimes worse. I learned to focus on the outcomes and just give support to anyone who is clearly struggling. Otherwise, leave them alone. I always hated being micro managed and, guess what, so does everyone else.

5. Think like a facilitator

Although I had an excellent team, who were well trained and experienced, I didn’t take the time to get to know everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. I forgot that my job was to facilitate them to deliver the goods according to their abilities. In these modern times, teams are increasingly made up of well-trained and experienced individuals.  As a new manager, your role is to facilitate overall goal achievement, not to tell the team how they should do every task.

6. The buck stops on your desk

When I was an expert, I always knew that my boss was there to catch any problems in the rest of team. I somehow forgot that as a manager, I now had responsibility for the whole team. If they didn’t get it right, it wasn’t just their responsibility, it was now mine too.

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As a manager this means that you have to be aware of the problems, and make sure someone takes responsibility for resolving it. Ensure they have the necessary resources to resolve the problem, trust them but don’t forget to follow up. A good way to do this is to walk around your workplace and ask open questions of your team.

7. Say No sometimes

On the other hand, don’t feel you have to bend over backwards in solving everyone’s problems for them. If you do, you will soon have a desk full of ‘sick monkeys’ – problems your team has delegated to you! If you are conscientious, this will probably be difficult.

But I found that a team will learn better if they at least try and identify some possible solutions to the problem first.

8. Share your plan

I like planning. You decide on a goal and then determine a series of steps necessary to get there. My boss usually gave me my goal, but if not, I would ask him for one. If you’re familiar with project management, you’ll know that the best plans have milestones. Milestones are markers and measures of progress on your plan e.g. all outstanding customers queries now answered within 2 days, 2 new customers on board this month, team training plans agreed etc.

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I actually did all this. But I forgot that my team needed to contribute to the plan and understand what their role is delivering the plan was.

I like that think I eventually got better at managing people. At least other people tell me I did! But coming from an intensely technical role, where I was the expert, it was a complete culture change to having to manage other people. By sharing the mistakes I made in my first management job, I hope to spare you the pain of making the same mistakes.

Featured photo credit: business men/Markus Spiske via imcreator.com

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Published on January 7, 2021

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.

If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.

Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off

You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.

When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.

Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.

In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.

Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.

3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented

Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:

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  1. Respect deadlines
  2. Understand the work-flow plan
  3. Build in time to mess up

1. Respect Deadlines

Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.

One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.

2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan

Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.

3. Build in Time to Mess Up

You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.

Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.

For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.

Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?

This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.

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Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.

Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.

Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.

When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.

12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail

Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.

1. Learn to Listen Well

You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.

2. Pay Attention to Social Cues

Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.[1]

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3. Follow Rules

Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.

4. Take Notes

Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.

5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now

When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.

As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.

6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work

If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.

7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well

English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.

8. Proofread Before You Hit Send

Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.

9. Minimize Distractions

It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.

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If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.

10. Take Breaks

It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.

11. Make Time for Reflection

At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?

12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List

This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.

Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.

Final Thoughts

Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.

When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.

More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail

Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

Reference

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