There is this natural break in the career path of each and every manager/team lead who worked their way up from a non-management position. It goes like this: You do your day-to-day work in your profession. Most probably doing an excellent job, being ambitious and then some day getting the new title: Team Lead, Head Of, Manager, Director, you name it. You might be hyped for the new job! All these new opportunities! You want to keep on doing good work! But all of a sudden: What am I doing here?!
There are a lot of articles out there speaking about this break, and that you need totally different skills depending on if you are an employee or a manager. I want to share my thoughts on my personal way on this path. I might not be entitled to share definite DOs & DON’Ts but maybe my insights might help you on your own way to leadership.
Stress and time management
Sitting my days through meetings, still having a huge backlog of work to do, looming over me. Just waiting for the meeting marathon to end or even taking a break, just to start screaming “I NEED TO BE DONE” in the back of my head.
Everyone reacts differently to stress. For me, I always noticed my breath getting shorter and my head not being able to grasp clear thoughts. As soon as I noticed my body reacting, I took some breaks and reflected. Most of the time also calling in a meeting with my mentor to talk about my feelings and the pressure. I must say I really appreciated having someone to talk to at work, who most probably went through the same issues when they changed their role.
Most of the time the breaks and measures I took had the goal of getting clarity. Not just on a task level, but on a motivational and organizational level. I made plans which gave me security. I color coded my calendar, so I knew which tasks and meetings were “leftover” from the before-management time, and which things were there to stay. I sat down and decided for each activity in the past week how I felt about it: loved, accepted, or hated it. Based on this information I could set up actions to do: Get rid of meetings, I no longer need to be a part of, optimize meetings I hate time and content wise. Becoming conscious about how much needs to be done which I hate and why.
All in all this REALLY helped me to get out of these holes, always over the course of max. one week.
Responsibility and clarity
Coming from the last topic: I told you that I tried to become more clearer and more conscious about my day-to-day work regularly. This helped me focus. This helped me to clear the path ahead. Now that I cleaned up, I wanted to keep it clean. This meant keeping up the clarity I just build — every day, all the time. So, if there was some task coming in, or responsibility to take over, I took a quick moment to close my eyes and look inside myself, on how I feel with it. I immediately shared any doubts or motivation I experienced, to prevent any damage as soon as possible.
I noticed how easy this made it to handle my tasks in a proper way now. The other thing was talking to my new employees. I noted that I did not feel confident in my first talks with people, and I think it might have come from the past weeks trying to get some clarity into my life and now sitting in a meeting with them, I was missing it a lot of times. I tried to apply what I learned: Sharing my inner ideas and position towards the people and asking how they were feeling. Most of the time this resulted in relieved laughter and us clarifying misunderstandings or creating a common ground to work up from.
So, my biggest learning here: Never assume; Share and reflect with others to grow closer together.
Passion and love
Remembering the passion I felt, doing my best work as a software engineer, I found passion in supporting others on their paths to gain experience in their profession. More important than that: I did not only find the passion, but I also made myself aware of it. This helped and still helps me to make decisions and have a reason to do my work. Especially in fields which were very new to me: Appraisal talks, financial navigation, project planning besides many others. Knowing that the business and projects need to work to have budget for people to actually have time and material to learn new things and grow, gave me a lot of motivation to even do the, for me at least, most boring tasks.
Having these strong feelings and opinions, I am really happy, that instead of only sharing love towards my passion, I now have the chance to form and build environments where this love and passion is able to be discovered and fostered. I can use my own experiences to learn to grasp the individual passions and talents of my employees, so I can make choices good for the business and good for the individuals.
Let’s put in the indicator…
…and leave self-reflection highway. I hope that some of the things I wrote today might help some of you new leaders out there. If so or even if not, I would be interested in your experiences and your mechanisms or opinions which you developed in this transition. Till then…