When I first became a manager, one thing that was extremely difficult for me to get used to was delegation. When an employee gets promoted to manager, and even after they realize they now have a different and distinct role, it can be hard to let go of the day-to-day work.
Why? In many cases, the person who gets promoted to a leadership or a manager position is someone who is an awesome individual contributor. To be an awesome IC, you need to be very good at getting stuff done.
But as a leader or a manager, you need to focus on asking other people to get stuff done.
You need to make sure your team is working on the right stuff to achieve desired outcomes. As a manager, you can’t do the work of other ICs – it no longer in your job description.
This is counter-intuitive and crazy hard because it is the polar opposite of what awesome ICs know so well.
Speaking from experience, when a leader does the work of an IC it can be very demotivating and become counterproductive. On the other hand, when a manager delegates the work and trusts individuals to get the job done it can be very motivating.
As a leader, you should remember that it is far better for you to focus on figuring out what your ICs should do (and why), and let the ICs figure out how to get the job done (and then, do it).
I first started managing people when I was 26. Four years later, I was managing a team of 30 developers. On paper, I was fantastically successful; in reality I should have fired myself.
At the time, I thought that in order to lead a team of awesome developers, I had to be an even more awesome developer. I worked frantically to write more code than anyone else not realizing that I accepted a new job the moment I was promoted – and writing code wasn’t it.
It’s something that almost all new managers forget. Being a manager isn’t a glorified version of your old job: it’s a brand new and completely different role. It requires a different skill set and attitude. As a manager, your responsibility is to ensure your team works on the right things at the right pace to deliver the right outcomes.
In my 30s, without any management or leadership training under my belt, I didn’t have a clue how to direct such a sizeable team. As a newbie manager I made mistakes and added further complexity to an already chaotic organization. It was only years later when I truly realized how my lack of leadership contributed to the chaos. I still cringe thinking about it.
I’m not proud of those mistakes, but I learned a lot from them. My biggest takeaway was that being a manager isn’t about rolling up your sleeves and working alongside your team (although there are times when this matters); it’s about understanding where your organization wants to go and deploying your team and resources to get you there.
If you’re a new manager who’s still doing the same work as before, step back and delegate. And, congratulations on your new job.