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For those who aspire to lead teams, becoming a manager for the first time is an exhilarating step. It indicates that your talent as an individual contributor has been recognised and that your employer believes in your potential. It is also a step toward more influence, more autonomy, more prestige, and more pay.
Yet, as the first day in your new role approaches, exhilaration can morph into apprehension — or worse, anxiety.
The Challenges of Becoming a Manager
Consider the following examples of Eddy and Jessie (names have been changed):
Eddy has been a member of a team of five salespersons for the past two years. He has enjoyed working with his colleagues, all of whom have become his friends. His hard work has been rewarded, and he has been asked to replace the existing team leader who is to head the regional sales department.
Jessie’s story is also grounded in excellent work as a functional talent. After a few years in her current position, she has been promoted to lead a team of three professionals of another division. Her new team has been working with their current manager for six years, and all team members have a close, smooth, working relationship with her.
Eddy and Jessie are a few of the real examples that I have encountered in my coaching practice where a young professional is stepping up to the role of a manager.
Both Eddy and Jessie, like most young professionals, have the potential to navigate this transition successfully. Yet, they are likely to encounter turbulence on their journey toward ease and comfort in their new role. And who wouldn’t?
Entering such a new paradigm is likely to trigger questions, doubts, strong emotions, and high-level stress. Eddy, for example, asks himself: How am I going to relate to my friends on my team now that I am their manager? How will they receive my guidance? Will they take me seriously? As for Jessie, she is nervous about finding her place in a close-knit team of experienced professionals while adding value as their manager.
As first time managers, both enter a new landscape where many elements are redefined, including the:
scope of their work, e.g., giving guidance to their team members
type of behaviour expected of them
number and type of stakeholders
level of political savviness
Questioning oneself and feeling overwhelmed are common and normal reactions as one becomes a first-time manager and steps out of one’s comfort zone. However, a high stress level compromises one’s ability to think creatively, solve problems, and make rational decisions. In a professional context, these consequences can disrupt smooth and efficient operations.
Of course, it is the role of Eddy’s and Jessie’s managers to help them successfully manoeuvre through this transition. Yet, they might not be aware of the difficulties that their subordinates may be facing, or they might not make enough time to guide them. Even if they are supportive and available during the transition, both Eddy and Jessie might not be comfortable sharing their discomfort or anxiety with their own managers. This is especially the case in an Asian context where keeping face is critical.
Coaching Can Support the Transition
In these cases, coaching can help the newly appointed manager and benefit his or her organisation. Below are some examples of how coaching can support a career transition to a managerial position.
offers a safe space where the newly appointed manager can express her concerns and provide an outlet for her emotions
helps the coachee adopt a more empowering perspective on his situation, thereby shifting the negative emotional response to a more positive one during the transition
allows a coachee to regain awareness of her own resources and creativity, and find adequate solutions to her situation
offers full support and encouragement to the coachee
The benefits of coaching extend beyond the transition period. By providing new tools to coachees, coaching can help them be more resilient and better equipped to face their career’s future challenges.