The transition from individual contributor to first-line manager is brutal. 

In my Enterprise world, it was considered the toughest job on the career track. Performance wasn’t just about my statistics and what I could control. It was about how others’ performance contributed to (or detracted from) the performance of our store. Did my recipe for personal performance – work ethic, communication skills, willingness to learn and adapt – even apply in this new role?

The short answer: yes! 

The longer answer: yes… and… I needed to rethink proportions and approach. 

As an individual contributor I spent a lot of time watching my numbers… looking at my assigned duties… and how I measured up against my peers. As a newly minted manager my focus had to shift from me to we.  

The proportion of time I spent on me was less important than the time I spent on my teammates. 

For my immediate team, who was performing well and how could that person help others up their game? For the team beyond my four walls, which neighboring branches would share resources and trust me to return the favor when they needed help? 

Communication took on a new flavor as well. I had to learn to communicate consistently. Building trust with my team and those in other branches couldn’t happen if I kept changing my story… moving expectations without sharing why… and failing to follow through on doing what I said I would do.  

I had to learn and adapt. I needed to shift my focus from dealing with individual customers… to… what philosophies are foundational, how do I set those consistent expectations, and what exactly was the “big picture” I was driving toward.

In my Boeing world the term we used was “influence.” How do I lead through influencing leadership, peers, and my team so we could accomplish something. Influencing is sales. I can feel some of you cringing right now but you need to know that irrespective of your field or speciality, you will always be selling if you have ambitions for management or leadership roles. (Yup…if you thought “sales” was something you could avoid be ready to #getoverit)!

So what’s next? 

I suggest stepping back and critically noting all the people you need to complete a project or task. 

How do you get them on board with your idea? 

What do you to keep them and others on task? 

Who exactly do you influence and how do you tailor your approaches to make the most of your time with them?

In a separate post, we can talk more about the underlying element of trust that comes with being an influencer or an effective leader beyond four walls. 

Until then, share your thoughts / insights / or questions in the comments below so we can continue this conversation and learn from each other.

2 thoughts on “Managing Beyond Four Walls

  1. Melody Signater

    Good points. If I can point out something else I’ve recently learned through my own personal transition- and that is transparency. I believe without it there will be no buy in, no sell and no trust. A team will respect a leader who is able to be honest with the good and the bad. No one has time for fluff…cut to the chase of the matter and figure out as a team how to work it out.

    1. mbarizo

      Absolutely! Transparency … a bias toward action … a willingness to try and fail/learn – all components I believe are essential in someone’s leadership recipe. It takes time for some to learn while for others it seems natural. Either way, something to learn and build on. Any #3nomorethan5 tips for how you built your transparency skills?

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