By Boris Joaquin
Transitioning into a new role can be a bit of a challenge. Tons of adjustments have to be made as you take on a new title, especially if you are young or see yourself lacking in skills and unsure of what you should expect about what lies ahead.
The same can be said about a new manager. More often than not, new managers assume their new roles without fully understanding what they are embarking on and what is required of them: a change of mindset complemented by an advance set of skills. What companies have then are managers who lack confidence and are hesitant to assert their leadership.
This is the very reason why I designed a leadership workshop entitled
Moving Into Management: From Managing Tasks to Managing Others. We have been running this learning event for the last three years. The next one will happen this February 23 at the Discovery Suites, Ortigas. My objective is to help new managers understand and embrace the responsibilities that come with their new role and equip them with the skills they need to fulfill what is expected of them. This seminar will help them smoothly transition from managing tasks and to managing people.
This program is closest to my reality since I was employed, spanning almost two decades of my career life. Having become a manager at age 24 and a top-level executive at 28 in a career that brought me to various industries of different business sizes, both multinational and locally owned (advertising, consumer goods, printing/publishing, fragrances, NGO, digital marketing, telecommunications, BPO and business solutions), I believe that I am seasoned enough in the management arena to share insights and give input to those who have recently been promoted into a management role.
A big transition for me was when my partners and I started Breakthrough Leadership® Management Consultancy, Inc. by the time I turned 40 — where I serve as President and CEO — providing coaching, consultancy and learning events to both SMEs and multinationals as well.
The transition from employment to entrepreneurship was daunting for me. (This actually requires a separate article altogether.) Being a top manager was already quite intimidating for me, how much more being a CEO! I thought that I was too young to handle such a “make it or break it” role.
But eventually I realized that I am in good company since the world has begun embracing a new generation of 40-and-under CEOs. In recent decades, the global arena grew accustomed to fresher faces, trailblazed by such young visionaries as Apple’s Steve Jobs and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg – strong evidences that today’s young managers and entrepreneurs can scale the corporate ladder, too.
Allow me to give five strategic tips for anyone stepping on the first rung of the management ladder – those who may have recently taken up the post or are about to do so. You may have been promoted for your abundant technical experience and expertise but still need to gain confidence and skills in managing people, particularly on the crucial people skills you need to supervise and motivate your team.
Be passionate. Act on your purpose. CEO or not, at any given age, you need to have passion for the job. Do what you love and you’ll love what you do. That’s the bottom line. Do something that you really love doing. If you’re not doing something that you really like, you’re not going to be that successful at it. The best CEOs grow into the position because they followed what excited them, not because they set out to become CEOs.
People may shut you off because you are young. But your passion will spur people into action. It’s almost a prerequisite for any manager or leader to be purpose-driven. If you give your people a sense of purpose, an answer to their “why” question, eventually you will gain their respect. For those you have moved into action, the motivation to act will be deeply personal. This will have little to do with incentives or benefits to be gained.
In February 2013, several Filipino leaders under the age of 40 were recognized by the US-based Development Executive Group (Devex) as “Manila’s 40 under 40.” Among the awardees were TESDA Director General Joel Villanueva, Valenzuela Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian, Sarangani Governor Miguel Rene Dominguez, Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, Anna Oposa, founder of the Save Philippine Seas Foundation and actor Dingdong Dantes, founder of the education NGO YesPinoy Foundation. This mix of young leaders in government, international aid agencies, media, civil society and the nongovernment sector all had one thing in common: passion. They worked on what they were passionate about.
Set an example in hard work and dedication. I witness a lot of newly promoted managers relaxing on the job — thinking that this is their ticket to going to the office late, sneaking time-outs here and there, seemingly delegating tasks when they are actually abdicating their posts.
With promotion comes more responsibilities! The most successful people I know start early in their work and stay late for their people. Like having children, the job is worth any sleepless night — from the incubation period to that big launch; from daytime meetings to video conferencing with another in a different time zone; from walking the hallways to traveling abroad; from brainstorming sessions to day-to-day operations – it’s a 24/7 commitment.
“I have to say I really love it,” says Michael Chasen, 35-year-old head of school software developer Blackboard. “I thrive on the fast pace and excitement in running a fast-growth, successful company.” One advantage that young top executives or managers may have is energy: they can be dynamic in their role and leadership.
Make calculated risks. People who become CEOs at a young age are increasingly unafraid to take risks. Peter Cappelli, a management professor at Wharton School said, “Young CEOs are willing to look for opportunities to stand out.” It’s okay to take risks. In fact, I think being a risk taker and game changer is one of the key identifiers of candidates for success.
American football coach Cal Stoll said, “Success is uncommon, therefore not to be enjoyed by the common man.” If we pursue safety instead of taking risks, we will not distinguish ourselves as being a cut above the rest.
But let me warn that bigger risk may have unwanted consequences. Some of the worst corporate failures throughout history were brought about by unwarranted risks taken by young executives. When making decisions, I subscribe still to my values. It’s progressive and admirable to take risks, but our values should serve as guideposts as we navigate through our management and marketing routes.
A dose of experience is still what you need. Pursue a broad range of career experiences that will help you earn merits. “Look for diversity of experiences, because to be a person in management you need to be able to understand and set strategy for every facet of the business,” says Jonathan Huberman, CEO of Zip-disk storage, following stints in technology, management consulting, venture capital, and hedge funds.
It’s never easy to be a top manager, and for those who are young, it can be even more challenging. Again, it’s like having children. When we had our eldest, we were first-time parents who did not know what we were doing. There were things we wished we had done differently. But when our second child came, we knew better. She was a recipient of better baby care. It does not hurt to have previous management experience. But if you don’t, you need to gain everything through immersion.
Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know something. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to tell the most senior person in your team, “Teach me”. You have to ask for things to be successful—a lesson that executives in my generation hear a few more times throughout our careers. Ask and it shall be given to you.
More importantly, improve your people skills. Today’s young top managers are likely to have a better understanding of technology and globalization than did the luminous leaders of past decades. But their biggest challenge is the part where they lead and manage people. We at Breakthrough Leadership® believe that it takes a while for even really smart young CEOs to understand that it’s people first, and strategy or results second. People skills are gained from practice, experience and mistakes, and I don’t think there’s a shortcut.
For starters, you may want to attend our Moving Into Management: From Managing Tasks to Managing Others on February 23, 2016 at Discovery Suites, Ortigas. You may call us at 813-2703/32, look for Juliet for more information.
Here’s what can you expect from this workshop: The seminar features some whole group sessions, but the emphasis is on practical exercises in groups, pairs, and on your own. The workshop also offers many opportunities to work on your real-life management problems in a supportive and totally confidential environment. We will work on the group members’ own issues, as well as prepared case studies in a confidential and supportive setting.
During this one-day seminar, we will cover:
- The manager’s role: key management responsibilities
- Leadership and management
- Planning ahead: principles, tools and strategies
- Motivating and managing individuals
- Performance management systems: induction, appraisal and supervision
- Offering effective and appropriate feedback
- The art of delegation
- Leading your team
- Management and leadership styles
- Good communications: verbal and non-verbal messages
- The importance of good listening skills
- Managing with assertiveness
- Time management
- Your current management issues and difficulties