10 Things Higher Education Doesn’t Teach You about Being a Manager

There is more to being a leader or managing a team than what you “thought” you knew. Follow along as  the most impactful leadership and management lessons learned by many along the way are described. Hopefully, they will help you transition into a leadership and management role in a more authentic way.

  1. It is impossible to know it all. You don’t have to know all the answers because that is not your job. As a manager, it’s your job to guide your team on how to come up with solutions and provide them with the support and resources they need when they run into a jam. If you don’t have the answer, be the one who can point them in the right direction. That will get you more credibility than pretending to know something when you really don’t.
  2. You need guts, grits, and technique if you want to enable change. There is a certain level of risk in store if you want to challenge the status quo as a new leader. Do yourself a favor and make changes slowly with a well thought out plan. Understand the business landscape, assess the personalities involved, and align change with what the business wants not with what “you think” they need. Without this, it will be hard for you to gain change supporters and adopters.
  3. You are the leader and you are there to serve people. Sitting behind your desk may get some work done but it doesn’t boost your overall leader credibility. People want to see you and talk to you. Even if you are an introvert, there are ways you can incorporate time to be present and available for those you lead. You’d be surprised how many leaders in the workplace take for granted greeting team members in their everyday interactions. Generate credibility points daily by walking over to someone on your team, say “Hello” and get some insight on what makes their professional world move or crash.
  4. Stay humble and never get too comfortable in any given role. You heard the adage what goes up must come down. Well the same is true in the workplace. Nothing stays the same forever. Those in leadership positions get demoted and those in lower rank positions get promoted. Avoid the stress of change and always be ready for the next chapter.
  5. Stay involved without micromanaging. If you are a leader that prefers to hone in on details, being cc’ed on emails, and is rarely satisfied with your team’s work, say to yourself right now – “My name is <enter your name> and I am a micro manager.” The inability to delegate decisions makes employees feel that you don’t trust them. Give team members the freedom to make decisions, as well as make mistakes. When you feel the results are consistently disappointing, or the stakes are too high for making mistakes, shift your approach. For starters, spend your time making sure team members are clear on the desired “outcomes” and provide debrief opportunities with staff to foster learning and accountability.
  6. Work diligently to understand the demographics of your team and how they work best. Consider how you can minimize group think and improve inclusion to foster innovation and overall team excellence. Nurture a diversity mindset but also encourage and reinforce meaningful diversity actions.
  7. Once you are responsible for a team of people, it is no longer about what you can do on your own but what you can accomplish through people. You are tasked to prove how well you can support a team and guide them towards the finish line collectively. You are not trying to create replicas of you but nurturing individuals to capitalize on the strengths of each other to become better individually and collectively.
  8. Build rapport with each individual team member but don’t stop there. Assess each one’s strengths and weaknesses and build experiences where they can grow individually and as a whole. Teach them how to be accountable. Support their day-to-day activities but also help them understand the big picture. Push them to break through status quo and provide brainstorming moments where they can share new ideas while you listen. This will not happen consistently if you wait for it to happen. You will have to create the opportunities for them to develop and soar.
  9. Busy does not mean better. Many managers scurry in the workplace giving off a perception that they are working on important matters. But if we peel back the curtain, they are “doing” a lot with no meaningful outcomes. Sometimes caught up in a collage of tactics that aren’t anchored to a solid strategy. What are you busy doing? Is the busy aligned to your highest goals? Does you busy get you anywhere meaningful? If not, think about it and shift accordingly.
  10. Don’t pretend that mistakes don’t happen to you, if you are the leader. Managers don’t walk on water. They make mistakes. Own up to errors and show your human side. People respect that and tend to trust those who don’t hide behind the superman or superwoman illusion. The best you can do is to learn from your mistakes and hope it doesn’t happen too often. Embrace it. Learn from it. Grow from it. Team trust is built up by it.
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