Advice I would have given myself when I became an accidental manager..

by DBL Sales and Marketing Manager, Jason Ward

Nick Leeson was bringing down Barings Bank, Frank Bruno was WBC heavyweight champion, Goldeneye was the latest 007 offering and The Rolling Stones “Start it Up” was the backing track for the latest Windows launch. It was 1995, and the year I was given my first major project and team to manage. I was 27, in a high growth technology company full of successful people. Teams were smashing targets, the company had recently IPO’d, and with some controversy, we were disrupting a traditional market, riding the crest of our wave. We were led by a charismatic British entrepreneur with World domination in his sights. I had the chance to raise my profile further and build a successful team.
My naivety in ’95 makes me shudder. I didn’t even factor that I needed management training. I was successful in various business development and sales roles, knew the business and the market inside out. For me that was enough. 
My first piece of advice to my twenty-seven-year-old self would be “get your head out of your backside and consider for a moment the change in your responsibility.” 
As a first-time manager, be very aware: your success is in the hands of your team. It’s your responsibility to provide them with everything they need to be successful, and so if they fail, it’s on you. Don’t kid yourself that any role specific skills will ensure you can make others “successful.” The most skilled of sales people most definitely do not make the best of sales managers. 
My second piece of advice is “not everyone is motivated by what motivates you.” Motivation is not a quick hit, but a long-term view. 
Your team members will be motivated if you clearly communicate what’s to be achieved by them, how they can develop to perfect tasks, and finally, what it will be like when they can work autonomously to complete tasks. Business Insider reported that only 45% of people say their manager truly inspires their best efforts each day: inspiration and motivation go hand in hand with success. Make sure the resources you have are always focused on what they need to achieve. They came to work for you for what you were offering. Don’t let people down by simply focusing on the short-term.
And here’s my final piece of advice for today to the 27-year-old accidental manager. Plan, share the plan, and keep adapting the plan to the ever-changing situation. 70% of employees prefer a leader who includes them in the process over one that just sets initiatives. I developed a target, was very clear on what had to be achieved and how as a team we would achieve it. The problem was that I failed to communicate the big picture to the team and focused far too much on policing the detail. This meant that my team were focused on the short-term day to day, week to week and had no sight or ownership of any key milestones we reached. If we consider again the motivation of individuals and teams, I simply didn’t set up for success.
Looking back there were many mistakes made both on my part and by the company. But ultimately, responsibility lays firmly at my door. So, for any new first-time managers, as Marshall Goldsmith famously said: “what got you here won’t get you there.”


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