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Making the Transition: 10 Golden Rules for Managerial Success


This is the first in a series of five articles on making the transition from individual contributor to Manager

The articles in this series are:

  1. Making the Transition: 10 Golden Rules for Managerial Success
  2. The Management Trilogy [read...]
  3. Daily Management: Leading with Values [read...]
  4. Crisis Management: Leading with Valor [read...]
  5. Strategic Management: Leading with Vision [read...]

The focus of this article is: Changing your Mindset: Going from Individual Contributor to Manager

One of the biggest challenges we see new first-time managers come up against is changing their mindset when they first take on their new role. As an individual contributor, they were mostly concerned about their own performance and success. As a Manager, they now need to shift their thinking to helping other people succeed. And not just their direct reports, but also those who contribute to their team's success, such as internal and external suppliers to their team, as well as the internal/external customers their team serves.

It's not an easy shift, because we become habituated in our thinking. So it's really about changing our focus and habits. How do we do that? By consciously selecting what we want to focus upon, and what new habits we want to develop, in order to help other people succeed.

The 10 Rules


Avoid the Expert Syndrome - Your role as a manager is to help other people succeed. When they succeed, you succeed. Many first-time managers make the mistake of thinking that they are the manager because they are the most accomplished person on the team - they are the expert. This is the biggest mistake I see new managers make. 

Action: You need to give away your expertise.


It's Not About You, It's About Them - Your first duty as a manager is to better understand your team members – their goals, career aspirations, strengths, and weaknesses. Even their fears. This also applies to a better understanding of your own manager. 

Actions: 1) Help your team succeed by focusing on their professional and personal development. 2) Seek to understand your manager.


Don't Try This Alone - Gone are the days when managers worked out what needed to be done, by whom and by when, and then gave out the orders. Times have changed and people expect to be included in the planning of their work. They also have higher expectations when it comes to greater freedom in how they do their work. You need to be able to balance the need to get work done safely, on time and on budget with these new expectations. 

Action: Develop collaborative based planning, problem-solving and decision-making processes.


Delegate to Coach - When you engage in collaborative planning, you will discover many opportunities to delegate tasks to your team members which will stretch them. They need your support in developing the competencies to perform these tasks. That’s where your role as a coach plays a big part in their success and also yours. 

Action: Learn the skills of coaching.


Build Up Your EQ Muscles - Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is just as vital as General Intelligence (IQ). It’s now a well-established fact that how you manage your emotions plays a vital role in how you build strong relationships. EQ is not about becoming “softer” in how you handle interactions with others, especially in emotionally intense situations. It’s about stopping your emotions from taking control of your behaviors. 

Actions: 1) Learn more about E.Q. 2) When faced with intense emotions, say “I can’t help feeling the way I feel right now, but I can choose how I will respond.”


Live Your Beliefs and Values - Organizations have core beliefs and values, so do you. As a manager, there will come a time when you will need to defend your team. This is when your core beliefs and values will be put to the test. If you back away from such confrontations, you will lose the respect of your team and also your fellow managers, and probably even your own manager. This does not mean defending the indefensible. When a team member commits an offence, you have to be the first person to call it and deal with it. 

Action: Do the internal work to discover your core beliefs and values, especially as they apply to your role as a manager in helping other people be successful.


Find Good Role Models - Research has shown that we learn most from watching others perform. The same is true of learning to manage and lead. The three core processes of daily management are planning, directing/delegating and coaching. Other managers have taken the same learning journey as you, and many of them can be good role models for you to learn from. 

Action: Find good role models to learn from for planning, directing/delegating and coaching.


Find a Mentor - A mentor is uniquely positioned to help you progress in your career as a manager. Their role is to provide you with emotional and psychological support on your journey. In addition, a mentor will help you see the bigger picture and not get trapped in the minutiae of day to day organizational dramas. 

Action: Find a mentor who is willing and able to support you.


Seek Out Mastery Experiences - Every managerial position has limitations in terms of time and resources. While you will need to develop many competencies, you will not always have the opportunity to practice them “on-the-job”. That’s where, working with your manager and mentor, you can identify opportunities where you can step away from your day to day duties and perform roles that will broaden and deepen your skills. These could be special assignments, volunteer opportunities and even shadowing a more experienced manager

Action: Talk with your manager about your development and craft a personal learning plan with the support of your manager.


Solicit and Act Upon Feedback - Without feedback, you won’t know if you are improving. Leadership 360 feedback systems have matured to such an extent that now they are an indispensable tool in your management toolbox. Keep in mind that your manager, staff, and others want to help you improve, so take advantage of that willingness by providing them with the opportunity to support you on your journey. 

Action: Seek 360 feedback

You don't need to go it alone. You have assets and resources available to you if you just ask. So many first time managers simply don't get the training they need to succeed, and as a consequence, the majority fail at reaching their true potential as a manager and leader. Don't make that mistake.

About the Author
Brian Ward is a management consultant, trainer, and author, as well as the founder of Management4M.com, a site completely dedicated to helping new, first-time managers succeed. He is also the founder of the LinkedIn Group "First-Time Manager".

Read the other articles in this series...

The articles in this series are:

  1. 10 Golden Rules for Managerial Success
  2. The Management Trilogy [read...]
  3. Daily Management: Leading with Values [read...]
  4. Crisis Management: Leading with Valor [read...]
  5. Strategic Management: Leading with Vision [read...]