When I became a manager, I made the same mistake myself. It's the most common mistake that I see many first-time managers make. It's a mistake that causes so much anxiety and stress in their lives, and it can be avoided. It's a mistake that's easy to make, but not so easy to fix.
I call it the "Expert Syndrome". Let me explain...
In my case, my expertise got me noticed, and got me promoted to a management position. I was on cloud nine. I was feeling euphoric. That's when it hit me. My staff were not as "expert" as me. As a result, I unwittingly communicated to them that I was smarter, more experienced and certainly more effective at their work than they were.
This attitude of mine caused a very interesting dynamic to occur. They would bring me their work, and their problems to solve. I later discovered there was a name for this...upwards delegation! I found my in-tray and inbox overflowing with work that was certainly not managerial. The biggest issue I faced was that I loved the challenge, I loved being the expert!
I had to find a way to let go of the need to solve all their problems. That's when my mentor showed up. He was an experienced manager, and quite successful too. He asked me to describe my role as a manager. As I reached for the job description that HR had given me, he stopped me in my tracks. "You don't need that" he proclaimed. "Just tell me in your own words what your role as a manager is, and make it brief!"
I was stuck. You see, I thought that the role of a manager was complex and multi-layered. Too difficult to explain in just a few words. He left me to ponder on it for a few days. When we met again, I was still struggling to come up with a clear definition of the role of a manager. My mentor was not about to let me off the hook. He knew I was struggling, but he felt the struggle was natural and would pay off in the end. He left behind a little booklet titled "Servant Leadership" and suggested I read it.
That little booklet set me off on a journey that continues to this day. At times, it's been a somewhat crazy yet exhilarating journey. I've now reached a point on that journey where I can explain the role of a manager in a few words, here they are:
Your role As a Manager is to help other people succeed
Now I know, with all the articles, books, courses, online content on management and leadership out there, that this definition may seem to be overly simplistic to many of you reading this. I understand. It's my definition, unique to me. It works extremely well for me. It may or may not work for you. I get that.
If you want to delve further into this, including
- what you personally value about being a manager,
- the things you need to master to become an effective manager,
- the ground you need to cover as a manager and leader
...then check out this FREE training:
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