"When doubts come out and tug at your sleeve... they're not bad, just growing pains"

"Growing Pains" - Tony Bennett

Pam is feeling uncharacteristically down. She recently attended a Development Centre, at which she performed very well. However, in her quieter, more reflective moments at home, she talks with her partner about how her original optimism in the new role is drifting away, and with it the vital energy that has been her working style for the last five years.

This article looks at how organizations can prepare people for the transition from Specialist to First Line Manager.

Earlier this year we updated our research into the challenges for people making the transition from "technical specialist" whether this be engineer, accountant, IT, HR etc. into their first line management job. Here are some of the Symptoms of the challenge:

Sink or Swim

We know from our experience that many very good specialists are moved into management jobs without time for any real consideration of their suitability and without any training. What we call "sink-or-swim" appointments. Often these people fail after a very short period and a very good specialist is de-motivated and often lost to the organisation.

Raising the Bar

Managing performance and motivating people to a higher level of performance is crucially important in the current economic environment. Again, from our experience, these skills don't come naturally to specialists, who are generally used to setting very high standards for themselves but not for other people.

Letting Go

Letting go of some of the specialist side in order to manage others is not always that easy. In a pressurised environment specialists often see it as easier to "do it themselves", rather than take the time to teach others and risk a poor quality result. We have found that one of the challenges here is making the transition from being "recognised as an excellent specialist" to being "recognised as a leader of an excellent specialist team"

Role Conflict

Close friendships often exist between team members. In our recent experience this has been reflected in newly-appointed first line managers finding it difficult to reconcile their friendship with team members, with the need to manage and lead.

Power Base

And finally, what about the need to influence senior managers and people in other departments on issues which are no longer purely "technical". Suddenly the specialist power base has gone, so what other influencing styles are available?

The Talent Development Challenge

All of these symptoms are predictable, so how can an Organisation help talented people to work through their "Growing Pains". Here are some recent practical examples of first line challenges that have been overcome as a result of our development:

"Passing on knowledge to other people, delegating work out and managing it"

"Managing self so that priority work is getting done through facilitation rather than directly by me"

"Managing the transition from old specialist role to a new project-specific role, including the introduction of a new person"

"Managing a particularly tricky performance issue with someone who has been a colleague and friend for several years"

"Influencing people in other departments where I have no line authority"

"Providing more direct input into the overall management of the operation, in particular the business planning process"

To register your interest in receiving more information about our experience of working with organizations on these challenges, please email Sue Bell on: sue@wadenhoeconsultancy.com

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