Individual Contributor to Manager: Advice and Resources

June 5, 2016
Wally Bock

OK! You wanted this and now it’s happened. Yesterday you were an individual contributor. Tomorrow you will be a manager. Pop the cork. Celebrate. And get ready to go to work.

The transition from individual contributor to manager is one of the most difficult in business. It’s more like a career change than it is like a promotion. That’s because your everyday work, your support systems, and the ways you’re evaluated change all at once. Here are some things you need to know and some resources to help you get the most from the transition.

Fasten Your Seatbelt, You’re About to Experience Some Turbulence

Life divides into periods of calm and stability separated by periods of dramatic change. You’re about to enter one of those periods of dramatic change.

No matter what you’ve heard or how prepared you are, it will probably take you a year or even two to feel comfortable in your new role. It will be one of the most exciting and stressful and satisfying periods of your life, but it won’t be easy. Get ready.

What’s New?

No matter where you work or what your title is, you will be expected to do two things. Your boss will expect you to make sure the team accomplishes their mission. And your teammates will expect you to help them succeed.

You’re expected to do both: accomplish the mission and care for the people. It may not be fair and it sure won’t be easy, but that’s your job.

How to Grow and Get Good at Your Job

Think of this a one of the biggest growth experiences you will ever have. Here are some tips to get the most out of it.

Understand that leadership is a doing discipline. Books and courses will help you figure out what you want to do, but you will only learn by doing. And when you do a lot of new stuff, as you will, you will mess things up a lot. Learn from it.

Do daily notes and a weekly review to help you make sense of what’s happening. Get as much feedback as you can stand. This is a good time to invest in a coach. Find some peers who are willing to share their experience and advice. Recruit more experienced leaders as mentors. Learn to be uncomfortable.

Best Books for a New Manager

You won’t learn to be a leader from books, but good books can give you ideas about what to try and insights into why some things work for you and others don’t. Here’s a short list of books my clients have found helpful.

Making the Most of the Transition

Becoming a Manager: How New Managers Master the Challenges of Leadership by Linda Hill

Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader by Herminia Ibarra

Tools and Techniques

The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

The New One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

Helpful Insights

Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst by Bob Sutton

The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer

More From Wally Bock

What Happens When the Annual Performance Appraisal Goes Away?

Becoming a Great Boss: Where to Start

How to Talk to Team Members About Performance

In addition to writing the Three Star Leadership blog, Wally Bock is an author, ghostwriter, writing coach and book doctor. In his past lives he has run a small publishing company, been a popular keynote speaker to audiences around the world, and served as a U. S. Marine. He loves good beer, good friends, and good stories.

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