Surviving The First Year After Becoming A New Manager

An excruciating spasm churned in Bella’s stomach. She had just received a performance review from her boss an hour ago, and the outcome was devastating . In fact, that was Bella’s experience as a first time manager in her new career. “The top management had a meeting yesterday, and we thought that your performance is not up to par, Bella.  We have given you a year, and really, we expect to see improvement from your team. Instead, you have disappointed us.”

Bella got into her new Toyota SUV and headed to her common watering hole. She needed to release her pent up pressure after a challenging week. Truth be told, nothing  turned out right since her promotion 12 months ago. In fact, even her VP who once her cheerleader had turned cold turkey.

A year ago…

Bella was on cloud nine. Her VP, Vince informed that the company had decided to promote Bella to the post of Assistant Sales Manager. She had probably made her way up the hierarchy from reading this post on How To Get promoted To Manager.

Kirinox Ltd first recruited Bella as a Senior Sales Officer for their specialty oil for the food division in 2008. Well,as a matter of fact, the lass was a gifted sales professional. Although Bella did not graduate from a prestigious university, she started winning new sales from the word go. She even managed to sell her premium oil right into Kirinox’s competitors’ strong hold within months of taking up the challenging sales portfolio.

In three years, aggressive Bella was a force to be reckoned in the field of specialty food. In fact, Bella was never short of suitors from the recruitment services, since the day she sell her way into the hearts of her customers. Her clients spanned from the cafeteria owners to food manufacturers and they loved her and the products she sold. Head hunters called her all the time and they always bombarded her with mails on job openings, that others would only die for.

Weird things happened when Bella took up the new managerial position. Her drive for perfection that once served her so well , started to turn against her after her promotion. To make matter worse, Bella’s hard stance drove her team away from her. In three months, her department lost three senior sales officers to Kirinox’s competitors. One applied for a transfer, failing which, the lady might just leave as well.

Instead of delegating the tasks, Bella had no choice but to look after the account personally, while HR hunted for new replacement. Unfortunately, Bella’s notoriety had frightened off many potential candidates too.

By the time Vince reprimanded Bella , the latter had caused some irreparable damages. Sales had fallen off the cliff, and her department’s morale was at all time low.  The sales personnel who left, turned against Kirinox with a vengeance by joining the competitors. One by one, Bella’s customer territory diminished by 25 %.

What went wrong? Did Bella make a mistake in taking up the challenge to be a first time manager?

1. The Devil Is In Your Ego

Bella is not a real name; so is Kirinox Ltd. Unfortunately, both the person and organization are as real as you and me. My former boss used to tell me that if you want to gauge another person’s character, give him power.

Bella was a solo performer prior to being made a first time manager and had a Pied Piper like instinct when she approached her customers. Her work was just to sell. When she needed any resources to support her work, she would get help from Vince.

Trouble began when the sales prodigy was bestowed new “power” to maneuver some resources within her organization. Many new managers felt like heroes when they received their first promotion into the manager position. Bella felt that she can do no wrong. The biggest flaw was when she thought that her success came from her own ability, including her aggressiveness and occasional arrogance. She used to treasure Vince’s advice, but for unknown reasons, they irritated her after her new fame. “Maybe Vince is envious” rang in her thoughts.

Whether you were a star programmer or a super engineer, you need allies when you become a manager. The last thing you want to do is to alienate your superior. Unless he or she is crazy, a first time manager should continue to tap on their boss’s experience and insight. Managers that have survived for years would have treasures of experience of survival instinct. If Bella had put down her inflated ego and retained Vince as her trusted mentor, instead of barely surviving, she might have thrived on the first year.

Unfortunately, by making Vince an adversary, his natural response would just to let Bella failed.

2. Sales IS Not The Only Profit Center

Bella should establish her position by understanding the whole business of Kirinox Ltd. A super salesman does not equal a good business person; although direct sales is the single most direct avenue leading to a company’s growth.

Randy was the new Production Manager of Kirinox Ltd. All the while, the Production Department would follow the lead from Sales. Vince made a sales forecast every month, and Randy would make sure that the warehouse would have adequate goods to cater to Sales’ needs according to stipulated time period.

Instead of merely following Vince’s leads, why not treat the Sales Department as a key account? Randy could suggest to the top management that the Production wanted to make profits as well. Suggest a reasonable markup to all the products transferred into Sales; a 3 % on top of the gross profit. This kind of benchmark will initiate a more efficient pricing if the whole supply chain of Kirinox (soft reminder, the name is fake !)would treat each of the unit as a profit center. No one should play second fiddle to both the Sales and Marketing Departments ever again.

Keep in mind that all new initiative will meet objections. Vince and any sane Sales VP would probably object to a production department that wanted to go rogue and be recognized as a profit center.

To stamp his mark, Randy and all first time managers will have to fight for their rights. If he can’t get 3 %, negotiate down to 2%. It’s a new beginning after all. Record in dollar and cents once the markup is established. As in any business, Randy could continue to enhance efficiencies and reduce cost to increase his new business profit.

3. Share Your Credit

In case you don’t know, there is a simple definition of being a manager. A manager is someone who get things done through a group of other people.

Once you step into this sacred position, everything change. The status quo no longer works. This is one reason why some business owners prefer to stay a solopreneur instead of hiring more people, but that’s another story. Let’s get back to Bella.

Apart from Vince support, Bella had seriously neglected another part of the equation of effective management. Her direct reports. Her ego got the better of her and had caused her to alienate the very people that would lift her up the podium of success.

If you are a new manager, avoid the temptation of taking your team’s credit. On a different note, Bella should take the blame if her team member committed some honest mistakes while carrying out their work. If Bella had done these, her team would not have disintegrate, and trust would have established.

4. Learn To Empower, Don’t Micromanage

This, is easier said than done. Ask anyone who has quit their job, they might have told you that their micromanager is the main reason.

Even at my level, from a General Manager to a business owner, it’s still a challenge to empower. No thanks to my own encounter with cases on criminal breach of trust and employees’ defection from their responsibility.

A manager has to strike a balance in the spectrum that spans from empowering to micromanaging. Being a manager is not easy, mind you. From the day you become a first time manager, to the day that you step into the C suite, I assure you, you will still be learning. Apparently, the trick to good management is to put learning as your top priority. Make a decision that you have not learn enough and make management your lifelong business. You’ll be fine.

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