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From Individual Contributor to Manager

Jul 22nd, 2018 • Andrea Butcher

There is a familiar scenario playing out in organizations around the world each day and it looks like this:

“Fred has been working for his company for several years a

nd excels at his job; everyone likes him. When a manager position becomes available within his department, Fred is the likely candidate because he’s good at the job, and the assumption is that he will also be a great manager. If only it was that easy…”

Have you seen this scenario play out in your organization? It can be easy to fall into the assumption that a strong individual contributor (like Fred) will also be a strong manager. But here’s what organizations need to remember: the competencies that made Fred successful as an employee are different than the ones that will make him a great manager.

Individual contributors are often promoted to managers because they are highly competent at what they do. Because they are strong performers, organizations will assume that these new leaders will continue to perform at the same level in their new roles. Unfortunately, this assumption means organizations are failing to recognize and acknowledge the pivotal transition from individual contributor to managing others, and the development of new competencies that comes with it.

Leaders, here’s where you come in. You, as their manager and leader, are in the best position to help your new managers with this transition – and you don’t need to rely on your HR department or other leaders for support.

How can you help? Consider Fred again. What is it that he needs to do to shift from getting results individually to getting results through others? How can he grow into the new competencies he needs? Here are three specific things you can do to support the transition and set your new manager up for success:


Help the New Manager Develop a “Manager Mindset”

Mindset drives behaviors, which gives you the results you are getting, so in any change, it’s critical that you start with mindset. Your promoted team member needs to think differently about his or her work and getting results. He or she must understand the role of a manager and key competencies for success. In addition, he or she needs to understand their personal leadership style and how to leverage their strengths.


Encourage the New Manager to Know their Team – Really  Know Them 

Working in collaboration with others requires a foundation of trust. Your promoted team member will not be able to get results through others until he or she knows their team members and builds trust with them. In order to be successful, the new manager must listen intently to build understanding, trust and confidence. He or she must recognize team members’ strengths to leverage them for success. Developing a trusting relationship with each team member takes time and is an ongoing process; this is not a check-the-box kind of activity. The key to successful leadership is team member relationships.


Set the Expectation that the New Manager is to Grow the Team 

Because management is about getting results through others, mentoring and coaching are key competencies for success. As an individual contributor, it wasn’t important for the new manager to mentor and coach others, but as a manager, his or her ability to give feedback, course correct, and coach team members through challenges is now critical. In addition, he or she must delegate work to build relationships and develop the team. He or she will also need to hold regular one-on-ones and performance reviews with each team member to lead proactively.

The manager skillset is different from the individual contributor skillset, so it’s important that organizations and leaders recognize this and provide opportunities for new managers to develop new competencies. Only when we equip new managers with the tools and development necessary can we expect them to perform. By developing a manager mindset, knowing the team, and growing the team, employees will make the transition to getting results through others, creating a win-win-win for the manager, team, and organization