“Paying it Forward” is an expression for describing the beneficiary of a good deed repaying the kindness to others instead of to the original benefactor. (Wikipedia)

I recently taught a group of new and existing managers a class on management essentials – things to know and do to be a successful manager. To kick things off, I asked everyone to write on their personal whiteboards one thing they wish someone had told them about being a manager BEFORE they became a manager. Overwhelmingly their responses centered around the challenge of managing so many different types of people – personalities, strengths, weaknesses, motivations, ideas.

In that vein, I would like to “Pay it Forward” by passing along some lessons I learned in my years as a manager.

Here are the Top 3 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me BEFORE I Became A Manager:

  1. People won’t always want to do what you want them to want to do. Yes, that is a lot of “wants.” My lessons on managing change were hard-slogs for me. I assumed that because I thought a particular process improvement was good that everyone else should think so too! WRONG. I learned the value of sharing the challenge with the team, the intent of the change needed, the reasons for needing to change, the benefits to each of them for making the change, and then asking for their ideas and for their help. Understanding, ownership and buy-in help move people to “want to.”
  2. You can’t manage everybody the same way. I always assumed that my positive, supportive and encouraging management style was great for everyone who worked me. WRONG. I learned that my approach might actually be smothering some folks, and that my attention to detail might be perceived as micro-managing. I learned that I create an environment that can help motivate (or demotivate!) my team members. Learning more about each team member as an individual allows a manager to create an environment that will bring out the best in each of them.
  3. It takes practice to hone your management skills. I so wanted to be a rock-star manager right out of the gate. I assumed that I knew exactly what to do because I’d observed approaches of the managers around me, attended some leadership training and read some helpful “how to be a good manager” books. WRONG. I learned that, as is true in life, management is something you learn as you go – and it is expected that mistakes will be made along the way. Learning by doing, self-reflecting, receiving feedback and practicing a different approach the next time helps us to become better.

Pay it Forward, Friends! What is the best management advice YOU would give to someone contemplating becoming a manager?