Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach

Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach

Article excerpt

Good leaders seek input from relevant, qualified people and then make up their own mind.

Q: I've just been promoted to head of department. I'm pleased, of course, but it means several people who are older than me now have to report to me. I'm afraid that they'll resent me or ignore my authority. How should I handle them?

A: You have a delicate balancing act to perform between the need to establish your authority reasonably rapidly and the need to remain on good terms with your former peers and those who are older than you.

Some would say you should just go ahead and enforce your authority and sort out any bruised sensibilities later on, because, after all, you've been appointed to do a job, not to win a popularity contest. If others don't like it, they can move somewhere else. But experience has shown that those who rush to impose control in the name of instant productivity usually create the opposite effect: smouldering hostility or full defiance.

Nevertheless, it's important that you successfully communicate who is now in charge and has responsibility for them and the quality of their output. A young manager I met recently was in a worse position than you, since her appointment had been opposed by peers closest to her in age and experience. Aware of their opposition, she gave her detractors a wide berth and failed to establish an effective relationship with them. As a result, her ability to manage the younger members of her team was diminished. They could see that her polite entreaties to improve performance were ignored by the senior team members, and mostly followed suit. By the time we met, she'd decided that management was not for her and she was regretting her promotion.

So how do you walk this tightrope? A good place to start is to stand back from the personalities to consider what kind of manager your department requires to perform at its best. What are the expectations of the organisation? What kind of manager do you want to be? And what do you care about in your working life? Once you have got these broad parameters, you'll be able to gain a sense of direction for your management journey and some values to steer by. By comparing how things are done now with what's required, you can identify your priorities.

Next, consider your team members and their capabilities. Who might best help you to tackle your priorities? …

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