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Introduction to People Management

Vasanthi Srinivasan

First time Manager’s Predicament


As first time managers, what are our initial feelings? The first feeling is of elation on being
promoted or hired as a manager. But slowly things change. We get to know the harsher
reality, the challenges of managing people. The high spirits are replaced with apprehensions
and anxiety of how to get work done through others. This article introduces us to what
challenges we face when we first become a manager. Then it discusses ways in which we can
tackle some of these initial concerns and begin our managerial journey with grace.

When does an organization give us the title of being a manager? It is not simply added
responsibilities or cross-functional work or interactions with clients. This title is exclusively
reserved for executives with people responsibilities. A manager by virtue of his title, first and
foremost ‘manages people’. He is responsible not only for his own individual contributions
but also for the performance of his team. He mentors them, sets their objectives in alignment
with the organization’s goals, guides them on how to achieve those objectives, enhances their
skills, evaluates their performance and gives them feedback for improvisation. Looks like a
mammoth task, isn’t it. However if we have a few pertinent pointers with us before we
embark on this tough journey, it can become simpler and engaging.

© All Rights Reserved. This document has been authored by Vasanthi Srinivasan and is permitted for use only within the course
"Introduction to People Management" delivered in the online course format by IIM Bangalore. No part of this document, including any
logo, data, illustrations, pictures, scripts, may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means –
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise – without the prior permission of the author.
Introduction to People Management
Vasanthi Srinivasan

Predicament of a First Time Manager

What changes when we become a manager? Earlier we were responsible for our individual
deliverables and achievements. Now we are accountable for the whole team – their goal
setting, performance appraisal, feedback etc. On one hand we are pleased with reaching the
position of a manager and on the other hand we have the anxiety and restlessness of how we
will manage others in our team. Our team members have different aspirations, backgrounds,
aptitudes and skills. Sometimes they are older to us in age and experience. They have their
own notions of what works and what does not work. Even if we tell them what to do, they
may either not do it that way or may only do exactly what they are told instead of applying
their head to it; both of which are difficult situations to be in.

In her HBR article, Linda Hill points out that managers are responsible for creating agendas
for the entire team, but their erstwhile career has not prepared them for such a job. As first
time managers, people realize that there is substantial gap between their current capabilities
and new job requirements. She mentions that when we become managers we think we will
now have the autonomy and freedom to implement our ideas, and little do we realize the
added responsibility and accountability the role of manager brings with itself.

There are a variety of challenges that we face when we become a first time manager. Some of
them are external like not being able to understand the team member’s aspirations or their
strengths and then allocating appropriate tasks or not being able to give them timely feedback
etc. These can be learnt over time with experience. Even your organization knows that you
may not get it all right, the first time. What is more worrisome is that these external
challenges are often results of internal apprehensions like our own insecurity to deal with the
situation. For example we are worried whether we will succeed as a manager. If the task is
not happening well, we will do it ourselves rather than trusting the team to complete it. We
often agonize over the team’s attitude towards work. Sometimes we do not have befitting
replies for what we think are excuses from the team’s side for why the work was delayed.
And we think that they are taking us for granted. We get more aggressive in our dealings and
miserly in spending time with the team rather than getting to the root of the issue.

© All Rights Reserved. This document has been authored by Vasanthi Srinivasan and is permitted for use only within the course
"Introduction to People Management" delivered in the online course format by IIM Bangalore. No part of this document, including any
logo, data, illustrations, pictures, scripts, may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means –
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise – without the prior permission of the author.
Introduction to People Management
Vasanthi Srinivasan

Ease the Transition

As a first time managers we start on a very high note but slowly the fascination is replaced
with frustration. For people who are able to master the art of managing people, work becomes
more engaging and eventful. The question is what will make the team respect us and see us as
their leader. Unless we bring to the table something distinctive and worthwhile it is difficult
to build a rapport with the team. Here are a few pointers for first time managers, which will
help them keep some of their apprehension at bay and make managing people a constructive
endeavor.

Take Time: Most of the times we want to accomplish too much too soon. We put our best
foot forward, spend long hours and work really hard. But when it comes to managing people,
it takes time - time to understand the situation, time to get a grasp of people’s abilities and
weaknesses, time to align with the team. Therefore take some time to settle in before jumping
to conclusions and agendas.

Simplify: Organizations are often guilty of complicating matters. We can make a mark by
simplifying things. Whatever the issue is, ask the basic questions. If there are issues with
delivery or procurement or sales think about the fundamental problem that the team is facing
and can we do something to resolve the problem. Do not assume that the prescribed method
is the best way of doing things. Ask the team if they have a better idea. This will increase
their participation in decision-making and enable them to own up responsibility.

© All Rights Reserved. This document has been authored by Vasanthi Srinivasan and is permitted for use only within the course
"Introduction to People Management" delivered in the online course format by IIM Bangalore. No part of this document, including any
logo, data, illustrations, pictures, scripts, may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means –
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise – without the prior permission of the author.
Introduction to People Management
Vasanthi Srinivasan

Team’s Development: We are no longer responsible for our own career progression. There is
a team, which looks up to us for their development. Have a development agenda for the team.
See how we can help them get to the next level. Be upfront about it. Tell them explicitly what
they lack, how they can overcome it. Give regular feedback to the team on their performance
and make them aware of growth opportunities in the company and what they can do to
achieve them.

Have and Give Confidence: Believe in yourself. You were chosen to lead because you have
something in you. Even if you make mistakes, have the courage to own up. The team will
look at you with much more respect. When you talk to senior management, represent and
protect the team. Talk not only of your individual achievements, but also of team’s
contributions. This will give confidence to your team that under your leadership they are
secure and the senior management will feel just as confident that the team can achieve
success with you as the manager.

Take Decisions: Sometimes we are hesitant to make a decision because we fear being wrong.
In management nothing comes in absolutes. We put in our due diligence and take the most
appropriate decision based on the circumstances. In the light of new facts, this decision may
not appear plausible. But that is fine. The team, and also the organization, suffers more
because of indecisions than decisions that had to be changed later based on new
developments.

Don’t Stress Out: It is OK if you make a few mistakes in the beginning. Accept them and
move ahead. It is tough to be a people’s manager. Do not panic if things are not going the
way you want them to be. Give it time. Intervene when necessary. Do not get bogged down
by initial jolts and please for heaven’s sake never micromanage.

© All Rights Reserved. This document has been authored by Vasanthi Srinivasan and is permitted for use only within the course
"Introduction to People Management" delivered in the online course format by IIM Bangalore. No part of this document, including any
logo, data, illustrations, pictures, scripts, may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means –
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise – without the prior permission of the author.
Introduction to People Management
Vasanthi Srinivasan

Ask for Guidance: Do not think that we are alone in this. The senior management is there to
guide us and support us. Sometimes when we are vague in our representation of the problem,
we may not get befitting replies but we often get pearls of wisdom from the senior
management, which helps us manage better in the long run.

We often think that by asking we will expose our weakness. It is the actually other way
around, by not asking we are increasing the chances of failure.

Conclusion

The challenge in front of a manager is achievement of goals through others. It is different


when you are an individual contributor. With a subordinate team, you need to supervise them,
guide them, evaluate them and give them requisite feedback. With an incompatible manager,
there is a not only a personal emotional cost borne by employees, there is a huge financial
cost that is borne by the organization because of loss in motivation and productivity. This
article introduces us to challenges of becoming a manager and ways to resolves some such
concerns. These insights provide us with pointers on how to be an effective first time
manager and take our team on the path of success.

© All Rights Reserved. This document has been authored by Vasanthi Srinivasan and is permitted for use only within the course
"Introduction to People Management" delivered in the online course format by IIM Bangalore. No part of this document, including any
logo, data, illustrations, pictures, scripts, may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means –
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise – without the prior permission of the author.
Introduction to People Management
Vasanthi Srinivasan

Sources

Hill, L. (2007). Becoming the Boss. Harvard Business Review

https://www.flickr.com/photos/craigtaylor74/4859647230/in/photostream/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/craigtaylor74/4859647454/in/photostream/

https://pixabay.com/en/mark-marker-hand-leave-516278/

https://pixabay.com/en/business-idea-planning-statistics-660097/

http://www.bloomberg.com/ss/10/10/1008_first_time_managers/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/119551085@N06/15485841152,

© All Rights Reserved. This document has been authored by Vasanthi Srinivasan and is permitted for use only within the course
"Introduction to People Management" delivered in the online course format by IIM Bangalore. No part of this document, including any
logo, data, illustrations, pictures, scripts, may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means –
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise – without the prior permission of the author.