Manage Stuff, Lead People: How to Turn Workers into Leaders

Canoe team

We’ve all seen it happen. An employee is doing killer work, initiating great ideas, and displaying a willingness to take on larger projects. The employee is quickly promoted to a manager position.

But while this top employee has excelled at the tactical parts of the job, he or she has never managed a team before. Letting these employees just sink or swim will be chaos – for you, the new manager, and for his or her team.

For growing companies like Portent, it’s important to guide even the smartest, hardest working employees as they transition into management roles.

As president, my role is to help new managers fully understand their roles and teach them how to manage teams properly. New managers bring a unique challenge, but with the right structure and procedures, they can succeed in their positions.

The key to setting your account teams up for success is to manage stuff and lead people.

Don’t treat your employees like products.

As your new managers wade into unchartered waters, they’re bound to ask questions and sometimes fail. If you see these challenges as problems that can be addressed and forgotten, you’re in for a bumpy ride.

Employees aren’t products; you can’t make one tweak or correct one problem and assume your work is done. Transitioning your team from workers to leaders is an ongoing process that takes patience. Even your more experienced managers may stumble along the way because some things are best learned through experience.

It’s all part of the process, but if you are there to answer questions and provide management council, your teams will be successful.

Help people find what they’re great at.

Great managers sit down with their employees to discuss their long-term career goals. If this initiative starts from the top – such as the president sitting down with a VP to set goals—it will trickle down and set an example for your new managers.

If you never ask what your employees are interested in, you may never know that your best copywriter has always been interested in developing client strategy. As managers, it’s important to set goals for personal and team growth and recognize the little things that show your employees progressing.

Motivate them to continue growing.

When great employees start at a company, they are motivated by the light at the end of the tunnel, which is often a managerial role. But oftentimes after they step into the manager position, they can feel as though they’ve hit a ceiling and lose sight of next steps for growth.

The president must find ways to encourage and motivate employees to continue to progress – otherwise they’ll find a new job where they see clear growth opportunities and feel appreciated.

Promote team culture and employee dedication.

As Portent grows, the people grow with it. Our employees know we’re loyal to our people. If we see an employee with potential, we take the extra time to help them excel and grow into a new position.

If a position opens up, our team members are considered first. If our employee is evenly matched with a potential outside hire, they’ll win the job every time.

Sometimes hiring outside the company is necessary, but we do our best to reward our loyal, hardworking employees.  We know our team is talented and when given appropriate coaching, they’ll succeed.

Companies that provide employees with room for growth and exciting new challenges have more to offer than a salary and a cubicle.  They offer achievement and goals, which are the building blocks for success.

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  1. Thanks for sharing Steve! You’ve given some great suggestions and I’m sure you have done a great job at helping the new managers in your company!

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