So you got that new promotion? Congratulations. Now what? If you are like most newly promoted managers, you are excited, proud, but also a bit nervous about your new role. They say that with great power comes great responsibility. That is very true. But for such a great role, most managers use guess work, intuition, and heuristics because many companies do not train you to become a manager. As a matter of fact approximately 80% of training occurs while on the job and is informal. You may have been the best employee, but employees and managers are not the same and should not function the same. That transition is very difficult for most because much of what you learn about leadership and management can often time be sugar coated and may not prepare you well. For example, a challenge to overcome that is rarely discussed is when your new workforce may have already made up their minds about you before you even start.
On your first day there will be employees that already hate you and employees that are hoping you will be their salvation and will love you before they even meet you. Why? They may love you because their old manager was so terrible that any replacement would be better. Maybe he or she was a poor leader or incompetent. Others will hate you before they even get to know you because many individuals fear change and the unknown. Or, they may have been comfortable with the old boss, or even liked the old boss. Maybe your new colleagues wanted your position.
Understanding why your employees may love or hate you is important to know how to move forward. So, how do you manage employees who view you differently? Many new managers have a view that either they believe they should get their employees to like them or fear them. Both are bad ideas. The key is to earn respect. That way, regardless of whether employees like you or not, you can properly motivate them. In Dr. Amy Cuddy’s book “Presence” found here on my reading list, she discusses her research that shows that when meeting people for the first time we ask two questions: 1) Can I trust this person? and 2) Is this person competent? These two perceived characteristics about individuals allow them to have influence over others. In other words trust and competence equals respect. This explains why leaders may not be liked but are still rated as good leaders. It is because they are perceived to be trustworthy and competent. Think of it analogous to that friend of yours that some dislike coming around, but that person has had your back since grade school and you know without a doubt they will continue to have your back, and are also capable of having your back. You trust those individuals and will reciprocate their help. We do not have to like our leaders to follow them so long as we trust them and they perform.
So how do we earn respect? Research tells us that trust is perceived by employees when certain factors are in place. Competency is exemplified by how you interact with employees. Are you assisting them in ways to help them perform their jobs better? Are offering advice and feedback? Do you facilitate opportunities for them to receive, training and opening channels for them to be engaged? At one of my old positions as a supervisor (in my early days before entering Higher Education) my evaluation scores from my subordinates increased just by incorporating a time during our meetings for them to share an idea or something they learned about our work since the last meeting. There are many simple ways to engage your employees to gain the trust and perception of competency that leads to respect. So only after you have built a foundation for respect you can begin to lead.
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