How to Avoid Being a Well-Paid “Super-Doer” vs. a Manager

The time has come. You have now been promoted into a management position. You have become well known as an expert in your field; and now you’ve been rewarded by being put at the helm. The question to you is: Do you realize that you are no longer going to be “doing” what got you here? A management position is different from doing the work that got you promoted; and that fact alone has stumped many bright professionals. The result for many is they keep doing the previous work, which makes for a very dysfunctional situation for the group they are managing.

Every group needs a manager and leader. It needs someone to make the plans, rally the people, train, guide, coach and course correct. It also needs someone to do the administrative things like budget, hire, fire and work with the big dogs. What it doesn’t need is someone in charge who is spending their time mucking around in the daily detail trying to reclaim their glory or recognition. Yet, that’s what happens to some people whose personal brand hasn’t shifted. They don’t understand what the job of being a manager is – at least yet – and they spend their time being a “super-doer.” Rarely does a group need a manager who doesn’t manage but keeps doing their previous job.

Granted, it makes your job as a manager better if you know the work being done in your group. It allows you to train, coach and direct with real credibility and insight. You know where to look for issues. But, no one really wants you to do their job for them or even tell them how to do it. That’s insulting, demeaning and is as far from motivational as you can get.

If you feel you may have issues shifting into a management job you have never really done, here are some things that will help:

1. Talk to your trusted, new peers. Ask them in detail how they spend their day and how they see their job. You may hear slightly different things, but that’s ok; you’re gathering information and it’s good to have a variety of inputs to sort through. Find out what works and what doesn’t work. Every person will have stories about things they didn’t realize ahead of time. You want it all- the good and bad parts, the surprises and the learning’s.

2. Read. There is a reason why there are so many books on management and leadership. It’s not a natural for many people to do. It’s almost like having a baby, which comes with no instructions. Management positions aren’t always that easy to do right or well; and by now you know that a bad manager can make life miserable. Don’t be one of those. Figure out your job by reading from experts and people who have been successful.

3. Seek training. It’s an astonishing thing in our business world. We want highly educated and skilled people when we hire them, but are willing to toss our brightest into a management job without training. That’s right, you may have to go get your own management training, but there is a huge array to pick from. It’s also not a “one time and you’re done.” Seek management training continuously.

4. Get a mentor. A well placed mentor right now would be a very good move. You want to pick someone who is a successful manager and well regarded. You want to have someone you can seek out who understands the environment and is willing to give you feedback and ideas. It’s important that your mentor is someone you respect and trust, or else you’ll end up with no real benefit.

5. Commit to your new role. Make a commitment to yourself and the people you are managing to become as expert at managing as you were at “doing”.
Going from an expert into management is a fairly big transition. It can be full of fun and terror at the same time, but it can be very rewarding if you do it right.

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran is a certified life and career coach. She works with aspiring professionals who are looking for career growth, advancement and entry into the “C” suite. As well, she works with people to overcome the sometimes daunting task of changing careers. With over 21 years in management, Dorothy has coached, trained and guided other professionals who have gone on to impressive and fulfilling careers. Her personal philosophy about careers is: “It’s not JUST a job; it’s half your life – so love your career”. You can check out her resources, blog and services at Next Chapter New Life and MBA Highway.

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  1. Sandy Malone says:

    Your article was recommended by a fellow Toastmaster after my recent nomination to District 2 Toastmasters Lt. Governor Education & Training 2012-2013. New to this level of leadership and wanting to be the best leader I can be, I appreciated the main points of your article. Thank you!


    Sandy Malone, DTM
    District 2 Toastmasters Lt. Governor Education & Training Elect 2012-2013
    Toastmasters: Where Leaders Are Made

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