“Wait, what’s a SORD order again?” I asked. “And where do we get the information I need for the account?”
“You get that from BOSS, but you can’t use BOSS-south only BOSS-north, otherwise you will get an error. But before you complete the SORD order you need to go into Telegence and process a request and send a confirmation through to the center,” my peer manager explained.
At the time, my response was probably just like yours is: “Huh?”
As a manager taking over a team, you will most likely face one of two scenarios. Either you will be managing a team where you used to do the job that your employees do (whether you are now managing the team you used to be on or a completely different team doing the same thing), or you will take on the role with little to no idea of exactly what your team’s day-to-day job is like.
Often you will know the main function of your new team or possibly the goal you need to accomplish while in the position, but the vernacular, systems and processes are a total mystery.
A STAR manager (someone who is Savvy, Tenacious, Adaptive and Resourceful) is able to come into situations with little to no previous experience and excel, while the DOPE (someone who Disses Opportunity Potential & Earnings) lets fear, doubt or the urge to take control prevent him from being successful. In my career, I had little to no idea of what my team did day-to-day going into each new management position I took on, but I was able to use a set of transferrable principles that work no matter what situation you must manage.
Here is what STAR managers do to be successful in situations where they have no idea what their team does:
- Admit you don’t know: If you come into a management position as an outsider, your team will be especially critical of your value to them (since most employees want to know how you can help them do their jobs). A STAR manager doesn’t pretend that she knows it all. She acknowledges to her team that they are the experts and that she has much to learn. She does this in a balanced way so as to not lead her employees to think that she is clueless. Let them know that what you think they do is important and that you have much to learn from them.
- Don’t command control: When entering new management roles, DOPE managers want to exert their control and power at all costs. While it is important that you portray yourself as an authority figure, realize that the team may do things differently than what you would naturally do. Over time it is a good idea to make improvements, but at first be cautious about making any sweeping changes because then not only will you be lost but so will your employees.
- Uphold the attributes of STARs: There are a number of STAR individual contributor traits that specifically apply when you are managing a team where you have no prior experience in an area. STAR managers are fast learners, picking up concepts quickly and understanding how they affect the team. STARs have perspective, being able to take a lesson from the new situation. They are coachable, looking to their employees to teach them what they need to know to be a successful advocate for the team. They are self-aware, conscious of what they know and don’t know and where their strengths and weaknesses lie. STAR managers are resourceful, using many channels to master their new job. They have a positive attitude and they see their employees as customers, searching for ways to support them.
- Search for understanding: Remember that you don’t have to do the whole job that your employees do. You just need to understand it and know how to support them. STAR managers seek to understand how successful people do the job their people do and they find ways to remove the obstacles preventing peak performance.
- Ask peers and your people for advice: Your peer managers are a wealth of information since they have more experience doing the job you were brought in to do. Take note of their best practices and learn from any mistakes they made. Your employees especially like the idea of you coming to them to be taught something, so leverage that when possible.
- Show your cards: Give your employees glimpses that you know what they do and can do it (at least part of it). Particularly with managers who have no experience in their job function, they will attempt to get out of work or trick you into thinking something is harder to do than it really is. Showing these glimpses keeps them in check, wondering what you do and don’t know. Speak the right language and learn the reality of their jobs and not just what they tell you.
- Look for where to make your mark: Find the levers that affect your new employees’ jobs and look for ways to change things for the better. As an outsider you are not bogged down by the typical process and existing way of doing things. You have fresh eyes and can find issues that others would not be able to see. Be careful not to jump into this too soon, but patiently look for the right things to change. This encourages your employees because they will see you as someone who wants to make positive change and help them succeed.
No matter what new language of acronyms and processes that have to be learned, the amount of prior experience or management style, a STAR manager brings in an open mindset and the methods outlined above to be successful with any team focused on any goals.
Aaron McDaniel, is a corporate manager, entrepreneur, author, public speaker and community leader. Aaron has held numerous management roles at a Fortune 500 company, being one of the youngest ever appointed appointed Regional Vice President at the age of 27, and is the founder of multiple entrepreneurial ventures. Aaron instructed a highly rated student-led course on leadership at UC Berkeley’s Haas Undergraduate School of Business and has a book, The Young Professional’s Guide to the Working World: Savvy Strategies to Get In, Get Ahead, and Rise to the Top, due to be out later this year. Aaron offers advice that helps young professionals build the foundation for a successful career. Visit his blog to learn more.