Moving from maker to manager

Moving from maker to manager

There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.

Sam Walton, Founder of Walmart

Becoming a manager is a hard job. Most people become managers after being great individual contributors.

One minute they’re making things, the next they’re managing people and processes. It can be hard work making the shift and you shouldn’t expect it to happen overnight.

Maker to manager doodle

Many managers continue to “make” at the same time as trying to “manage” – this can work, but it’s not a strategy I would suggest – management should be a full time job. Some people even carry productivity or sales target quotas – these managers will always prioritise making (it’s easier to measure and sometimes your job relies on you hitting those targets). Try to avoid this situation as when you focus on making you don’t focus on managing. You may not suffer but the business will and your direct reports most certainly will.

To make the transition to manager smoother simply take your time. Pick up one or two directs over time if you can and ramp up slowly with the people side of being a manager.

If this isn’t possible, jump right in but realise you’ve got a learning curve ahead of you as you move away from doing the work, to fixing the system, working on your own skills and helping those in your team succeed.

Cultivated Core Diagram

Management is not about managing people – what does this even mean? You don’t manage humans. Management is about empowering others to succeed in achieving personal mastery as well as the business objectives. So don’t expect to suddenly transition to this overnight – it takes time.

It takes time because you need to remove yourself from being involved in the daily work and directing elements of it. You need to now focus on bringing people together, delegating many of your responsibilities about the work and empowering others to use their skills to move the business forward.

This is hard in itself as often people will do the same work as you in a different way, or with lower quality (to start with) or will have their own views on how to change it. It’s hard to let go, especially if the person you are delegating to may take longer to complete it – but you must, if you are to free up your time to do management.

Managers focus on the bigger systems
Managers focus on the bigger systems

Your world should probably move to systems improvement where you spend time looking at a much bigger picture of the work where you need to see the interconnections, the people, the problems and the relationships that bring it all together. This is your new area of focus and this requires a lot of people skills, good communication, deep thinking time and process improvement.

You learn a lot being a manager and one of the hardest lessons to learn is how to move from making to managing.

To sum up:

  • Go slow
  • Try to remove yourself from doing the work to understanding how the work fits with a much bigger picture
  • Widen your awareness of this big picture
  • Book some 1:1s and start building relationships with your team
  • Delegate your activities and pick up new ones
  • Don’t worry if you go home feeling like you haven’t done anything useful – this happens in the early parts of your transition to a manager – if it continues once you’ve found your feet then worry 🙂
  • And focus relentlessly on your customer – the quote from Sam Walton at the start of this post sums up where to direct your focus – on the customer and what they expect. Then work hard to empower your teams to deliver what it is they want.

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