What should you bear in mind before entering a new role?
“Imagine you are going to identify the goal, and therefore also the needs in each context, You need to shape your role accordingly – how do you need to act to achieve the most benefit in each context? A role can be described as the behaviour or skills you employ in a particular situation. In other words, how you behave and act in order to reach a specific goal. There are also roles in private life – we all behave differently depending on whether we are with our children, our partner or our neighbour. You simply adapt to your environment. Roles are not about playing a game or wearing a mask. They are about harnessing the parts of you that have a function in each situation. No one ever uses their whole “self” in situations.”
What mistakes are made when managers switch between different roles?
“Some managers do not take the time to pause and reflect before entering a new context, which can lead to them acting in a way that does not help the team solve its assignment. For example, in an employee appraisal meeting you have one role and when you are a member of the management team you have another. It is important to clarify what the goal is in each context and what kind of role is expected from you and the others on the team or at the meeting. To make the best possible contribution, you need to be prepared to switch functions according to the context – and realise that a role is not the same thing as a position.”
There is a risk that you get stuck in roles that you are good at. If, for example, you are strong and clear when it comes to setting frameworks, goals and visions, you may find yourself stepping forward and taking a leading role in situations where you need to take a step back. But the context might require something completely different, e.g. a manager that “let us go”, coaches and allows employees to take responsibility. It is always important to cater to the needs of the company and the team’s mission. Some people swing too far the other way when they change roles, for example, and think “I tend to take charge too much and talk too much, so this time I am going to be silent”. That is a passive role that does not contribute and inspires uncertainty in others. So it is important to think “how can I take on a different role but still be active?”. Do not only refer to your own expectations and interpretations of the role, but also ask the people around you.
Which do you think is a manager’s most important role?
“Never forget you have a leadership role in relation to the people in the company. Even if your team is autonomous in many respects, you still need to help them interpret their tasks – both as a team and individually. You need to be there to facilitate, encourage, open up interfaces within the organisation and coach. Even the most efficient teams need support in the form of good leadership. To avoid getting trapped in your own perspective, it is also important to involve your team members. Ask them what they need from you in order to succeed in their current task. Is it an operational leader who is here and now? Or perhaps somebody who can take a step back and help the organisation take strategic decisions?”
What characteristics do all managers need to have?
“There are a lot of good managers who are very different to each other, but business interest, inquisitiveness, humility and leadership are some of the main traits. If you are not sufficiently inquisitive and interested by the business, you will not be fully attentive to what needs to be done. You also need to be inquisitive to understand your own role in different contexts. Humility is important for you to be prepared to take on different roles and not always be driven by needing to show authority. To do a good job as a manager, you generally need to care more about the question being resolved and less that it was you who did it. Last but not least, your team leadership skills: when you take on a role it is important to adapt to the situation and to see that leadership can be exercised in many different ways. Think from the outside in. Your leadership is not a role but a variable function that you will take with you into any situation.”
Hanna Carlson is active as a senior consultant and owner of Uttakleiv AB, and has many years of experience in both strategic and operational management. She is a behavioral scientist with over 15 years experience in strategic business-related HR and business development, both as HR manager and as a senior consultant with the task of coaching and leading change and development work for both individual managers, management groups and organizations.
Visit her website www.uttakleiv.se to read more.