At the stage in your career [when you become a team manager], it is a good time to start thinking of where you want to be. I say this because this particular stage of your career will require consistency and persistence. There will not be many new exciting things that you will get to sink your teeth into. This will, in fact, be the time where you end up giving more and creating teams that require a lot of hand-holding but not getting a lot of credit.
This is also the stage where a lot of people start contemplating new jobs because consistency bores them. Wrong move. This is the time where you know the system well enough to run things smoothly and know it enough to hopefully improve on it. This is also the time you can study the system to be able to plan your future and look for synergies in your personal and professional goals. By now, you know it enough to know who will be able to help you achieve these goals.
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If you do decide to move out and into a new job, make sure it is the one you want. At this stage in your career, you are a coveted employee who will break into mid-management and senior management roles easily if you jump. However, this decision is crucial for your long-term prospects, work satisfaction and overall happiness. So, contemplate and weigh the pros and cons carefully before deciding to move ahead.
I say this because I myself had to take a similar decision in my life, when I hit a roadblock in my career growth. I joined this company fresh out of college and had been with it for five years. As an active team player who contributed enthusiastically to the growth and success of the company, I expected more. More challenges, more influence, more recognition, more pay, more incentives, more upskilling. But there was none. This led to a lot of frustration and anguish in my life and no discussions were cutting ice with the management.
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At this point, my career path had begun to take shape and I was eager to get started. The enthusiastic professional in me was raring to go. Dissatisfaction and unhappiness at work were spilling over in my personal life, much to the annoyance of my family. I had to take a good hard look at where I was and where I wanted to be. This was a huge turning point in my career. After multiple discussions with my wife (and yes, your life partner is essential in this decision if you want to maintain personal and professional harmony) and trusted mentor, I decided to take a huge risk. We weighed what it would cost us versus what we would gain on the personal and professional fronts if we took the risk.
I put in my resignation and moved to a remote town in another part of the country, taking up a new assignment that would challenge me. Interestingly, the company—on receiving my resignation letter—offered an immediate promotion with a salary hike and a trip to the collaborators’ facilities in Europe and still bigger promises to take care of me in the future as well.
And it’s a very common trap: stay away from these promises. Leaving an established company, moving out of my comfort zone and uprooting my family to an unfamiliar part of the country was not easy. But the promise of a better life (personal and professional) with a generous salary increment pushed me forward. In hindsight, it was the best decision I took. I dovetailed my personal ambition with my professional one. I knew that whatever the outcome, I would only gain more knowledge and learn from this experience.
If you decide to move at this stage in your career, be very sure that your next job is something you really want. No point in moving from company to company with a pay hike and the same job dissatisfaction. Companies will start recognizing you for what you are and will eventually weed you out of the job race….
Over the years, I have encouraged my team to sync professional and personal goals. Every year, I would map out my personal goals and then look for synergies within my professional life that could help me achieve it. Personal and professional goals are intertwined. It would be foolish to think that these can be kept separate…. I share the list of essential ingredients so you can cook up your own recipe for success.
Teamwork: You need to learn how to work as a team player. This is where you will either be fast tracked on the management ladder or be pigeonholed into a brilliant consultant, but not management material. Most brilliant executives—with a very high degree of knowledge and impressive skills—fail to grab the top post as they assume that their inherent capabilities will take them to the top. When you are alone and must do the job yourself, a lot of people are brilliant at it because you only have to manage yourself. Issues start cropping up when you must lead a team and have to learn to manage them along with yourself.
Effective delegation: Easy as it sounds, this is the toughest one. This is one of those non-negotiable ingredients that are crucial to your success. A classic mistake that a first-time team leader does is to assign a task and then micromanage it or remove the person and do it themselves, again and again and again.
Two things can come out of this. Either your team figures out that they don’t need to do a good job because you will do it yourself anyway or end up either demotivated or lazy. All outcomes are bad for you and your professional growth. Both will make your team resent you, and you will resent your team….
Effective delegation requires immense patience and letting others fail without hanging them for it. If you fumble on this one, you will start feeling the heat immediately. When you spot trouble with this, seek a mentor immediately who can help you do this, because it can make or break your career.
Communication skills: This is one of those non-negotiable social constructs that will help you move ahead. How you communicate, when you do and the tonality you use is as essential as listening to the room, learning how to read between the lines and the person in front of you. This is the skill that will help you push your team’s success, talk about your success, communicate your candidature and understanding management with ease. Only one person will get the top job. Being an excellent communicator who is able to get the message across to different stakeholders of the organization is one of the key skills that will push you closer to the next level.
Time management: In any organization, senior leadership’s key role is to ensure the team or department delivers on time, be it a product or service. And each organization has a well-defined way to measure the success rate of each assignment. While you know things in depth, without an eye on the timer, your success might as well be counted as failure.
Consistency: Can you deliver results with consistency or are you a flash in the pan? The more you hit the bull’s eye, the better you strengthen your case for the coveted top post. On the results parameter, your success cements your position and makes you an undisputed successor to the next level.
Excerpted from 10 Steps to the Boardroom by G.S. Rattan with permission from Penguin Random House India
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