Taking your first step as a manager or supervisor in technical teams

Estimated reading time: 2 mins

One of the most difficult moves on a technical career path is moving from technician and knowledge worker (i.e. a ‘doer’) from a manager of supervisor. I found this tough, as do many technical professionals who have this responsibility thrust upon them. Supervisors and managers of the 21st century will have broader responsibilities, taking charge of more projects and more people. In todays business climate, I’d say it was fair but inevitable that a lot of folk are given these responsibilities too early or without the necessary skills and moreover experience. I’ve seen many folks rise to the occasion and perform well in their new roles, making few mistakes, but I’ve also seen many cases where naivity has resulted in serious judgment failures leading the the crash-and-burn of the new manager.

Overcoming this isn’t easy, but then again not impossible. It depends on how you view the risk to your confidence, reputation and position in your organization. The obvious fasttrack is to plunge yourself into the new role and learn from your experiences. If you’re going with that route then you really should seek a coach and/or mentor to help you through and to give you feedback on your behaviors. You’ll need someone experienced in management to give you pointers and to challenge you if you’re going to wing it! This is a risky approach, but if you are a natural born leader or manager then it maybe the most effective route for you.

Then again, you could opt for more formal training based out of a classroom, which is done in a safe environment where you learn the theories and practices of management and supervision. ese programs focus on the movement from technical professional and/or engineer to supervisor or team leader.
ese programs also provide the critical skills that any manager may need regardless of level by providing simple, direct solutions to the most common problems managers face: how do I motivate people, what are the steps to coaching, how do I handle non-performance, how do I give people a strong message, how to develop people. They generally distil the most useful items in the behavioral sciences into a basic approach to managing people and teams.
I can’t really say which route is best one way or the other; it depends on your personality and your personal tendencies, as well as your attitude towards risk in your current role. My advice though is to give it some careful thought first.

If you want to contact me to discuss your best route or if you have any related questions, please get in touch (simon@simonstapleton.com)

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