Becoming The Manager Part 1

Posted on October 30, 2011

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So you’ve been doing your job for a while and you’re looking to make the next step of hopefully doing fewer menial tasks, more meaningful work and of course, making that bit of extra coin.  That next step is management and for some is an easy progression due to lack of competition or a surge in unmanaged resource.  However for most of us we need to gradually show our worth and prove over time and tasks that we can really get things done.

I think one of the key ingredients that management look for is initiative.  I know, I know, hold your cliche horse, hear me out.  Yes that business word has got more miles then Amsterdam’s village bicycle but the way I define it is less of the chirpy and cheesy workplace eagerness and more about the practicality.  What it is, is simply taking the next step of getting the task done regardless of what blocks arise.  Its getting to the answer without the boss’ involvement.  Your manager is given tasks which he / she needs to get done and they’ve delegated it to you.  The less you need to get them involved and the less they feel they need to get involved, the further you progress through the rounds of I-Factor (just pretend your boss is Simon Cowell and you’ll do fine).  Its really as simple as that.

We’ve all been in the situation at work where we’ve been uncertain about how best to proceed, whether it’s how to negotiate contract payments with the client or how to figure out the discrepancies in the sales figures or even just how to fill in the timesheet.  Proving your initiative credentials involves not only figuring out what the next step is but doing it and ensuring that it achieves the best results.  Often we’re gonna be uncertain of what the best result is but that’s ok just as long as we have some good reasons as to why we solved the problem the way we did.

Figuring out the next best step can be difficult because we often don’t have the 80’s velour luxury that is experience to point us in the right direction.  So what do we do then?  We use our noggins and do some analysis:

– If someone asked me the same question that I want to ask, how would I answer it?  Before you ask ‘I don’t know’ isn’t a valid answer.  I’ve found that if I just stop and think about the problem from the perspective of someone who needs to have the answers it puts me in a mindset of ‘I must have an answer’.

– Does someone other than your manager know the answer?  Obviously you need to be selective with who you choose so make sure when you find out who the subject matter experts are, that you record it so you’re not just randomly asking.  Asking your manager isn’t a bad thing but doing it too many times will degrade your I-rating.

–  Is the answer or a pointer to an answer written down anywhere?  Some companies are good at documentation some aren’t but its an avenue to investigate.  Look at your company’s intranet pages, browse through LAN drives, search through department document repositories because the answer may well be just lying around.

– If you’re stuck then I’ve found that the answer will reveal itself with more information.  Getting more detail on the problem helps you shape the solution and provides more evidence to move towards an answer.

Finding the solution can sometimes be what I imagine detective work is like.  You gotta find the leads and when the trail goes cold you need to step back and relook at the work you’ve done so far.

I’m gonna rip off a quote here, someone said (a free virtual bar of chocolate to anyone who can tell me who) that knowledge comes in two types, knowledge of the actual topic or knowledge of how to get it.  Having the answers or knowing how to get them and executing the next step is the key in showing off your badge of initiative.  Doing this repeatedly, consistently and producing results of a high or at least desirable quality will get you in good stead to knock on the door of management.

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Posted in: Leadership, Skills