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December 11, 2017

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Three Steps to Successfully Transitioning Your Newly Promoted IT Managers

A few years ago, I met a newly minted IT manager returning from completing what I considered a pretty good five-day management-training program. When I asked him how he found the training, he replied, "I have no idea of why I was given this training since it has nothing to do with technology and what's more I can't see myself doing any of the stuff covered in the program." Imagine, how his company would have reacted to that comment after paying the thousands of dollars for the program plus airfare and hotel expenses? Unfortunately this is not uncommon. I've met many newly minted managers who do not see the connection between management training programs their companies offer and their new job.

The reason behind this is that initially providing training to a new manager is not the most effective way of starting their transition into their new role. It is in reference to this type of mistaken use of training that performance experts Harold D. Stolovich and Erika J. Keeps tell us in a recent article written for the ISPI Newsletter, that training programs often turn out to be " . . . costly, frustrating and unsuccessful campaign(s) to achieve desired performance."

So what does a newly promoted IT manager need to make a successful transition into their new role? The answer is a balanced program that includes training, but starts with an orientation and follows-up the training with a generous dosage of coaching. Let's take a closer look at how these components work separately and together to provide a highly effective transition process.

  1. Orientation
    Orientation must be the starting point for any role change, especially one resulting from a promotion into a totally different job. Orientation provides the new IT Manager with an overall direction and structure that enables them to see and understand the big picture of their new role. When you provide a newly promoted IT manager with an orientation, you give him or her the basic rules and objectives of the new role as well as information on tools and resources they can use to succeed. For example, a few specific items include:

    • Expectations the company has of them in their new role
    • Where and how to gain access to reports, people and information needed to do the new job
    • A clear understanding of the incentives and disincentives impacting this new role

    One other benefit of starting with an orientation is that it is the smallest investment you will make in the transition process and it may help identify someone who does not want to be a manager, thus preventing you from sinking too many dollars into transitioning the wrong candidate. I had an experience along these lines a few years ago, when faced with one management opening and three people vying for the position, I decided to provide a "public orientation" on the requirements and expectations from this role. As I expected, two of the three candidates withdrew from the race, once they had a better picture of the job.

    It is with these benefits in mind Couture's Employee Lifecycle Management HR Model, recommends the re-orientation of employees that are undergoing a promotional or lateral move as a first step.

  2. Training
    When an IT professional in a "doer" role is promoted to a management role, many of their former core skills, knowledge and experience (e.g., Fixing equipment or programming, or setting up networks) become context. It helps them to understand what their team is doing, but it does not enable them to perform their new role as a manager. To effectively execute their management role, they need a new set of skills (e.g., leadership, communication, negotiation, hiring, etcetera). Once a new manager is "oriented" into their new role, we can use training to "input" these new skills. Effective training will give the new manager tools and strategies that they need to get their new job done.

  3. Coaching
    The coaching I am referring to here is in line with the philosophy of W. Timothy Gallwey, the author of the "Inner Game" series. Gallwey has referred to his coaching approach as a "better way to [effect] change [in people]." Gallwey's interpretation of coaching can be referred to as removing internal obstacles to performance.

Let's look at an example of someone who just completed training in public speaking and is preparing to give his or her first speech in three weeks. The training, which included lectures and practice sessions, gives the participant the skill, knowledge and experience they need to prepare and to give a presentation. The only thing holding them back now is that little voice we all carry around in our heads, which is saying to them things like: "Be careful! If you mess up, you will really lose a lot of credibility with your boss." "You only had two weeks training. That's not enough to be really good at this." "I bet they are expecting me to come off like an amateur. They know I am not good at this."

It's that annoying internal perfectionist, doubter and corrector that coaching will help the new IT manager to control. The result is an increase in confidence that will enable the new manager to fully utilize what they've learned through training as well as their overall life experiences up to that time. So, where as training adds new skills and strategies to the "toolkit," the type of coaching we are referring to here removes the obstacles and enable the new manager to fully use what they've gotten out of training.

Putting It All Together
A superior IT doer to manager transitioning process needs to:

  • Communicate the goals and objectives of the new job,
  • Provide skills and strategies that the new manager needs to perform effectively and finally
  • Remove internal obstacles that get in the way of peak performance

Training plays a key role in helping newly promoted managers to cross the gap between the doer role and the manager's job by fulfilling the need for new skills. Alone, however, training is a one-legged table approach. When preceded by a solid job orientation and followed by coaching, it will produce sturdier and more reliable results.

-Joe Santana
www.jimdonovan.com