How to stamp authority as a new manager

BY David Onjili

In the end, it is a business venture. Irrespective of how an individual ascended to the highest management level, the owner expects positive returns on his investments. This is the duty of any manager, to ensure that you maximize on utility. Leadership within organizations takes different models. In certain instances, the company may decide to promote one of the staff into a senior position or entirely hire a new individual. When an internal member of staff ascends into such a position, often times they are insiders and comprehend the politics within the organization. Yet, as often the case, a ‘stranger’ is usually thrust into a new organization and expected to deliver results.

Organizations, by virtue of having several members of staff play out as political bodies. It is thus always key for any new employee, however senior or junior, to try and identify the power centres. The quiet tea-girl, office messenger or janitor could have direct access to the top management than you would ever imagine. While the ethics of it may be in doubt, such occurrences are covertly synonymous with workplaces. You have to watch out for such centres of power and know that they will always flex their muscles in various ways as a survival mechanism.

“As unsettling as it is, we have found that the essence of development is diversity and adversity. Management is primarily learned from on-the-job experiences—by doing, observing, and interacting with others,” says Warren Bennis, an American scholar, author and a pioneer in the field of leadership studies.

Organizations take up different structures; vertical, horizontal or spatial differentiation. In horizontal differentiation, particular tasks are delegated to particular employees i.e. in an accounting department, a group may focus on tax laws while the other financial data with others in the sales department responsible for bringing in new clients. This allows company employees to stick to tasks related to their field of expertise. Vertical differentiation takes a pyramid structure; the CEO or owner at the top, midsection managers and supervisors and a bottom section of regular employees where top-down communication is the order of the day with employees haveing little input into how the organization operates.

The leopard is considered one of the greatest hunters due to its ability to identify prey, target and pounce with finality. They are rare in the wilderness and only appear when they want to be seen; yet they remain lethal hunters. It is this ability to stay calm and observe that separates them from other hunters. Similarly, a new manager must resist the urge to act on impulse and first study the organization. By doing so, you will be able to understand what culture exists. Who are the centers of power, who are the most effective yet quiet staff, who are the busybodies that ride on the backs of others. While you may have brilliant ideas, often times these ideas have been floated before. Knowing why they did not work will go a long way. Timing is everything, like the leopard it is critical for the new manager to know when to start implementing his or her ideas. 

Why, for instance, should a marketer who does not have phone airtime to call clients be scolded for not bringing in new business?. Why would an office line be in an individual’s possession all through? When would marketers, for example, know if their prospective clients called the office, and what answer they were given by the phone handler who was probably on a personal errand? Who reports to the office at what time and why, and how does that affect production? Such analysis on the organization can enable the new manager to address many underlying issues that might be the bedrock of what has stunted the company. Forming alliances is another key strategy that new managers can employ. By observation, you  will be able to know the members of staff who may not be managers but are very influential amongst colleagues. Often times they could be the longest serving or even best performers.

Jose Mourinho is a highly successful football manager, 25 trophies in 20 years as a manager in four different countries are no mean feat. Yet, by failing to understand the culture at Manchester United and despite winning the Europa League he was fired. He lost the dressing room and was openly defied by players – shows just how ‘junior’ staff can cost even the most successful managers. An organization’s culture and the centers of power must always be identified and wisely dealt with by strategic managers.

On the whole, the new manager must execute their vision for the organization with finality. You were put there on merit and will be judged purely on your performance. Do not dilly-dally, you will be sucked into the existing office culture and lose your vision. Practice what you preach. When the staff realizes that you respect them and treat them as professionals, you value their input and also know where you are headed, it is easy to lead them.

A new manager’s success or failure is dependent more on their social intelligence. Approachability is key. Avoid being an easy ear to staff gossip but be welcoming in a reassuring manner.

Soft power is actually one thing many people don’t get, yet it is what management is about. Let the staff own the process and they will, in turn, deliver. Margins will shore up and will reveal just how effective a manager you are. It is not the barking of orders and isolation in corner offices that make one a great manager, it is the productivity and welfare of those you manage that count.

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