Three Pitfalls a New Manager Should Avoid

Congratulations, you have been promoted to a new manager role within your organization. With that new manager title comes some responsibilities to yourself, your staff and the organization. How you handle your transition into the new manager role will set the stage for how your direct reports, peers and boss evaluate your potential.

istock_000006404981xsmallThese three pitfalls new managers face are common. It may take a little maneuvering to avoid doing them because the company culture or the outgoing manager believes they are doing you a favor, when in reality they are not.

Making Assumptions on Expectations and Goals

It is very important to get clear goals when you first move into the new manager role. What you were told during the interview may not be what is really going on in the organization.

Develop your goals with your manager and get things in writing. Make sure the goals or outcomes have clear measurements and timelines associated with them. Inquire what resources you may need to be successful and engage your new boss in how to best go about it.

Avoid Getting an Initial Debrief on Your New Staff

Every new manager is faced with this well-intentioned helpfulness that frankly sets you up for more work and sometimes – poor decision-making.

It is not imperative that you know the history of every direct report with the previous manager because they had their own opinions and filters on performance and engagement.

Just think, how many times you have in the past had a manager you did not gel with and when someone came along and believed in you that things changed and you flourished. Give your new direct reports an opportunity to show you what they can do and not having them start in the hole.

You are being brought in to make a change or to bring a new perspective to a department. Demonstrate managerial courage and strength by making your first assessment independently.

Build Peer Relationships Early

As a new manager, you will be stretched in many directions. Some new managers forget to build peer relationships and alliances early in their new role. These advocates can make or break you. They will serve as a resource to understanding the organization’s culture and norms.

A word of caution about relationship building – avoid fueling any gossip or water cooler information. Listen and ask questions. Be curious about the new organization and use judgment on what you share.

By avoiding these three pitfalls that new managers face, you will set yourself up for a more successful integration. If you want more information on some of these pitfalls consider getting my eBook: The Secrets to Successful Job On-Boarding.

 

What is a Good Starting Salary?

It’s finally the moment you have been waiting for…the company is interested in you and they are going to make you a salary offer – what should you expect as your starting salary?

Assortment of American CoinsThis question comes up often and it is important to know the facts about how companies come up with that magical number. You might think that they have a secret dartboard in the back room (which may be true for very small companies) and hope you are lucky someone knows how to hit the bull’s eye. The truth is it is much more complicated than that.

The secret to knowing what is a good starting salary is finding the intersection between what the company is willing to pay and what you are worth.

If you are going after a position that is below what you have performed, be prepared to lower your expectations. That same advice may also hold true if you have been in a position for a long time because your salary has probably crept up over the years and companies may not be looking for someone with as much experience (also translated as someone with a higher salary).

From a company perspective, starting salaries are a combination of several factors.

The Position or Job

The position or job you are applying for will have a specific wage or salary range associated with it. That specific wage or salary range is based on a number of factors:

  • Scope of Job. How much responsibility is there in this job? Does it deal with a single task or complex tasks? Other factors impacting scope include – sales, number of direct reports, profit/loss responsibilities, matrix relationships, size of company, etc.
  • Level of job. Where does it fit in the organizational structure? While a job title may be descriptive, some companies have adopted generic titles and it is more difficult to decide where the level of the job is unless you see the organizational structure. Is this position over one or several departments, functions, divisions, or locations?
  • Market Competitiveness. Savvy companies will survey the local or national market to make sure their pay is competitive. It is important to note that when organizations do this type of analysis they account for all pay types — salary, bonus, stock options, benefits etc.

The Human Resources Department or Compensation Specialist in an organization is responsible for establishing and reviewing salary structures periodically to stay competitive and to aid in retention activities. There is some flexibility in the starting salary in large companies and how flexible they are depends on how badly they want you.

What Are You Worth (to the Company)?

This is a tough question because our ego gets in the way! The most common way to evaluate what you are worth is to look at your last salary.

While that may be a great first step, consider if you are making significant changes in the type of work you will be doing (scope) or if you are moving to a lower cost of living location. Many of these factors go into what you are worth (at least from the company’s perspective).

Try thinking about this question with a different angle if you are having trouble getting the pay you believe you deserve. Here are some questions to think about.

  • What specific skills are you bringing to the job?
  • Are those skills rare or different from other people applying for the job?
  • Are you able to articulate them if you have to counter your starting salary offer?
  • Is the company asking you to perform at the level you were performing in your last company?
  • Is the company a mature company or new venture?
  • What is the size the company – how does that company with your last company? Smaller companies have lower starting salaries.

Finally, consider if is salary the most important part of working for this company. These other quality of work  factors have a big influence on overall happiness:

  1. Benefits
  2. Working from home
  3. Flexible work schedule
  4. Great company culture
  5. Great boss
  6. Low stress
  7. Work/life balance

When you factor in these considerations, revisit the question – What is the intersection between what the company is willing to pay as a starting salary vs. what you are worth? Do you have a little more leeway?

Is Your Career Progression on Track?

You probably have asked yourself that question, “Is your career progression on track?” several times over your lifetime.

Businesswoman climbing ladder.Perhaps early in your career, you made great traction and then things slowed down or you were a slow starter and are ready to figure how to ramp your career progression up. Either way, questioning your progress is natural and normal.

When evaluating your career progression, think about the pivotal points along the way – they may have been physical moves, marriage, children, illness, divorce, changing jobs or education.

If you were to draw out a map of your life, identify the major events that took place that affected your career progression by putting it on hold or propelling it beyond your expectations.

As you consider those life junctures, do you have an opportunity to recreate them if the impact of them was positive? If so, what are the risks and upsides to making those leaps? Are you willing to make those changes? Do you have the support of your family or support system to do it?

As we grow older, making changes and taking risks get harder unless you are someone who likes to live on the edge. We create lives that become more complicated because of financial or personal obligations.

Know that you can work your way to moving forward. Your career progression may not be at the pace you hoped for. It may take some planning. It may require you to take some risks or make some changes in the way you are approaching your work situation. All of this “stuff” that gets in the way can be resolved if you have the right attitude and determination to make it work.

How to Know It is Corporate Politics

At some point in your rising career, you will encounter corporate politics. It doesn’t matter what size the company is – it may be a family owned business or small company, the signs are the same.

istock_000001275566xsmallHow you find out may be through careful observation or perhaps experience when you find yourself in the middle of a mess. The better you prepare yourself for recognizing the signs before you get caught up in the situation, the easier it will be for you to figure out a way through it.

Here are some signs that tell you corporate politics is alive at your workplace:

  • You are surprised at decisions being made without your consultation.
  • You are not being included in communication (email or meetings) in pre-planning stages.
  • After a decision is made, subsequent meetings are held to vet out concerns and you are not invited.
  • Peers withhold information or resources that affect your effectiveness and success.
  • Communication with peers is not balanced. You hear more negative comments than positive encouragement.
  • You see a noticeable decline in meeting requests with your staff, peers or boss.

There are many more subtle and obvious signs of corporate politics. The signs I identified are the ones that become visible at first. If not addressed quickly, the organization, your peers, staff and boss will lose confidence in your ability to lead with strength.

Corporate politics essentially are power plays at work.

The way you handle the corporate politics will set a tone for everyone in the organization on how you want to be treated. It is important to not overplay your hand with emotion and not seem wimpy at the same time by letting things continue. It’s a delicate balance.

Nail the Interview with Three Interviewing Techniques

Interviewing is not easy. In fact, interviewing can be quite stressful. You want the job, or at least you think you do. How to you prepare yourself so you can nail that interview? There are three interviewing techniques that will help you move ahead of the competition:

istock_000006916716xsmallDevelop Killer Interview Questions

No doubt, the normal questions asked – what are your benefits, what is the culture like, what is your management style are expected by the interviewer. In fact, those questions are so generic that you will get generic answers unless you drill down.

If you are like the majority of interviewers, you hesitate to ask direct and specific questions that may put your interviewer on the spot. Well here’s a little secret – if you can have them pause to think about how they might answer your killer question, you have their attention. Just be careful not to intimidate them or show too much of your ego as this interviewing technique can backfire quickly.

Answer Questions Holistically

When asked a question, the faster you connect and establish rapport with your interviewer the better. How you connect with them quicker is by communicating with them in their most preferred style of communication. Some people like logic; others prefer a step-by-step approach, knowing the big picture or intuitive approach. Whatever their preference, if you can hit their sweet spot for communication, you develop rapport.

The trick to this technique is to answer your question taking in account all four approaches and see how they respond to your answers. Once you know their preferred style, you can adjust your answers accordingly.

Positive Self-confidence

It shows up in the way you speak, the way you hold yourself and body language. Interviewers are looking for someone with positive self-confidence – not the cocky ego that rears its ugly head with some people. This is the killer of many interviews. If you lack self-confidence, it will overcast your interview.

How do you develop self-confidence? The more competent you become at mastering interviewing techniques, the more confident you will become when you are in an important interview. It takes practice.

While there are many more interviewing techniques, the ones I have discussed come up over and over with clients I work with. Figure out which one is causing you the most angst and make some progress on improving your delivery. You might be surprised at how quickly you see positive results.

Fired for Being Ethical

I received a letter from a woman in India who was recently fired for being ethical and upholding her values and principles. Here’s her story:

What to Do after Being FiredI’m from eastern part of India. I have work experience of 14 years in IT. Last April 2014, I joined a start-up company as Technical Lead & Project Manager as they wanted my expertise to help the company grow.

Things were good till I hired an ex colleague of mine as my junior. After a month into this company, she started having an affair with the top boss and was virtually running the company in disguise. The top boss wanted to fire everyone whom she didn’t like.

The first in the line was our HR. Since I was the most senior employee they wanted to use me in firing her. They offered me a hefty hike if I did. But I didn’t do it as my professional ethics prevented me.

Then that boss started spreading among the employees that I am not that competent and the company had incurred loss due to my inefficiency. When HR asked for the detailed list of the projects cancelled due to my inefficiency, the boss wasn’t able to furnish it.

On 13th January, 2015, I took a day off due to my severe back pain. On that day, the company mailed me my termination letter effective from 14th January, 2015. The mail didn’t carry any company letterhead, digital signature. It was just a plain mail format.

Since then have started applying for new jobs and I am not hiding the fact that I was terminated. But please advise me what I should say about the reason of termination. I can’t go this deep when asked by the new company.

First of all, bravo for standing up for your ethics. Personally, you have paid a price with your career, however, your morals are intact and that compass will land you with the right organization in the future.

Second,  the fact that the company terminated you in the way they did is not surprising. Start-up companies may not have their policies and procedures in place like a large organization.

When you believe you have been fired for being ethical, it can put you in a difficult position. In your interview, if you have stated that you were fired which is completely accurate, your future employer wants to know why.

What do you say? Know that if you go into any details about your previous employer it will reflect badly on you, especially if the employer is well-known in your community. You don’t want to be known as the person spreading negative comments about them.

It is important to keep it light and high level. Avoid going into the details. In this situation, it would be perfectly acceptable to say that your values or approach to business was very different from your previous employer. If questioned about what you mean – then avoid saying what the employer did or did not do and emphasize what you do and how you like to work.

Another approach is to tackle the business size – that is only if you decide start-ups are not for you. Some people thrive on having procedures and processes in place; others want the excitement and challenge of the unknown. As you found out there are trade-offs. Start-ups can run amok quickly without a clear set of values.

For more information on how to craft your specific response, consider investing in your future with my eBook: What to Do After Being Fired. It will help you get past those hurdles more quickly even if you were fired for being ethical.

My Take on Toxic Work Environment

There’s a new term being thrown around – toxic work environment. It’s a catchy phrase. To be honest, I am not sure I like it. While I fully understand that your work environment could bad for you, toxic refers to something being caused by a toxin or poison – something that is harmful or deadly.

You might argue that your work environment is harmful because of poor management or employee relations practices. However, companies that thrive are addressing these issues, if not they will lose their talented employees and customers.

The other issue I have with a toxic work environment is that the starting place is negative. There is nothing more demotivating than knowing you are at the bottom of the barrel and every step you make will be scrutinized.

Instead, why not start from knowing what the organization does well and build on it? Recognize the areas where you can make progress and focus on what you are doing right. It’s hard to motivate management and employees who think their company is toxic. Once a label is embraced, turning it around is very difficult.

Let’s say your company does have a toxic work environment – perhaps it is affecting your performance or health. Then, I have to ask – Why are you still there? The choice is yours to stay or leave – even if it is a difficult one.

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