How to Become a Manager: Getting Promoted & Making the Transition
Career Management

How to Become a Manager: Getting Promoted & Making the Transition

To become a manager, you have to develop, deploy, and demonstrate the skills a manager has—even before you officially lock down the promotion.

Luckily, not only will this proactively building your management skills now help you earn your promotion, but it will also help you excel in the role once you have it. If you want to become a manager, these experts have laid out the path for you to follow, step-by-step:

Getting promoted to manager

Elizabeth (McLeod) Lotardo and Lisa Earle McLeod opened their course on Learning to Be Promotable by explaining that, “To be promotable, you have to be more than just good at your job. Getting promoted requires that you demonstrate you could be good at the next job.” 

To become a manager, therefore, you need to prove you can think like a manager and excel at all of the tasks required of a manager. As your first step toward promotion, you’ll want to adopt what Dr. Carolyn Goerner called “the manager’s perspective” in her course on Making the Move from Individual Contributor to Manager.

  1. Adopt the perspective

Dr. Goerner laid out two “big mental shifts” that need to happen for you to adopt a manager’s perspective:

  1. See the big picture. “Think about your prior job. How did you impact your department? Now, apply that perspective to your entire work group.”
  2. Shift your thinking from ‘me’ to ‘we.’ “Rather than thinking about how you can be a star individual, consider how the talents of your team can be deployed to make the whole group better.”

It’s not enough to just start thinking about how you’re developing the people around you. You should also demonstrate to your would-be promoters that you’ve adopted the perspective, as well—and make the case that it will make you a valuable manager.

Lotardo and McLeod call this demonstrating “promotional behavior.”

     2. Demonstrate promotional behavior

Lotardo and McLeod explained how you can embody several elements of promotional behavior to impress your superiors and win your promotion:

  • Master the “Three Skills”: “There are three skills you have to master to get a promotion,” Lotardo explained: “Deadlinescommunication, and connecting the dots. You need to hit deadlines, make sure your communication is timely and accurate, and ‘connect the dots’ by understanding how your role benefits the entire organization.”
  • Dial into leadership language: “First, speak about industry trends and opportunities in a strategic way. Second, focus on organizational awareness. Be fluent in your organization’s goals and challenges and be able to reference them in everyday conversation.”
  • Engage your peers: “Be personal. Let people know why the project matters to you. When you show why you care, it helps other people care, too.”
  • Demonstrate strategic thinking to your boss: “You want your boss to see you connecting the dots between strategy and tactics. Talk to them about how your industry is changing and how your department can adapt.”
  1. Ask for it

After you’ve positioned yourself for the managerial position and feel confident, all that’s left is to get proactive and ask for the promotion. 

Lotardo and McLeod suggested setting up a specific time to talk to your boss and/or the other decision makers. Tell them you want to talk about advancement, and then focus the ensuing conversation on three things:

  1. Success in your current role: “Pick a few high impact, high value success stories that highlight your qualifications for the promotion you’re going for.”
  2. Where you’ve grown: “Talking about where you’ve grown shows you have a growth mindset, and leaders are people who seek improvement.”
  3. Tell them what you want: “People can’t read your mind. Tell them exactly what you want and ask how you can make it happen. Get clear on what you need to do to get that future promotion.”

Starting off on the right foot

So, you got the promotion. Congratulations! What happens next is crucial: you have to make the transition from individual contributor to manager. This means finding an identity and approach for yourself within the new role, and starting to determine how you’re going to discuss performance expectations with your team.

  1. Manage the transition

“Taking a little time to coordinate and plan the transition to manager will make it a lot easier,” advised Dr. Goerner. She broke the transition down into four key steps:

  1. Documentation: Document your old job for the next person who will take it on. Make sure they have everything they need and answer their questions.
  2. Schedule dates: Plan the transition process, starting with timelines and considering when you will complete any training you need.
  3. Learn the job: See if you can work side-by-side with the person you’re replacing to get a better understanding of the role.
  4. Delegate and transfer prior responsibilities: Phase out of your last role by helping your replacement transfer into it. Remember, they won’t be perfect at first, but then neither were you.
  1. Find your manager identity

In his course on New Manager FoundationsDr. Todd Dewett argued that in the first month of a management job, your primary goal should be to set the tone and establish your own identity as manager. He recommends focusing on three main activities:

  1. Learn to look like a leader: “Look at how other managers in your organization look. You want to be reasonably close to those expectations. Avoid drastic changes.”
  2. Develop professional relationships with your team: “Your goal as the new boss isn’t to be friends with your employees, it’s to develop positive and personal professional relationships. Productive professional relationships can and should be personal, but they should be dominated by performance-related discussions.”
  3. Be visible: “Don’t hide in your office studying things about the new role. During work hours for the first month or two, your goal is to get out there and get to know people.”
  1. Discuss performance expectations

The most challenging aspect of management for many new managers is confrontation. When a team member isn’t performing to expectations, it’s up to you to intervene.

Dr. Goerner recommended a helpful system for first-time managers still learning how to discuss performance with their team. “When you see an employee in need of correction, remind yourself to stop on a DIME,” she said.

  1. Describe: “Too often, new managers propose a solution before they’ve even identified the problem, so start by defining, as precisely as you can, the way this person’s performance is different from what you expect.”
  2. Inquire: “Ask open-ended questions when you talk about work performance. Focus on trying to understand the sequence of events from the employee’s point of view. Ask them how they might do it differently next time.”
  3. Manage: “Start with the big picture, begin with why. Give them context so they understand the impact their work has on others. Ask if they have everything they need to do the task they’re struggling with and help find them additional resources if they don’t. Set performance goals.”
  4. Encourage: “Express confidence in their general talent and ability. Remind them of special training they’ve completed or a track record of improvement. Look for and comment on improvement.”

Managing is as much art as science, and even the most seasoned of managers learn something new about the role nearly every day. If you can incorporate this expert advice into your transition, however, you’ll find you’re equipped with everything you need to grow into the great manager you want to be. 

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November 17, 2022

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