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Are you just promoted to manager? If yes, you are welcome to read this blog. The selection process of a manager in a company is different as it is based on its business model. But, most software companies feel that only a strong technical person can lead a technical team better than anyone else. I would agree with that too.
You are technically strong and no doubt about that. But, how strong are you in managing a team? Till your promotion day, you worked as a developer and you require someone to manage you. But now, you have to manage your whole team. Have you ever thought about why companies promote their senior developers or world-class developers as managers?
It’s because companies look at their team as a sports team and believe that an exceptional senior player can coach the young players well to make the team better. Of Course, it may be right, but business is just not like sports. Everyone needs training. Especially, training on leadership.
When a company hires someone as their manager they take enough time to validate and do background checks to make sure if the skills they expect can be met or not. But in the case of promotion, it’s a bit different. So, what are the management skills that a company requires? And, do you possess those skills required?
Let me list down some skills you have to learn to become an exceptional manager.
- Decision Making
- Listening to problems
- Providing necessary solutions to your team
- Keep up the team in comfort
- Make sure that the team is happy and proud to work for you
- Being an inspiring one
The list still goes on. Many blogs and articles state that these are the important skills one should learn to become an exceptional leader. Yet, none of them explain how to learn or master these skills. So, to start with, let’s just focus on the above-mentioned skills.
Managerial skills cannot be just studied and read,
It should be earned and Experienced
I know what you are about to ask me, “How do I learn these skills?.” The simplest solution I would suggest is, “Look for Problems”. Yes! you heard me right. If your team has no flaws and everything goes as smooth as butter, then you are in a boring situation. The only way to make your boring situation more interesting is to find places where you can enhance the existing process to make it more efficient. On the other hand, if your team has one or more problems, then you will have a very good chance to learn those skills listed above. Let’s see how to learn those skills along with problem-solving.
Why are problems so important for a manager?
Learn to turn your problems into possibilities,
To face your future filled with opportunities.
What are the skills one requires to perform one’s role to the fullest? Again the simplest and the only answer for this question is “Looking for Problems”. Lifetime learners will surely enjoy this new role. This is because skills you learn through problem-solving for sure will help you not get just to the next level from your present designation but also earn the respect of your fellow team members. This way you could end up being an inspiration to them.
Therefore, the first skill that will make you a learner again is understanding the problem. Everyone can handle problems differently. But, how a manager handles the situation and resolves the problem proves his efficiency. And, I would say that it is the first qualification (Decision Making) to become a great manager.
I’m so sure of what I said because problem-solving and decision-making go hand in hand. So, mastering these two skills needs patience and a clear understanding to identify the issue and develop your solutions.
Internal and External problems
Don’t look at problems as unresolved frustrations,
They are an excellent opportunity to look for solutions.
Problems may be either external or internal. Internal problems are the safest things to handle first as it gets quickly resolved sometimes. Since you were already there in the team, you must have some broad ideas of your team’s major internal problems.
Now, as a manager, you have the authority to identify those problems and resolve them all in the first place. Yet, keep in mind that all those problems you have had in your mind are based on your perception as a team player. Being a manager now you have to look at the problems from the team’s point of view.
So, have a quick meeting with your team to get a better understanding of what are the problems they face. By doing this whenever it’s possible, you will learn the second skill (Listening to the team) and play the role of a better caretaker.
Now, having collected the inputs, please note down the major or minor problems (if any) in a notepad. Do not underestimate the minor problems if there are any. Sometimes fixing minor problems in your team results in solving the major problems at your company. Collecting inputs from the team is an art, especially with Indian culture. You can see that all the team members aren’t as talkative as you think. Some people may not talk much. I will explain how to conduct meetings with the team members in my next blog in detail.
Validating the problem
Not all problems are like puzzles. Some problems are trivial yet can be solved in a flash of lightning. A good leader should look at each problem as a serious one. By gathering complete information about the problem you will understand the real seriousness. So, as a good manager, you should treat each problem like cancer. It should be treated in the earlier stage itself. If not treated on time, it can never be treated and the cure might become impossible or painful.
Converting problem into a Crisis:
Psychological experts would always suggest you not to look at problems too closely as they might look bigger. But in our case, we have to take a closer look at even minor problems. If the problem seems valid and serious, then we have to make it a serious crisis. A crisis either for your team or for others or to the company. The crisis should never allow any single concerned person to be comfortable with their routines until the problem is solved. That’s why converting any problem into a crisis is very important for any good leader or manager.
When you call it a “problem”, the others will think that it’s yours. When you convert the problem into a crisis and show them how it’s gonna affect them, they will start listening to you. It’s not easy to get everyone’s attention for a minor problem. So, when you convert the problem into a crisis make sure the details you are gathering are valid and it connects the other teams. Thus, they will feel that fixing a problem is an added enhancement to the company.
The key to resolve the problem is to shout out the crisis:
Before shouting out the crisis, collecting as much information as possible should be carried out. Because you are trying to bring an ocean out of a drop of water. When you shout about the crisis, the concerned members may think that the problem is simple and easily solvable. As you don’t think it’s not as simple as others think, you need strong data to prove that the situation is not good and if it is left unnoticed, it will worsen. So, you make sure to explain to your team about the problem first and then explain the other things that are likely to get affected. You have to be more serious because others may think that the problem is simple but you exaggerate it. So, try hard to make sure they understand the seriousness of the situation. Once everyone stays on the same line, start creating the space for solutions. Sometimes the solutions may be simple and quick as you have a larger audience now. If not, the next step is initiating the exploration for new ideas.
Create a space for explorations & new ideas:
Creating a space lets you understand that something was missing and something better must be done to avoid problems in the future. Once you bring the problem to this stage, you are halfway through success. The next stage would be the exploration and asking for new ideas on how to solve this problem.
First discuss with your team. Though you might have planned something, never start the meeting with your ideas. Let your team members start with their ideas first. Who knows if someone from your team can tell you the exact solution as what you have in your mind or at least something close to yours. This is required to keep up your team in comfort.
Provide that space to your team and be a better listener. If no one gives you a better solution but just little insights, combine your ideas with those insights from the team and start explaining your solution. So, the team members will feel that they are also part of this solution and they’ll be happy to work for you.
An Anecdote on Problem-Solving
For now, to make this reading more interesting and understandable, let me quote one real-time example that happened in our company.
Once, I received a request from the sales department that there was a minor problem with the live support. Often, the customer who had recently signed up with our company kept coming back through live support with few After-Sales Support-related queries. This affected the sales executives, they weren’t able to spare much time on the new leads and inquiries.
So, to get a clear understanding of what’s going on, I decided to call for a meeting. I called for a meeting with the After-Sales Support team manager and Sales team manager. And, the problem was discussed in detail. Finally, we concluded that we can hire a person to manage customer queries in the live support. So, from then, if there was any live support chat from any new customer it got transferred to this newly appointed member.
After some time, in conversation with the sales team, I found something strange. I came to know that the recently hired sales executive was the only one supporting all the recently signed up customers in live chat, while the rest of the team continued to work on their new leads and inquiries.
I sensed that I needed to understand what was happening with the After-Sales Support team. I felt that fixing something that’s not right over there is the right way to avoid this problem recurring in the future. But, I was not sure how to do that. So, first thing first I contacted my After Sales Support manager and other concerned people.
Once everyone assembled, my first question was “I don’t understand why one person is working on the sales team to take care of the entire after-sales queries?”. As the question was discussed earlier, I started listening to all the points based on which they took the previous decision of hiring a new member. This is where I have decided to make this problem into a crisis.
Then, I put forward my next question, “What if we get more after-sales queries where one person cannot handle it all?”. Before anyone from the group answered, I shot my last question, “Are you all suggesting to hire one more person to support the after-sales queries?”. These questions made others realize that there was something wrong with the previous decision.
Thinking minds will have a great listening capacity. Exactly at the right time when the group started to think, I asked the After-Sales Support manager “How do you manage after-sales queries?” and listened to the explanation on everything from start to end. Now, I had a complete understanding of what the problem was. I had a couple of questions and found the answers for those queries as well.
Why recently signed up customers came back to live support?
i. There was some problem in the After Sales Support and that’s why the customers kept coming back to the live support where they felt comfortable. The reason was they kept getting answers quickly. This clearly stated that the After Sales Support team was not as good as the live support team.
ii. Sometimes, the customers come to the live support to know the status of some tickets and regarding the questions that they asked the after-sales support team. This means there is some delay in the after-sales support team on the responses.
How did adding a new member to the team solve the problem permanently?
Adding a new member to solve the recent customers’ queries was a temporary solution. When there is an increase in the number of sales, obviously there will be more need in the live support team for existing customers.
What was the stand of the After Sales Support team on this particular issue?
The After Sales Support team had not realized this problem completely. They believed that supporting customers and leads were just a part of the live support team. So, they thought that it was natural for customers to go to the live support team.
Then I patiently explained how this problem would reflect in the future to the whole team and asked everyone for a better solution. To my surprise, the newly appointed person from the group gave me the solution I was looking for. The person suggested, “Why can’t we add a live support system in the after-sales support?”. Obviously! It solved the first half of the problem. What about the remaining?
After some exploration, someone from the team suggested, “What if we automated the project management tool to email the list of tickets and questions which have not responded within the promised timeline?”. Perfect! Sometimes automation on microlevel management solves the major problems.
The problem got completely solved. After the automation, everything went on well. Though the problem got resolved, there were some tickets and questions that got missed in the first week. And gradually it got reduced to zero. This was when I asked that newly appointed person to move on to the sales funnel. So long that person has been working in live support but was handling the after-sales support. Handling just the after-sales queries for sure has been boring. Especially, when others in the same team were talking to new customers every day and getting incentives on each sale. This made that person feel proud and happy to work for me.
Problems are the key to the room for innovation and creativity. Closely looking at any problems will let anyone understand them completely. Just stand in the shoes of one who is facing the problem every day. That will help you get the real dimension of the problem. Being a manager is not easy when you just ignore or skip the problem with quick solutions. Question yourself, “When was the last time I helped my team with resolving a problem?”. If this same question seems elementary to you and if this question sounds as simple as questioning yourself, “When was the last time I blinked the eyes?”- Trust me, that is when you are in the right phase. Always keep in mind,
Great things can’t be achieved from comfort zones,
so dare to take that extra mile.