Mid-level managers, managing though not leading ... yet.

June 15th, 2023

The following is an extract from my book, 'Level Up - how leaders can learn to do less and be more'.

You are now leading a team, but really you may only know how to manage one – you are doing the transactional stuff.

You are assumed to know how to lead because you are so good at what you did. You are in this role or have recently been promoted because you are very good at the technical skills and expertise you have, yet these rarely translate into great leadership skills.

If you continue doing the work you used to do, you won't be able to level up. This is your comfort zone – you know the work. But this means you are neglecting your team and not focussing on the work required at your new level of seniority. The people stuff is piling up, and you are drowning in busyness.

Who you were in your old job is not what is required in this role.

It is important to develop behavioural skills rather than rely on technical skills as you move into more senior roles.

Technical skills are the skills that have got you to where you are. These skills are what you need to perform specific tasks. Sometimes called ‘hard skills, they are the abilities and knowledge you have acquired, or formally learnt, in your area of expertise. 

Examples of technical skills are things like programming, project management, and managing a balance sheet.

In management roles, these technical skills are not required to the same extent as there is a team in place to do this work. Behavioural skills, also called ‘soft’ or ‘people’ skills, are needed as you start leading people.

Soft skills include communication and listening skills, dealing with challenging people, giving feedback, receiving feedback, building rapport, delegating, managing conflict and having difficult conversations.  

I have consistently found that the middle layer of an organisation is where culture emerges. Yet this layer is the most under-supported in terms of leadership and behavioural development. This is where overwhelm is rife.

Without a doubt, you want to improve, learn how to lead effectively, and build teams that want to be better engaged and do good work together. And you can definitely do that – it takes a mindset shift and enhancing your behaviour skills.

Then you can start focusing on the following:

  1. The work you should be paying attention to that is appropriate for your level of seniority and doing less of the work that your team should be doing.
  2. Building your team’s capability so they start to perform a little better and, over time, take on more responsibility appropriate for their level.

If you want to enhance your behavioural skills, start with a simple self-assessment to determine if you are delegating enough of your tasks to your team. Click here to download the self-assessment.

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