So, you’re the boss now

There is a lot to learn when you are newly promoted to a senior role. And a lot of that learning is learning about yourself.
By Jane McCarroll.

You have been promoted and now you’re the boss. Wow. Congratulations. What a thrill. But at the same time, if I’m totally honest, it can also be bloody daunting.

There is so much to learn. Ask any new manager or senior executive to recall how they felt after their big promotion to the top job and I’m pretty sure you’ll hear various tales of the steep learning curve they faced.

I remember getting my first big promotion – I was so excited. I was going to change the world for the better, this was my moment. To prepare for my first day (as it was an internal promotion) I asked to meet with my management team one-on-one to understand their vision and strategy that supported my business function, so I could begin mapping out my first 90 days in sympathy with their wider strategies.

It is fair to say not everything went according to plan. When I reflect on my learnings as a first-time manager my biggest learnings were not academic – they were about the people and my own approach to situations. I could not have successfully nurtured and developed a strong foundation of leadership without knowing myself, my impact on others and my impact on business performance.

Here are my top three learnings from my experience as a first-time manager.

It is good to over communicate:  My first hurdle (learning) was the realisation that they weren’t all on the same page. They had different priorities for this newly created management function and what it could deliver. Yikes. What was I going to do next?

I remember that in my introductory meeting with one of the GMs, he asked me if I thought I was more ‘hui’ than ‘doey’. I had to ask for that analogy to be translated – it wasn’t pleasant. I picked myself up off the floor and realised that he must be ignorant of my contribution and it was my business to make sure he knew all about it. I learnt then just how important visibility is and that Iearning how to manage up is as important as managing down.

There is a theory which says when you are sick of saying something, people are just beginning to hear it. You cannot communicate a strategy once and assume everyone is on board.

It is important that you communicate clearly what you’re planning to do, what you’re doing now and what you have accomplished to date. No one else is going to do that for you.

Lead through influence: When trying to make things run smoothly and deliver on product and revenue objectives, I’ve had a few occasions where I was challenging organisational processes and structures. I was outside of my pay scale and department.

I needed to lead through influence, across departments and colleagues who had also applied for the same role. This required emotional tenacity as I worked to navigate the landscape and drive participation and performance across multiple teams. This was fiendishly challenging.

I learned that on-boarding multiple stakeholders and objectives takes time to yield results. Especially if those objectives are competing with each other.

Be the change you want to see: There’s the saying ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ and I have witnessed this first hand. I have seen strategies that have been implemented with a team that clearly understands the greater vision and their contribution towards that, and those that don’t. I’ll leave you to guess which one was more successful.

Be part of a positive culture and actively seek opportunities to endorse it.

At IMNZ, we’re delivering executive development that is not academic, it is evidence-based research that practitioners know that doing your job is the easy bit, it is navigating your way through organisations that is the whole new ball game.

Here are some key competencies we observe that underpin a strong leadership foundation.

Know yourself: Most good managers have sound product knowledge or technical skills, the ability to manage relationships and the motivation to succeed. But exceptional managers are also self-aware. Self-awareness helps you to identify thinking, beliefs and behaviours you need to change to improve your leadership.

Be resilient: Resilience is the coping mechanism you must learn to help you manage stress. Whatever the cause of your stress, your task is work out your personal strategies to foster the resilience which will help you through your tough times. A resilient leader has the opportunity to role model best practice in the workplace, support others to develop their resilience while promoting a healthier, happier and more productive work environment.

Be courageous: Having the confidence to manage tough conversations and conflict is an essential leadership skill. Your approach can make or break relationships and determine decisions and their outcomes. A successful leadership foundation starts with knowing yourself. At IMNZ we are all about making that happen and supporting our learners and members on their management and leadership journey.

Have a great March. 


Jane McCarroll is the marketing and membership manager at IMNZ. The Institute of Management NZ, helping leaders step up and lead since 1946.

Visited 13 times, 1 visit(s) today

A focus on culture

Rabobank’s 520-plus New Zealand employees work from 27 locations – places like Ashburton, Pukekohe and Feilding and from a purpose-built head office in Hamilton. Its employees are proud of the

Read More »
Close Search Window