Soon after she left Yahoo! I asked Michelle how her first week at her new job was going. “It’s ok”, she said “but we had a big team meeting which was really strange. They all just sat there looking at me.”
“Well yes,” I pointed out, “you are their new boss.”
It’s natural to want to be one of the group. For a large part of your career you were either told what to do or you were given a broad problem and asked to solve it as a team. As you become a lead or manager you start to take on a different sort of problem: How can I organize the people I have so we can deliver this project successfully? What do I need to do to make sure they can get on with what they do best? Regardless of your role though, you are usually working with plenty of guidance inside a domain that you know well.
The next level is where it starts to get more complicated. As you become a manager of managers you are responsible for direction and results, not day to day deliverables. Your team looks to you to define the problem space and to set targets. Your business expects you to bring value – and to define what this means. You stop working in your team and start working on your team.
This can be daunting. Like a writer with a blank sheet of paper or an artist with a fresh canvas there can be immense pressure to deliver. It would be great to call a big meeting and ask everyone to help out, but designing by committee rarely works. You may find they just sit there – looking at you 😉