Keys to a Management MentalityBy
Getting promoted to manager requires finance professionals to adjust to a leadership role, delegating and motivating the team.
When I was 25 years old, I started my career as a finance and business analyst for many reasons, primarily due to my studies—I earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance and a master’s degree in executive financial analysis. After gaining experience working as an analyst, I savored the enjoyment of solving complex problems and finding optimal solutions, soothing colleagues by performing well in stressful situations, empowering those who needed support, contributing to risk management and mitigation, and embracing the challenge of continuing to learn and never resting on my laurels.
I also had the opportunity to work as a regional financial analyst, which was demanding, but I found pleasure in growing professionally to meet that challenge.
My impression was that analysts without management responsibilities have relatively few reasons to dedicate extensive energy to keeping up professional social networks. I assumed that my colleagues were just like I was—quiet, diligent introverts—and that the work would be mission-oriented and require hyperfocus, which was partially true.
I used to work very closely and intensely both with other colleagues and in isolation in my office, alone with my Excel files for long periods of time. As I started growing professionally and ascending in my career, it became clear to me that getting selected for opportunities with an upward trajectory required being sociable and communicative.
As an accounting manager, I realized that much of my focus should be on supporting my team and motivating them, balancing that with my core job responsibilities. I’m really amazed at how much time and energy it takes to do the former.
It took me a while to find my footing and get into a rhythm as a manager, and I’m still working on getting settled into a management mentality. One of the first things I noticed after getting promoted was how the interactions with people who were accustomed to working with me in my previous role changed, unsure what my new role would mean for them and the type of relationship that we used to have. I had to accept that managers will never please everyone.
I can admit that I experienced some difficulties in transitioning to managing a team and overcoming hurdles to become an effective leader. The following are some lessons that I learned after transitioning from analyst to manager.
GAIN NEW PERSPECTIVE ON YOUR VALUE
In my role as a manager, I initially insisted on keeping all of my analytical responsibilities. I took a detail-focused approach to my task-oriented work. I stuck to the tangible list of reports that I wrote rather than delegating such tasks because I thought that my value was still proven by the quality of my reports. Thus, I asked for more work, which helped me find my way and take baby steps out of my comfort zone. I matured and worked hard, gaining a new level of respect from my direct reports.
Looking back, though, I sometimes made my life far harder than it needed to be by not delegating enough. My fear of relinquishing control over the tasks my team is responsible for, including researching and writing reports, initially held me back from seeing my own value as a manager and leader.
For a manager, particularly in middle management, your responsibilities can be difficult to prioritize. You’re the one who must squeeze the most productivity out of your team given everyone’s interests, potential, skills, needs, and priorities. A top-down approach from leadership that middle managers communicate effectively to their reports helps the broader organization to execute on the strategic plan. You must find a way to motivate and train your team properly in order to follow through on senior management’s directives.
ALIGNING VISIONS, IMPROVING UNITY
Everyone might have their own vision for what inspires them to do their job well and provide value to the company and its clients. Once you have finished creating your own vision statement with a road map for successfully executing your responsibilities, the next step is to understand where those convictions line up with your organization’s strategic vision. It’s good to communicate to your team how those visions are aligned in order to build trust and motivate members of your team.
As in any relationship in life, the importance of communication within a team is undeniable, but it can be difficult and requires an ongoing process of listening and adjusting when necessary. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began and employees started working remotely, most of my team’s conversations occur virtually via Teams or Zoom. Thus, it can be difficult to gauge whether a culture of clarity, energy, and cohesive action is being created.
While there’s no simple guideline for creating positive, meaningful, and effective communication across a team, I strongly believe that a big part of a manager’s role is to maximize productivity of meetings. Among various tips for running a successful meeting, make sure participants know what they need to do to prepare for each meeting, set a specific time limit and stick to it, and send follow-up notes or minutes summing up the most important takeaways.
In addition, organizations should invest more time and effort on training employees. In many cases, managers should train their employees directly while exploring both in-house and external continuing professional education options. Investing in training will pay dividends over the long term. The more you train your team, the better results will be for the organization. Sometimes we forget that not everyone in a group knows how to do the same things, so misunderstandings might occur. With proper training, you can avoid such occasions, save time and effort, make people’s jobs easier, and increase your chance of successfully executing your organization’s strategy.