You Just Got Promoted to SE Manager. Now What?
Congratulations on your promotion! A good first step is you acknowledging that you earned it and deserve it. Now on to the challenging part — successfully transitioning into the new role.
Over the coming weeks, you’ll work with your manager on just that. Thinking back to my initial promotion to management, here are a few things that helped me get started in the right way, shared from the leaders that were big influences on me at the time.
What was especially challenging for me was that I had to lead the presales team that I had just spent a year being a part of. I was intimidated and perhaps overly eager. These things really helped me get off to the best start.
Change your mindset. Become the least most important person in your world. One of the things I loved about being an SE was being in the spotlight, whether it was doing a demo or just responding to a prospect question. One of the most important things you do as a manager is step out of the spotlight and push your people into it. This can be especially difficult if you are also expected to act in the SE role as well. And your credibility as a Presales Leader does in part depend on your ability to represent the solution in the field. So, put effort to finding ways you can positively promote the work the individuals on your team do.
Realize everyone is watching you. Realize that while you’re taking your ego out of the equation, this doesn’t mean that you should not be confident, decisive, definitive, and strong. This sometimes makes me think of the caricature of actors who are constantly acting like they are on camera and worried about their look or making sure they are showing their good side. Well, this mindset is not too far off what I’m talking about. Maybe it seems obvious to you, but know that not only will your teams be watching your every move and listening to your every word, so will the AEs, BDRs, Regional Sales Managers, and… well, everyone in the company. Now that you have the title, the expectation on you instantly changes. Do your best to be positive but truthful. Think 2 or 3 times before you say anything. Make sure that you believe in what you say and can defend it. Don’t get caught up in discussions just to be right or show you’re in charge. Be super careful about what you say about others. In fact, better not to say anything at all. I would tell you I still get caught up in this, and I only regret it afterward. The high road is the best place to be, and it will make a huge positive impact on your ability to lead your team and their confidence in you. Your team will be examining what you say about others and assume that you will say the same things about them. So, make them proud to have you as their boss.
Work on yourself. This may seem counter to the first bullet, but it’s not really. In the end, you only have control over you. You’re only good for your team if you’re good at what you do — and that means constantly educating yourself. The best way to do that is to read. Every day. Morning is the best time to do that, when your mind is fresh and ready to receive good stuff. I do believe that “garbage in / garbage out” applies more to the brain than the software applications. I also believe the opposite is true — “gold in / gold out.” So put some gold into your brain every day, whether you listen to audio books or read the old-fashioned way. Here are some suggestions that had a huge impact on me:
- The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People — Stephen Covey
- Living the 7 Habits — Stephen Covey
- The Speed of Trust — Stephen M. R. Covey
- Start With Why — Simon Sinek
- Leaders Eat Last — Simon Sinek
- The Infinite Game — Simon Sinek
- Good to Great- Jim Collins
- Dream Teams — Shane Snow
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck — Mark Manson
- The Obstacle Is The Way — Ryan Holiday
- Think Again — Adam Grant
- The 360 Degree Leader — John C. Maxwell
- Execution — Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan
- Managing for Results — Peter Drucker
- The Effective Executive — Peter Drucker
- Measure What Matters — John Doerr
- The Miracle Morning — Hal Elrod
- Meditations — Marcus Aurelius
Also, your physical and emotional health is as important as your brain. If you work out, keep doing that. If you don’t, start. MAKE time for it. It will be easy to get caught up in the job and tell yourself you can afford to skip a workout. You’re a manager now — the job is IMPORTANT. That’s a slippery slope that leads to no workouts. I’ve found that working out is the best anti-depressant I know. It’s as much an emotional boost as a physical one. 2021 is a year in which my working out dropped off significantly, and as a result I know I struggled emotionally and struggled to be motivated. It affected my performance as the Presales leader. Preserve the time for yourself. Block it off on your calendar. AND — for what it’s worth — I don’t think listening to an audio book while working out gets you a 2 for 1. You need to be able to focus on the individual activity — reading or working out — to get the full benefit. It’s worth making the time to make these 2 separate activities.
Have patience. You’re eager to make your mark, excited about having an impact. You will. Just don’t rush in to trying to do everything at once. There are two very important things to remember about being a manager:
1. Great management is boring. It’s not all mind-blowing ideas or amazing mountain top meetings. Those will happen, but they are rare. Great management is you simply doing the same things consistently day in and day out — being available, holding regular 1–1s and team meetings, responding to questions on a timely basis. It’s not one great thing you do — it’s lots of good things you do OVER TIME that make you a great manager. So, give yourself that time.
2. Great Management is about relationships. Realize that the nature of the relationship you have with your teams has just completely changed. You are now starting over. You know that good relationships are based on trust. Trust takes time to build. Keep in mind your team just got a new boss, which in some cases might have just been one of their own. That’s really disruptive and unsettling. Give them time to settle in. Do the things that build good relationships — learn about them as people, talk to them like friends and not just employees, look out for them. It will be weeks before you get into a place where they truly begin to trust you. It’s a process that simply can’t be accelerated.
There is a ton of other stuff as well, but this is a good start. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the list and not then get to anything on the list. Breathe and enjoy moment, then roll up your sleeves and get to work.
One final bit: There is an organization called Manager Tools to which I subscribe and consider to be the best fundamental guidance for a new manager. They have a practice they call the Management Trinity — One on Ones, Feedback, and Coaching. I highly recommend listening to the podcasts that outline this practice from their website (https://www.manager-tools.com/).