Being a manager can be a lonely place 

While working as a management development consultant a few years ago a colleague of mine used the phrase “they’ve been promoted to a level of incompetence”, while at the time we had a chuckle about this and spent many hours talking about why this was the case for so many people it was a bit of an epiphany moment as I could directly relate to it, not that I said it at the time! 
 
I had previously held different management positions, the first of which I will always maintain that I failed at, I’ve taken a lot of learning from the experience and applied it over the years since but fundamentally I took a step back from my first management position because ‘I couldn’t do it’. Now in reality if I had the right support at the time then maybe it could have been a different story but if that had happened, it's unlikely I'd be writing this blog with the wealth of managerial experience gained since that moment almost 20 years ago! 
So why does this happen? 
For so many people that find themselves in a management position it is not unusual for them to feel alone, suddenly people now look to you for the answers and if it is because of an internal promotion then there is the added dynamic of potentially managing people that were recently your peers (I also have experience of this as well!). In the latter example it is also not unusual to have people around you that would like to see you fail (lets be very clear though, this should be their problem not yours!) so the feeling of not knowing the answer to a question can be amplified. 
 
One of the key reasons that this happens is because there is a lack of succession planning, but I’ll keep that for another blog. 
So how can you practically deal with this? 
Some people would answer this with “training, you need management training” and while I wouldn’t disagree, this does not deal with the immediacy of the challenge. Management training in the main is very good but when you’re on day four of your new management role and faced with a myriad of operational challenges, training is the last thing you need right now! 
 
In my experience the more effective way of dealing with this is to have access to a mentor. Now in the ideal world as a new manager your mentor would be your line manager, this however can be fraught with challenges like “what if they regret promoting me, I should be able to deal with this”. That said, some people in this position will have an understanding and supportive manager who will help to guide them through the early days of their promotion, for others though it’s very different and in this instance having an external mentor can be the lifeline needed. 
I’m fortunate to have been in all of these positions, I’ve had supportive managers that have guided me, I’ve had external mentors that have pulled me from the ‘fast flowing river’ and also as previously mentioned, I’ve been left to flounder and ultimately paid the price with failure. So why you might ask do I say I’m fortunate to have been left to struggle, well this taught me the most valuable of lessons for when I came back to managing others. Make sure you are there to support your people, no matter what job role they do, managerial or not they are likely to need your support and guidance, be that internal mentor for your people even if you never had it. If you are not getting the support you need from your manager then investigate setting up an external mentor, they don’t always need to be senior to you, I’ve had some of the best advice from trusted individuals that have worked for me! 
 
And remember it is not all about training, sometimes you just need to trust your intuition, you do not always need to know the answer, just have the confidence to go and find it. 
 
You’ve got this! 
Dave Bownes 
P.S. If you’re reading this and are in the middle of the struggle I’ve talked about then feel free to get in touch, I’d be happy to mentor you FOC! Email contact@haynesoliver.com 
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