No matter how many books you read or courses you take, the transition from individual contributor to manager is a scary one. In theory, the added responsibility of directing others doesn't seem like much. But, when you're sitting down discussing an employee issue for the first time, you quickly realize that the skills that got you promoted won't be the ones that make you successful as a leader.
Julie Zhuo started working at Facebook over ten years ago as an intern. At the early age of 25, she was given her first management position. In a recent First Round Review article, Zhou's view on management was described at that point:
"I was 25-years-old and all that I knew of management could be neatly summarized into two words: meetings and promotion. It was the equivalent of Harry Potter getting a visit from Hagrid on a dark and stormy night, the first step in an adventurous and fulfilling career."
The first time you become a manager it's surreal. You don't feel any different, yet all of a sudden, you're responsible for the success of others. It's like walking out of the hospital with your first child. Even if you took all the lamaze classes, there are going to be moments of trial-by-fire.
From managing a team of one to now overseeing hundreds, Zhuo attributed her success to one very important piece of advice: don't be afraid to ask questions.
There's a stigma that comes with management -- you're supposed to have all the answers. Not true. Sometimes, asking the right question can be just as impactful as giving the right answer.
Here are a few of my personal favorites to help manage employees. Each can help you solve complex issues while honing your management skills at the same time.
- What's working well?
- What's not working well?
- What would you like me to keep doing?
- What would you like me to stop doing?
- What would you like me to start doing?
- If you could change one thing about how our team works together, what would it be?
- Do you feel that you have a clearly defined role within the team?
- Do you feel your work is purposeful and positively impacts the big picture?
- Have you ever felt uncertain about your role? What prompted it?
- Do you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and opinions?
At the end of the day, leadership is a fluid and subjective concept. Success will depend on the dynamics of your team and organization. Rather than managing through assumptions, take a much more practical approach and start asking your team questions.