Stepping Up from Individual Contributor to New Manager/Leader 

By PeopleLeaders | People Leaders Podcast

office workers

Making the transition from individual contributor to manager is about more than just taking on more responsibilities.

It literally requires a shift in how you think about your work, the people you work with, and yourself.

In this episode, we lay out eight paradigm shifts that are essential for you to perform at your best and to bring out the best in your team.

Episode Highlights:
  • [00:00] Introduction and Purpose of the Podcast
  • [01:34] Key Area 1: Shifting Focus
  • [02:54] Key Area 2: Managing Time
  • [04:19] Key Area 3: Thinking Mode
  • [05:26] Key Area 4: Approach to Work
  • [06:38] Key Area 5: Action Mode
  • [07:26] Key Area 6: Work Status
  • [08:20] Key Area 7: Understanding Next Steps
  • [09:11] Key Area 8: Ownership and Accountability
  • [10:22] Key Area 9: Reporting and Adding Value
  • [12:19] Conclusion and Next Steps

You can also download a handy pdf printout of the table above to help you put these paradigm shifts into action.

Useful Links:


NB: This transcript has been AI generated and may contain some slight errors. Please judge our efforts accordingly 🙂

Jan Terkelsen: Here we are again, Michelle. How are you

Michelle Terkelsen: Oh yeah very well. It's a good day today.

Jan Terkelsen: So this podcast, it really has come about because of the amount of inquiries that we get from aspiring new leaders and managers. And it's really interesting what got them to this position won't get them to the next or where they need to get and there's usually a gap.

And so what we are looking at is that progression from an individual competent contributor to a new leader or manager. And what is that change? Perspective or those centers of attention that they really need to focus on as they move forward. And we put together a table because we love resources and templates that you can take away with.

And there's a couple of ways that you can use it. Just step through it, use it as a reflection piece. You can use it with your manager to get some feedback or do it with a colleague who has actually seen you in action. So let's go through it. So the first one, Michelle, take us away.

Michelle Terkelsen: Yeah, so the first key area is your focus.

With individual contributors, their focus tends to be on the task at hand, and usually it's a task that they are predominantly solely responsible for. And then when you shift to some sort of supervisor manager leader role, then the scope of your focus is more expansive. And not only are you focusing on tasks per se, but you're also focusing on projects.

And with projects, it's not usually one person who's responsible for the projects, it's going to be multiple people. And so again, your focus area, not just on the tasks of a project, it might be the whole project that you're going to be responsible for. And with projects, comes people. And so you are also going to have your focus area on people and them achieving what they need to do and how do you support them in order for you to get your tasks and their tasks done.

So it's from task orientation to projects to people. So your focus all the time. As an individual contributor moving into a manager is look up and out.

Jan Terkelsen: Yeah, absolutely. And if you could just take those things away, that's what you really need to do, isn't it? And another perspective or an area that you need to look at is your time.

So how do I use my time? Where is my focus in time? and for a new, like individual contributor, it really is about the present moment, like the now. What is really urgent and important. So a lot of the work is quite reactive work and a lot of that is how do I Like knowing that I need to focus on what's in front of me and so I have a little bit of consistency because I know what's expected of me, however there are going to be urgent things and important things that come up but it really is focusing on the present moment, the right now.

Whereas if you're a manager or a leader, your focus is really going to be on the present moment because you're going to get an important and urgent. You also have to be future oriented and future oriented isn't necessarily urgent, but it's very important things. And also as a manager, you have to look at the past because the past and the history is going to perhaps inform the present and also your planning for the future.

So again, like you said, you're looking, Up and out you're really broadening your perspective around your time. Where is the focus of your time?

Michelle Terkelsen: Terrific. And the next one is really your thinking mode. So where, what is my mode of thinking? As an individual contributor, there is a tendency to be like practical and tactical because you are focusing on tasks that you are predominantly responsible for.

As you move to a managerial leadership role, your thinking mode is going to be more strategic. There will still be the practical and tactical, but again, you're not only diving into the detail, there is an expectation that you lift up from the detail and look at the implications of the detail.

So what are the consequences of those actions and of those practical tasks that you need to do? And so there is more planning for the longer term. There is more of a focus on how do the different parts fit together? How do these different tasks and practical, tactical things add up to this broader, perspective that I am going to focus on.

So your thinking mode, again, practical, tactical to more strategic, long term and planning.

Jan Terkelsen: Which really moves through into the next dimension, which is your approach. As an individual contributor, your approach is really how. How do I do this confidently? Because that is what I do. What you base your level of achievement and performance about how will you do the task and that's what actually allowed you, I think, to get that promotion to a new manager.

However, instead of looking at how I do it, it's who is doing it now.

And sometimes what we have noticed, Michelle, is that the new managers end up doing all the work themselves because the people that they manage perhaps aren't doing the work to the level. And I suppose the quality that you would do it.

And so because your reputation you think is on the line, you end up doing a lot of the work. And that's what we found with new managers and leaders is that they really not only have to do the work themselves, but there are other, the people issues that come into it, which adds to the type of work that they're doing.

So remember, the approach is not just how you do it, but who is doing it as well.

Michelle Terkelsen: Fantastic. Which is a great little segue into the next area of your focus, which is the action mode. And as an individual contributor, you tend to be more hands on because you are an individual contributor and you're responsible for your workload and flow.

As you move to a managerial role it tends to be more hands off, but we don't actually mean hands off. I'm not going to do anything. It's more of a delegation focus or a guidance orientation that you have as a manager in order to get the role done. So again, moving from, I've got to get it done using all my resources that I have.

Two, how do I use those broader resources available to me either to delegate or to guide people and provide some sort of oversight.

Jan Terkelsen: The next dimension is work status. So if you're an individual contributor, it's either done or not done. It's quite binary. You've usually got a task list and you Tick it off.

Whereas if you're a new manager or a leader, progress is quite ambiguous because not only are you doing the work, but you're actually relying on other people. People and elements, you're actually putting so many more things together. And it's not just about, did I submit that report? Did I upload the data?

Did I contact that client? It's actually more than that. Was the client satisfied? How do I know that? What are the client's issues? Like again, like you said, it's very, it's broader and there is more scope involved with your work status.

Michelle Terkelsen: Which, again, leads to the next area of focus, which are, okay, my, what are the next steps in Valdeita, this project, this task, this program?

And with an individual contributor, they tend to be usually clear and outlined pretty linearly however, with a leader. leadership role it tends to be a little bit unclear a little bit ambiguous because there are multiple next steps because there are multiple players involved as you broaden your scope as a leader

Jan Terkelsen: and it's really interesting as we go through these perspectives or dimensions, we start to notice that leadership isn't just a skill.

It's a whole mix of skill, knowing what, where, and how to use it appropriately and in what way. Area. So a lot of it is very contextual.

And looking at that, let's have a look at the next dimension, which is about ownership. And at the very beginning, Michelle, you were talking about the focus of the task for a new contributor and a the focus is on projects and people for a new manager.

The ownership is very different. So for an individual contributor, Tributa, the ownership is you are responsible for that task, for that piece of work.

Whereas if you're a manager or a leader, accountability is where the buck stops. So responsibility is for the task, the thing that has to get done, but as A A leader, you are accountable for other people's work and usually the work of others and with that takes a whole lot of skills, capability, tracking and the ability to communicate without trying to dig deep and be a micromanager.

Michelle Terkelsen: And nobody likes micromanagers. .Even micromanagers don't like micromanaging. Yeah, because there, there is this need, they feel this need that I need to because I don't either. either trust or you haven't done it in the past. So the next area is reporting. And the reporting area done or not done as an individual contributor because your scope.

Tends to be more narrow and the level of detail tends to be greater, whereas as you move to a managerial role, it tends to be more performance based. And what we mean by performance based is we're looking for the implications when you're reporting. So often we hear, senior managers saying, okay, they've given me the report, they've given me the data, but they haven't actually outlined the implications of that.

The so what factor, what does this mean? They present all the data, but what they don't do is actually read into what does the data mean for us? What does it mean for our clients? What are the implications? And so that's why we talk about reporting not only being, Being performance based, not just has the report been done, but what are the implications and what are the performance issues related to the data that you've presented in the form of a report.

Jan Terkelsen: That's all about value add. Is that As a new manager, where are you adding value to the person that you're managing, to the task or the project that you're leading to the conversations that you're had having, because all of that experience that has led you to that position of manager, you're now You want to be able to use that to lift the capability of the people that now you are managing.

And you do that through the conversation, through sharing your decision making criteria, by sharing how you actually think about certain things as well. And as a new leader,

That's what I would be wanting to do from the person my direct manager too, is I wanna start to find out how they think, what their decision criteria is, how do they prioritize things?

And that's what we are gonna deep dive into in our next podcast is the biggest mistakes that we have seen you and emerging leaders make because we've been in the leadership game for over 25 years. I started looking and tracking some of the stats at I'm doing a little bit of research about who we've actually impacted because I think it's really interesting and how many leadership programs that we've run and I was just saying to a colleague I don't think that there's anything One leadership scenario that you and I both have not actually seen, and we have run global programs, we've run

In house, we've run public, yeah, virtual, yeah, and it's really interesting like a lot of the themes that new managers are, going to be you know, we can actually solidify into the Three biggest mistakes and what you can actually do about it.

So our invitation is to have a look at the handout and the resource that we've made and do something with it. Even if it's just taking five or ten minutes to do a bit of self reflection, maybe have a conversation with your manager in your next one on one or with your colleagues like someone that you trust.

Michelle Terkelsen: Yeah, and the other thing I was thinking there are some people that want to move from an individual contributor but aren't there yet or haven't been given the opportunity or haven't taken the opportunity to be a manager or a leader, perhaps they could have a look at this and say, oh, where are there opportunities for me to shift in to thinking and approaching things and actioning in a more leader oriented way, using this as a bit of a guide.

Jan Terkelsen: Yeah. Great. Okay. And the thing is nothing happens until something moves. So you actually need to take some physical action if you want to actually progress. And that's what this is all about.

How do I progress from that individual contributor to that new manager or that leader that is like worth following.

Okay. See you, Michelle.

Michelle Terkelsen: Ciao.