It’s remarkable how little help many people get when they transition from being a manager of teams to being a manager of managers. It’s a move that requires a real change of mindset – from that of a manager, and an organiser, to that of a leader and even a strategist. Here at Holborn Assets, we have found these three issues in particular are key to a smooth transition.

  1. Have a clear strategy, and stick to the plan

It’s important that your managers understand how what they do contributes to the overall success of the business. Why? Because they’re human beings, just like you, and they like to see the value of their work. But, of course, it’s not just about them. They in turn are now managing their own group of people, who also have their own business objectives, set by your managers. Everyone needs to understand where they fit and how they contribute.

People need managers who are very clear on what their particular unit within the business is trying to achieve. And that clarity comes from how effectively you, as a leader, communicate with your direct reports. An in turn, how  good they are at then translating that into messages that are relevant for their own teams. To make sure you get these messages right, it’s important to have a clear strategy, to communicate it, live it yourself and be a visible leader/strategist. Get to know your manager’s teams, but be  careful that you aren’t perceived as trying to manage them yourself.

  1. Understand the difference between leadership and management

One of the key differences that many people experience at this level is that your new role is about leadership. That’s something that is very different to management, and it can be hard to transition ‘overnight’. The nitty gritty of management – the bit where you need to practically work out the best way of achieving X, Y and Z, given the resources you have available – is now largely someone else’s job. As a leader, you’ll need to provide direction and inspiration, rather than slipping back into management.

As a leader, you’ll also need to coach. This is a point that is easily missed if you have simply been given the role and told to get on with it. Linda Hill, professor at Harvard Business School, says coaching is all about helping “managers to develop the culture and capabilities that their team members need.” This is a difficult balancing act, for example, it’s the difference between asking your reports how a particular project is going (as a manager would), or asking them, as a leader, how they are managing the person in their team who is working on that project.

  1. Lead by example

Whether you’re conscious of it or not, the way you lead will be a model for your managers, and they will follow it. The important thing is to remember that you’re now leading managers – so the type of example you need to be for them is not necessarily the one that you might be showing your team if you were a manager yourself.

Now, you need to show them how you expect them to act. This could be by delegating well yourself, or by making sure you’re checking in with them regularly. Essentially doing the types of things yourself that you want them to be doing as good managers. Remember you’re now no longer working on an operational level – getting a team to perform a set of tasks as efficiently as possible – instead, you’re nurturing a team of managers so that, in part, they can do that job for you.

That’s an entirely different kind of challenge – but one that many of us face at some point in our careers.