Star performer to star manager

By Annie McKee via hbr.org   Article

Shifting from Star Performer to Star Manager

“It turns out it’s not so easy to manage ultra-smart high achievers — especially when you’re one of them. As a superstar in your previous jobs, you met every goal, every time. You didn’t let anything get in your way — you just did it. While you had decent relationships with teammates, you didn’t really need them. Now you do, because you can’t even achieve your own goals without them, much less the targets set by management. You recognize that you’ve been pushing them pretty hard to achieve your goals, and you suspect there’s something about what’s driving you that’s the problem here. And you’re onto something. …

Unfortunately, a lot of star performers have a really hard time re-directing their achievement drive away from their personal goals and toward others’ success. For example, you might think you’re helping people when you dive in to complete a report or put the ‘finishing touches’ on someone’s slide deck. But, people see that you really care about your goals, your standards — not theirs. Very quickly, they learn not to trust you. And your hard-driving impatience and tendency to correct people’s work can actually be insulting.

The right way to use your achievement drive is to bring it out to help others find and achieve challenging goals. You must learn to step out of the spotlight and shine a light on others’ accomplishments. It makes them feel great, while inspiring their peers. Your need for achievement isn’t going to go away, of course. You just need to learn to balance it with concern for others’ desire to do a good job, on their own terms. This takes tremendous emotional intelligence, starting with self awareness. Then, you need empathy, a willingness to understand others, and self management. …

There’s a lot to learn when star performers like you take that first big management job. And the most important learning has little to do with the technical aspects of the job, and a lot to do with you as a person. Most of us don’t think too much about what motivates us to behave as we do, but learning to use your emotional intelligence to understand why you act the way you do is a first and often-missed step in becoming an excellent manager — and a great leader.

In essence, you need to understand what drives you and learn how to use your motives to build positive relationships to serve others first, yourself second.”

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