Your First Year as a Manager

So, you are considering or have been offered a management position. Is that the direction that you want to go, and are you well suited for it? What does your organization expect of its managers? How are things going to change for you? What is that first year going to be like? Dr. Jonathan Worstell of Shell (ret.) outlined some answers to these questions and a framework for the transition of the new manager.

Matching personality and career choice

Are you the type of person who will succeed and enjoy the management role? Some make this transition because they see it as the only way to greater compensation, without a good appreciation of whether it will be a fit that will make them happy. Are you quiet or loud? Retiring or social? Introverted or extroverted? Contemplative or intuitive? The former traits in each pair are more indicative of an individual performer, whereas the latter are characteristics more closely associated with successful managers and leaders. It is a good idea to canvass the opinions and insights of your spouse, your friends, and your colleagues when considering these traits. What do they see in you? If they think there's a mismatch, take their advice to heart.


Organizational considerations

A second critical consideration is the nature of your organization. Different types of organizations have different needs and requirements for their managers, and you need to understand them to assure your best chance of success. Although there are examples of all types of organizations in existence at this time, there has been a general evolution of organizations in the industrial age from linear to matrix to lean. Some of the characteristics of these organization types are as follows:

  • Linear organizations have well-defined positions with authority and responsibility matched. They held sway for well over 100 years, with the military as the model, and the railroads the prime first example. Decision-making is top to bottom with detail planning the building block of decision making.
  • Matrix organizations began to be prevalent in the 70's with the explosion of technical, electronics, and computer organizations. They have less-well-defined positions, with responsibility typically greater than your authority. The project team provides the "decision by committee" and performs the work. Consensus is always sought for decision-making.
  • The new lean organization came on the scene in the mid 90's, with strong influences from Japanese manufacturing experience, but also found a fit in the expansion of software and web services organizations. These organizations greatly expanded the typical span of control of a manager, with authority still subordinate to responsibility, though not as much as in a matrix setting. Decision making is "bottom up" with managers setting the limits or constraints for the teams to operate in, but the teams holding a goodly amount of self-autonomy. This is a mission-oriented organization.

If you feel comfortable managing in your organization's structure, then you are on your way.

How you'll change

One of your individual challenges will be to leave your "old life" behind. You are responsible for the output of many people now, in addition to yourself.The organization expects you to be a new person, and if you "stick with what got you there," you will likely fail. Remember:

Before, you were: Now, you are:
A Specialist A Gerneralist
A Doer An Organizer
A Presenter (seller) A Leader (buyer)
Independent Interdependent
Individual Focused Network Focused
Task Responsible Task & People Responsible

Are you comfortable making these kinds of changes?

Continuing your upward path

Instead of being the technical resource, you must know who the best resources are. Find a mentor in the organization, both for advice and connections to take the next step, or even skip steps, and (heaven forbid) to provide some protection in the event of a problem. Key elements of your challenges will be interpersonal judgement and relationship building. You will also need to become adept at stress management.

Focus on the higher level goals of the organization, and the success of your team. If they succeed, you will too. If they don't, well...

For more insight into the transition from engineer to manager, contact Jonathan Worstell at

What is your biggest concern about moving to management?