C-Suite Agenda

Things they don’t tell you when you first start managing a team

It is assumed that when people move from a ‘doing’ role to a ‘managing’ role, they will know what they need to do. That they will ‘pick up’ how to lead as they go along. However, leading a team requires a new set of skills that are difficult to just ‘pick up’. Are you new to managing a team, and wondering why it’s harder than you expected?

The relationships with your team can change

If you have been promoted within your team, what you may not have considered is that all your relationships with the team may change – you are managing the team when you used to be part of the team. It can feel like your team members are holding back, and the camaraderie you used to enjoy has disappeared. Some individuals in the team may start behaving differently and proving difficult to manage. Bad behaviour can become prevalent, and the team culture changes. In their eyes you are not their peer (which you aren’t any longer), you are the boss, so their perspective of you will change.

Hard versus soft skills

Even though you are now leading a team, you may still be doing the transactional stuff, the technical work you used to do. This is your comfort zone – you know what to do, and you are very good at it. But this means you are neglecting your team and not focusing on the work required at this level of seniority. The people stuff is piling up, and you are drowning in busyness. Who you were in your old job, is not what is required in this role.

Technical skills are the skills that have got you to where you are. These skills are what you need to perform specific tasks. Sometimes called ‘hard’ skills, they are the abilities and knowledge you have acquired in your area of expertise. Examples of technical skills are things like programming, project management, or managing a balance sheet.

In management roles these technical skills are not required to the same extent, because there is a team in place to do this work. Behavioural skills, also called ‘soft’ or ‘people’ skills, are needed as you start to lead people. Behavioural skills include things like communication and listening, being able to deal with challenging people, giving and receiving feedback, building rapport, delegating, and managing conflict.

Transactional versus leading

Are you being transactional?

  • Still doing the tasks from your old role that other people are now employed to do
  • Thinks there is only one way – your way
  • Struggle to let go of doing everything
  • Disempowering the team
  • Don’t have time to focus on future goals and outcomes

Or are you leading?

  • Understand what you should be doing and what the team should be doing
  • Can let go of the technical work and let your team get on with it
  • Understand that there are different ways to achieve a result
  • Empowering the team
  • Focusing on meaningful, well-defined goals and outcomes that align with organisational purpose and strategy

Being a perfectionist

If you are a perfectionist and believe that only you can do the work in the right way, then everything will be harder as you become busier. What’s more, you will become more stressed because you are trying to get everything done. The need to control everything creates even more work for you. 

If you are trying to do everything, and not trusting your team to take on the work, you are operating at a level (or two) below where you should be. This is ineffective and pushes the team down, so they are also operating at a lower level. If you don’t know how to manage and lead a team of people, you are more likely to operate transactionally.

Being a leader

Now your role requires high-value thinking, where you focus on future aspirations and goals for the team and how that fits with the organisation’s overall strategy and purpose. This is leading, which requires new skills, so be prepared to become a learner again.


Written by Maree Burgess.

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Maree Burgess
Maree Burgess, author of Level Up ($29.95), is a trainer, coach, facilitator, author and speaker whose practicality supports leaders and teams to create cultures that people want to be part of and perform at their best for, to greatly improve overall performance. Obsessed with building environments of excellence where staff collaborate and work well together, she is renowned for bringing out the best in teams and individuals alike.


Maree Burgess is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn. For more information, visit the author’s website.