A new manager stepping up from the individual contributor (IC) role often feels overwhelmed by the new responsibilities he shoulders. Because there’s usually little lag time, he creates a mental image of what an ideal leader would look like and strive to achieve that as soon as they can. This expectation is comparable to putting on the Batman suit, and instantly he wants to perform with superhero power.
As a result, many feel overwhelmed and inadequate. New leaders frantically try to perform on par, meeting standards they set for themselves. They also feel insecure about their new identities. This insecurity causes them to become defensive of their work and their ideas, causing them to lose the opportunities to learn from other more experienced peers. In a similar vein, expats who move to a new culture will risk burnout if they are not aware of the process of transition.
A transition is a change process that’s often been overlooked. It’s a process whereby one adapts and changes into the new status from the old one. It’s the process that everyone goes through to evolve into someone new. For example, a mom has a newborn. On the one hand, she becomes a mother overnight. On the other hand, she will need some time to internalize the new role of a mother–even if she has a theoretical framework about the role through reading numerous books.
Transitioning well will facilitate a solid self-awareness of who we are in our new roles. It will give us new confidence. In contrast, transitioning poorly–hoping to speed up the process or even bypassing it–causes us to consistently reacting to the environment because we are not sure what is required of us. We either become defensive or lacking confidence in our new roles. Befriending transition enables us to feel secure in our new identity.
Most of us are unaware of this internal transformational process. But beware: we fail to nurture the new identity if we place unrealistic expectations of ourselves to perfect the new role quickly. Managers who are unaware of this critical process can at times discourage their direct reports to transition well.
So, how to transition well? Here are a few things you can do:
- Acknowledge that transition is a necessary stage in the change process. Accept the limitations of your performance as you go through it. Be patient with the process and with yourself.
- Define what it will look like to transition well in your specific context by listing concrete goals and a specific timeline.
- Communicate it to your leader and peers who can be impacted by the process. Be prepared to fine-tune your list of goals and the timeline based on their input.
- Find allies who can help observe and affirm your transformation into your new role.
Some sort of professional support is especially essential to go through transition well. Schedule a complimentary session to find out how coaching can support you to go through transitions well.