August 10, 2010
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When you have a certain degree of skill at a given task, people often assume that you will naturally be able to manage other people who do that same task.
That’s how I first became a manager in the orchestra business, and I had absolutely no idea of what I was doing.
Through trial and error, I’ve come to learn a few important lessons to apply when you receive that important promotion that elevates you above your coworkers.
The most common problem in becoming a manager is that you suddenly find yourself socially excluded from your erstwhile professional peer group. You may see them every day, but things have changed. They may all be thrilled for you, but then again, some may resent your being promoted. Others may have issues with authority figures in general, they may just be suspicious, or they may just be overly cautious where you are concerned.
In any event, you do not “belong” anymore. A promotion can actually feel like you’ve been fired. In a way, you have.
Along with the sense of social exclusion, one of the biggest shocks for a first-time manager is that this may be the very first time you have power over other people. If this is the case, well, it’s a little like getting a job at a candy store. Everyone has the best of intentions, but the temptations to abuse your power are enormous.The first dark temptation laid before you is to wield your newfound power in an effort to re-connect with everyone. For example, as a professional musician, I often encountered conductors who would spend enormous amounts of rehearsal time on chitchat, trying to be “our pal.” Of course, since conductors are all-powerful, we would indulge their need for personal/social connection, and we would smile, nod, and laugh at all of their jokes; but in reality we felt resentment for their abuse of power in forcing us to be their paid companions. We also had a generally low opinion of them for their waste of time and lack of professionalism.
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