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Becoming a manager is one of the first goals that most people set out to achieve when they start their career. A number of great IT leaders worked their way up from a junior resource to middle management and beyond. Throughout the journey from an intern to an assistant manager, we imagine ourselves in a managerial role, thinking how brilliantly we would fit in and how efficiently we will fulfill all the responsibilities. However, earning the title of an IT manager is just half the story. The first real achievement is moving your very first project as a manager to the finish line successfully.
When working on your first project as a manager, all that leadership training you went through will be tested, and you will realize that the real job is not as simple as it seemed.
As an IT manager, your job is not just to manage the strategic and technical aspects of the project, but also to ensure efficient performance of the team and satisfaction of all the stakeholders. You can take leadership courses that cover each and every aspect of the role, but there are somethings you can only learn by being in the trenches.
Being a manager is all about making decisions. Here’s a funny thing about decisions: most people tend to make a series of wrong ones before they can make the right one. As an IT project manager, however, one wrong decision related to your first project can sabotage your growth plans. Securing your first project is one of the most important milestones, and from here onwards, you have to tread very careful.
Each decision you make, must be an educated and calculated one. It is why most organizations encourage their potential employees to enroll in leadership classes before they can be trusted as a project manager. If your organization has no such criteria, you should still go for it to avoid a career-killing blunder on your pilot project.
As a manager, your job is not limited to the tasks you are given. It involves creating and assigning tasks to the team. The very first question that pops in the mind of someone managing a project for the first time is ‘where to begin and what to do?’
For a project you are starting from the scratch, the answer is: from square one. However, it’s a project manager’s worst nightmare to be assigned a project that was already underway, previously managed by a different person. So, the very first job is to determine where you stand right now. The rest will vary greatly depending on the nature of the project and its current position.
So, basically there is no particular answer to where and how to begin your first project as an IT manager. But there are definitely ways to make sure it only moves in a positive direction since the day you take the reins. It is one of the crucial aspects of leadership training.
Acceptance is the first step towards advancement. This notion holds true for almost every situation. You need to first accept the idea that you are no longer a technical resource and you cannot afford to spend your time on tasks that anyone else in your team is capable of doing. This doesn’t mean that you will not be doing any hands-on work, but you need to be smart about the tasks you assign to your team and the tasks you take on yourself.
Now, adjust your mind and behavior according to your new role. Learn to strategize, decide, and delegate. Prepare to take more responsibilities and let go of the old ones.
Once you know where you are, it is time to decide where you want to go. As an IT manager leading a whole team of technical resources, your job is to decide and provide the strategic direction. A successful leader is one who can communicate the direction to the whole team as well as to the stakeholders.
Communication is one of the core management skills you can hone with proper leadership training. The ability to clearly communicate your vision and goals exhibit your commitment and conviction. It establishes your reputation as a credible and commendable leader.
A leader should be capable of leading people towards the intended direction. It is one of the toughest parts of the job. Now that you have communicated the direction, you need to make sure everyone is working with the same priorities and towards the same goal. This is where you will learn that managing your team or subordinates isn’t the toughest part of the job. It is the stakeholders who can pose a real challenge.
Leadership courses have an exclusive focus on maintaining a positive relationships with your stakeholders. Unlike your in-house resources, you have no authority over your stakeholders. You cannot command them; you will have to convince them.
Earning the title of an IT manager and securing your first project is not enough to earn you credibility and trust. Respect is not inherent of the role, but something that can be earned by fulfilling your responsibilities with brilliance and grace. New managers need to focus on their day to day actions and tasks to gradually build their credibility.
It may only take one minor mistake to potentially harm your project and credibility. The key to avoiding such blunders is making the right decisions at the right time. This involves taking input and ideas from the whole team and the stakeholders. The broader your view, the clearer you can see, and the better you can decide. Besides, people tend to trust you more when they know you trust them as well.
No one is born a leader. While some may be more ambitious than others, the right skills and experience matter the most. It is why you should be open to the idea of learning. Get enrolled in leadership courses or find a mentor who has been through the same situation as you are. You will be surprised to learn how enlightening and educating their experience can be. A mentor will make your transition easier, smoother, and successful.
In summary, your first project is your ultimate test, no matter how big or small it is. With the right approach and someone to guide you with their experience and knowledge, you can ensure your project’s success and build your reputation as a manager any organization can count on.