By Sabina Nawaz
Photo Credit: Getty
Have you ever received a promotion accompanied by the sinking feeling that you’re not qualified for your new job, because you don’t understand the subject matter?
After seven years as a successful engineering manager, Ronen was promoted to oversee three other departments. Accustomed to guiding teams by relying on his subject matter expertise, Ronen struggled to chart a course in unknown waters.
If, like Ronen, you find yourself lost at sea as the captain of a crew whose expertise is outside your own, here are five strategies to broaden your impact.
1. Map a baseline of knowledge to strategic decisions. First, identify the decisions you can delegate and the ones you will need to make. Then ask your team what you need to know to make those decisions. Carve out a clear learning space where your team can educate you. Ronen had teams of experts, but he needed to understand essential concepts to inform his decision making. He initiated a series of “chalk talks” with team members, where they didn’t feel intimidated and he didn’t have to worry about being ignorant. Establish a small, realistically achievable habit for self-education. Ronen curated a list of essential articles and earmarked one to read each week. By strategically mapping necessary learning, we don’t drown in detail or micromanage competent team members. We save our time and theirs by knowing enough to make the right calls with confidence.
2. Support your employees over the long term. A mark of seniority is having senior people report to us. We don’t need to teach them their jobs. We’re liberated from weighing in on every decision because we’re not qualified or needed to do so. Freed from these short-term shackles, we can explore long-term aspirations with our directs. We can help provide appropriate job opportunities and visibility—true value they seldom get when we are mired in detail.
3. Manage up. Armed with sufficient knowledge, and backed by the deep expertise of his directs, Ronen successfully advocated with his manager and peers to secure needed resources for his team as they approached a re-org. With superior insights into our team activities, we are able and obligated to clarify the picture seen by those above us. Instead of feeling untethered at the thought of not enough technical work to do, we can claim ground by managing up. This includes assessing the overall needs of the organization and mapping it to what our teams can deliver, advocating appropriately for our people and resources, and communicating the impact our team is having.
4. Connect disparate dots. Ronen could approach his new role through a deficiency lens or through a sufficiency lens. Once he overcame his fear of inadequacy, he started to leverage the unique vantage point his position afforded. He was regularly involved in conversations and reviews across four different departments. This allowed him to synthesize thematic issues, facilitate customer solutions across teams, and assess the overall talent picture. Zooming out of the specifics offers us a broader view of previously unexamined possibilities, which only become visible with a big-picture perspective.
5. Activate your meta strengths. Once armed with sufficient knowledge about the new domains, Ronen recognized the contributions he could make based on different expertise. He had road-tested experience running organizations. Not only did he add value directly; his direct reports also learned how to approach complex problems from him. Catalog the skills that transfer no matter the task, and we’ll discover that capacities such as asking the right questions, systematically approaching problem solving, managing up, and scaling a product for mass production transcend disciplines and transform how we create greater impact.
Managing the unknown is not a cause for panic, but a portent for further success. It’s an opportunity to apply what you already know with great effect to something you know little about. You’ll never know as much as the subject experts, but those experts will learn and benefit from the unique value you bring through subject-agnostic skills.
For the original article, visit: Forbes.