Management is the Surest Way to Make a Big Social Impact. Three Ways to Master it.

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Do you want to make a big social impact in your work?

Embracing effective management is a must. Managing others successfully means that you can contribute significantly more than those who struggle to find their footing as a people manager.

But let’s be honest: Moving from individual contributor to first-time manager is a big professional leap. In fact, it’s the most difficult transition you’ll face in your entire career.

Given the high stakes, how do you do it right? Here are three common challenges that all new managers face and how to overcome them.

1 | Measuring your work and impact differently

Before becoming managers, our worth as workers is typically defined by getting things done ourselves. Letting go of that “me” mindset is tough, but if you don’t, you’ll fail as a manager.

“A major reason why so many [first-time managers] get tripped-up, struggle, and so often fail is because they focus so much on their own abilities and getting their own work done that they neglect others. They can’t make the transition from a technical expert to a leader of people,” explains Bill Gentry from the Center for Creative Leadership.

As a manager, your job is now to think bigger—far beyond your own “to-do” list—and guide others to achieve that vision. It’s not about you. It’s about your team.

Now, your success will be measured by the outcomes your team produces for your organization as you help them work more efficiently and effectively. Accept the challenge (it’s sizable!), start thinking about your work differently, and get ready to learn a new skill set.

2 | Making time to manage effectively

As a manager, you’ll have to balance the work you’re responsible for doing yourself, managing your team, and making time for big-picture thinking to increase the social impact of your organization. That’s a lot to juggle.

As managers in the nonprofit sector – where we’re all responsible for critical work while often facing limited budgets and capacity – making the most of your time matters. Mastering your calendar will help you become a better manager and enable you to do more good.

In addition, proactively schedule time to get your own work done, to give your team the support they need, and for higher-level thinking (a critical part of being a manager). Having a good handle on how you’re spending your time will increase the chance that your efforts are driving social impact.

3 | Restocking your toolbox with critical skills

The things that made you successful as an individual contributor aren’t necessarily the skills that you need in your manager’s toolbox. Now, you need to excel at delegating, coaching, giving feedback, building culture, managing performance, and more.

Learning on the job can boost your performance three times more than just passive training, but it’s important to do both. Think about divvying up your learning into the Center for Creative Leadership’s 70-20-10 leadership development model, where 70 percent of learning happens on the job, 20 percent comes from coaching and mentoring, and 10 percent from formal training.

Successful managers encourage their teams to take responsibility for their own learning, and also actively support team members’ growth through formal training.

But whether or not your organization is able to help you in your new role, you should seek out resources, organizational mentors, and perhaps even formal management training to get up to speed quickly.

And don’t be afraid to ask your boss for help. Presumably, he or she has been a manager longer than you and can give you general guidance and help you problem solve challenging management situations.

Mastering your mindset, time, and skills will help you become an effective manager. And becoming an amazing manager is one of the surest ways to maximize your impact at work and on the world.


Want to fast-track your success as a new manager? Sign up for Education Pioneers' First-Time Manager's Training. In this targeted training program, you’ll join a cohort of education sector professionals and learn how you can make the most difficult transition of your career a seamless one.


An earlier version of this post was originally published by Idealist Careers in May 2015.

Gianna Shepard

Gianna Shepard Bruno is the Director of Career Advancement for Education Pioneers, where she oversees several leadership development programs, with a particular focus on EP’s network of over 3,000 Alumni. The Career Advancement team’s mission is to support the needs of education professionals to meet their potential as transformational leaders.


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