Dear Career Angel: How can I assert myself in my new role?

MT's new agony aunt, Penny Davenport - the corporate turned life coach - answers this month's burning question.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Dear Career Angel,

Next month, I am moving horizontally in my firm to manage a new team. It’s not a promotion but I have been told I need experience of new areas if I am to become a director. Although I think I am a good manager, I do not have any product experience in this area and I am concerned about how to assert myself in my new role. What do you recommend?

Louise, London

Dear Louise,

Starting any new job or role is always nerve-wracking so you are not alone in feeling the pressure.  Women, especially, question their abilities in a way that men do not and are worried they will get 'found out' at any minute!

Try and remember why you have been hired into this role. You have a great track record in the firm and have managed other teams successfully. You are on track for a directorship so your bosses have faith in you. It sometimes helps to make an actual list of our assets and talents to remind us of what we have to offer, as opposed to what we lack.

Remember, also, that you are managing a team of product experts. In the workplace, we are surrounded by well-educated, competent adults (something often forgotten) and your job as a manager is to lead, support and develop them. I’m sure your product knowledge scale up in no time, so it won't be long before you can help with those all important decisions, and set the right strategy and structure for your group.

Starting any new job is a great time to practice our active listening skills. By focusing on listening, learning and questioning, you will have ample time to build up your own knowledge bank. Active listening with considered usage of verbal 'strokes' such as: 'You really know your stuff; thanks for sharing that' help to build rapport with new team members far more quickly than if you spend all your time downloading about life and yourself.

Identify a person you trust in the firm who can be an independent reference point for product or strategic questions. This could be an old boss, the last manager of the team or a mentor. Then, if you feel you need to check some facts, or your opinion, you can do it in safety without feeling that you are undermining your position in the team.

Finally, one of my best coping strategies in the corporate world was to have a coffee or meeting booked in with a supportive person on tough days. Even 15 minutes set aside to exhale and re-group can completely dissolve any tensions arising from this difficult challenge.

Good luck, Louise! Be yourself, call upon your talents and I’m sure your new role will be a huge success!


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