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Becoming a Manager: Mastery of a New Identity.

When top-producing salespeople are catapulted into management, it is one of the toughest professional transitions they will ever make. Leaving a job where closing deals is everything for the "big picture" world of managing human and financial resources can overwhelm and isolate an ex-salesperson. It is no wonder that some of these former top achievers regret taking the promotion at all.

The transition of star performer to manager is the subject of Linda A. Hill's new book, Becoming a Manager: Mastery of a New Identity. Hill, an associate professor at the Harvard Business School, has worked hard to show the softer, less technical side of how new managers learn the ropes. She followed 19 new managers through their first year on the job and the interviews with them form the core of her book.

Initially, many of the new managers in the study were excited and flattered to be promoted but had only vague ideas of what management was really about. Some thought that they been poorly managed themselves and were out to prove they could do a better job. Many saw themselves as leaders as well as developers of people and ideas.

Then reality set it. One manager admitted to being bored at first and said he missed the excitement of his old job. Others said they were exhausted by the constant barrage of "people" problems and office politics. One new manager casually assigned a low seniority employee a private office - and then spent weeks trying to douse the firestorm of outrage from other disgruntled staff members.

Stories like this are universal. But the interesting aspect of what Hill has to tell us is not that managers have problems. We all know that from our own observation or experience. What is far more interesting is how new managers learn from experience.

First, most of the managers in Hill's book were forced to begin thinking of themselves in terms different than before. They became professionally self-conscious for the first time, realizing that their behavior and even dress had an increased impact on others. Says one manager: "You have to manage yourself, what you wear, how you speak, what your personal habits are. Because the first thing you understand is that everybody is watching you, everything, everyday. If you walk past one of them and forget to say hello, they'll remember."

With the difficulty involved in learning management, some of Hill's subjects wonder why they wanted to become managers. Some were burned out as producers or were hoping to go on to corporate positions. But some couldn't help but look back on their accomplishments and the immediate feedback that successful selling brings. Management, they noted, brings slow feedback and requires faith that effort will bring forth positive change.

Hill's work has resulted is an engaging and readable book. Her extensive use of direct quotes gives her work a human, less academic voice. Reading the book, many among the legion of seasoned managers will find themselves nodding in sympathy or even laughing aloud at the foibles of the uninitiated. In mortgage banking, where the transition from loan originator to new manager is often made instantly and without preparation, many of the stories told in Hill's work will ring especially true.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Philips, John S.
Publication:Mortgage Banking
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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