On the Rise: 4 Tips for Transitioning Into Management Roles

October 2019
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According to research from the management consulting firm Development Dimensions International, 83 percent of newly promoted leaders at global companies feel unprepared for their new roles. This is a common theme in the PR profession as well, given the fast upward movement I see from the junior levels of our organization. 

The biggest jump is from being a “doer” of tasks into roles that require leadership. Junior PR staffers must be equipped with the right tools, confidence and knowledge to make these transitions. If they aren’t prepared, then it can be a significant setback for the employee and the agency. 

Junior staffers are often given generalized descriptions of leadership positions. But it’s crucial that they receive hands-on mentoring and guidance about what’s being asked of them during these transitions in their careers. 

Here are four tips for transitioning into leadership roles: 

1. Establish a proactive mindset.

Job descriptions often say staffers should “be able to make proactive decisions.” What does this really mean? Before being promoted into leadership positions within an agency, employees can demonstrate their proactive natures by anticipating account needs and staying a step ahead of their managers. Those who wait to be assigned work probably won’t move up or understand what it takes to be a leader. But establishing a proactive work approach at an entry level will help staffers ease their transitions into leadership roles. 

Empathy is also important. Junior staffers must put themselves in the shoes of their leaders. Those who understand their leaders’ pain points and regularly volunteer to help alleviate them will transition into leadership roles more seamlessly. 

2. Balance client and leadership needs.

The early development of junior staffers involves mastering the nuts and bolts of being a PR professional. They need to find equilibrium between what’s happening from a client-service perspective, which should become second nature, and their initiatives as agency leaders. It’s all about finding that balance, so one side doesn’t suffer for the sake of the other.

Staffers also need to master multitasking, so they can handle their new roles without being overwhelmed by the “client” of leadership. Learning to multitask will help prepare them to manage their own schedules, their clients’ and co-workers’ tasks, and other agency duties.

3. Be a problem-solver.

Leaders must be able to identify the problems their clients, co-workers and agency face, and know how to respond. The ability to solve problems is an essential characteristic for leaders. Problems inevitably arise, and people take notice of leaders who can fix them. New leaders have to quickly identify problems and devise a range of solutions, whether for clients or their own teams. 

4. Listen to people and understand their needs.

Leaders must take care of their people and help them grow their careers, whether those employees stay with the agency or go elsewhere. 

In a fast-paced agency environment of client calls, Slack messages and urgent deadlines, it’s easy to get bogged down. Leaders help their staff manage workloads. Moreover, leaders must connect on personal levels with the people they lead, so they will understand each other in good times and in bad times.

It’s rewarding for me to see a junior staffer transition into a leadership role. They are given the opportunity to make important decisions, become more involved in the agency’s overall trajectory and become embedded in its fabric. So it’s no surprise that transitions into leadership jobs help retain employees. To retain talent, agencies have to keep their employees’ growth plans in mind.

Agencies should be environments that encourage employee growth and make them feel valued. If we can achieve this, the PR profession will help prepare the world’s next great business leaders.

photo credit: keystock

Return to Current Issue Leadership | November 2019
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