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Many people have trouble seeing the big picture when transitioning into a managerial role. (Levent Konuk/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Many people have trouble seeing the big picture when transitioning into a managerial role. (Levent Konuk/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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How can I move up if I cannot leave the details to others? Add to ...

The Question:

I am currently a senior manager of engineering at a large technology company and would like to be promoted to director. I’ve been in the job five years.

My manager has said that I need to “think” like a director – basically more big picture, proactive moves on my part.

I believe that if I relinquish some of my responsibilities to those under me or around me, the timelines I am responsible for meeting (and the overall quality of my division’s work) will decline. Most of the time, when I do let go of these types of tasks, I am disappointed in the results others achieve and the time it takes them to finish. Since I am ultimately responsible for those results, I’m not sure how to pull myself out of the detailed work that has made me so successful to date. I feel as though I’ve hit a wall and can’t move past where I am.

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I have two young kids and a stay-at-home wife and I’m already putting in 10-hour days and, frankly, I am becoming exhausted.

The Answer:

After being in a position for five years, it is understandable that you want some new challenges.

Here’s the hurdle: As a star performer, your current mandate is to produce excellent results on your own. You are a doer. As a director, your mandate will be to make sure your team produces results. Rather than doing the work yourself, you will be training, coaching, reviewing and disciplining your team, ultimately holding them accountable to produce great work. In all likelihood, you will be judged by your team’s performance, and considered only as good as your team.

You said your barrier to growth right now is not being able to give up that “doing” part in order to think of the big picture. This is a common problem that many people experience when transitioning into a managerial role. It can be hard to relinquish control and trust someone else to do your job. But you have to do this in order to get past the wall that you describe.

The good news is, you are moving in the right direction. Expressing to your manager your desire to grow is a great first step. Just make sure you’ve established the right goals for you, for the right reasons.

Your new role may not be easy. Your team may not like you if you have to get tough with them, and there is also no guarantee that you will be working fewer hours than you do right now. But if the notion of taking charge, training and coaching people excites you, then pursue this goal with determination.

Speak to your manager about the concrete, measurable steps you can take to show that you’re ready to be a director. Familiarize yourself with the company’s overarching business objectives, consider how you can help increase sales or growth, and bring your own proactive ideas to the table.

Think about how you can delegate some of your current tasks to your team members, and most importantly, how you can support them in being successful. What kind of training do they need? How can you mentor them? What would motivate this team to perform better? Implement your strategies to test and learn from those processes.

Finally, together with your manager, create a career-development plan with timelines and a succession plan to fill your current role once you’ve been promoted. This way, you and your manager will be on the same page about the next steps, and you can actively work toward that next step in your career – both for you and your family.

Julie Labrie is the president of BlueSky Personnel Solutions in Toronto.

Have a question about careers, labour law or management? Send it to our panel of experts: careerquestion@globeandmail.com Your name and address will be kept confidential.

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