Transitioning From an IC To a Manager: A Hybrid Role Perspective
ex-Head of Data at Strava
Some years ago, our whole team consisted of ICs who all reported to one senior director. Then, one person became a manager with five or six direct reports and no IC work, and naturally, their metrics of success were centered around their role as a manager. However, when I was asked to provide one team with the analytic support I was also asked to manage that team, including one remote employee. The problem was that there was no framework in place that was tailored for that specific hybrid role and no metrics of success to address its IC and manager component.
I was a manager before and I knew how important it was -- especially for junior people -- to have someone who could support them in their career, so I became very invested in the management side of my role, but I had my own work. In addition, I was asked to manage a remote employee to whom I couldn’t just delegate some extra work since most of the stakeholders were based in the US and he was based in India.
I talked to my boss explaining how the hybrid type of role that included only my IC metrics would prevent me from focusing and doing a good job with my reports. If things were to remain that way I would focus on getting my job done and not on helping my reports. This problem had to be addressed in my annual goal setting because my reports were playing an important role and deserved the support they needed.
Also, I wanted to discuss with him how part of my work could be delegated to other members of the team. If I was given an additional responsibility as a manager something had to go away and be delegated to other people. So, it was decided that one junior person would take a chunk of my IC responsibilities and also that my remote employee would take on additional work except interacting with the US-based stakeholders. It looked like everything was figured out on a fly.
I had to constantly remind my boss that though I was very appreciative of being again in a management role, it had to be thought through so that everyone would benefit from it and that the structure itself would incentivize people to succeed. I had trouble balancing my various responsibilities until a process was put in place to provide me the support I needed including revising my success metrics.
- When you are stepping into a role and things feel confusing, remember that this is about your career and that you will have to ensure clarity that will enable you to do your job effectively. Sometimes it will require, as it was in my case, the adjustment of the existing framework to match your needs but the needs of the business as well.
- If you inherently know that it is hard for you to prioritize other people’s work over your own and that you need to provide the value yourself, be aware of it. This also applies when delegating specific job duties to others; it wouldn’t be right to delegate only the grunt work that you don’t want to do. I was enjoying giving my direct report an interesting work that was helping him grow. I was already rewarded by being given an opportunity to manage people while my report had only the IC work to give him a sense of accomplishment. Be fair when splitting up the work.
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