Primary Blog/Leadership & Team Building/Making the Change from Manager to Director

Making the Change from Manager to Director

Thursday, April 20, 2023

We hear from a lot of ambitious managers who’ve held the “Manager” title for some time, and the same question comes up often: “I’m capable of managing my team successfully. Why haven’t I been promoted to the Director level?” The answer lies in what you’re doing in advance to set yourself up for the role.

A Title Change Doesn’t Happen Logically.

To those on the outside of the executive promotion process, it might seem that the ascension from Manager to Director is a logical one – where career progression is a ladder of titles that one can climb by doing a great job at their current level which propels you to the next rung.

And generally, most mental representations of the corporate promotion path follow this trajectory:

Individual contributor –> Manager –> Director –> Vice President –> CXO.

What most managers aren’t aware of is that what makes you a great Manager will not make you a capable Director. In fact, the very qualities that a Manager uses to be successful in their role are completely in opposition to the qualities that make a great Director. Things like diligence in performing tasks, ability to direct individuals, and having influence over a team in the day-to-day can work for you as a Manager. But if that’s all you do, real deficiencies in abilities are exposed once at the Director level.

Directors work cross-functionally, and are charged with managing larger teams with wider sets of responsibilities. The typical skill set held by a manager doesn’t automatically prepare you for that kind of broader organizational influence.

Build Your Skills and Your Influence

There are keys to successfully position yourself to move from Manager to Director. The transition requires intentional steps and preparation. For Managers looking to be promoted to Director, this article will cover what you need to build your credibility, enhance your communication skills and market yourself for the title. These are proven ways for ambitious managers to successfully transition to a Director role.

Articulate New Standards of Excellence

A director role requires a shift in thinking. As an individual contributor, you likely excelled in meeting performance benchmarks, and then after becoming manager, you help your team do the same.

As a Director, you will need to help teams achieve, but through influence and example, rather than by governing day-to-day actions. A director will lead teams over whom they have no direct power. You will need to get key groups of individuals on board to execute your vision, even though they don’t report to you. That requires an entirely new set of leadership and influence skills compared to what worked as a Manager.

To show others you’re capable of this, the key is to articulate new standards of excellence in strategic areas. For example, you could look for a way in your current role to help a team adopt a new process. Or engineer a change at your company that produces improvements. Or find a way to get a team to exceed the status quo.

Become a Student of Your Discipline

Managers prescribe, but true Directors mentor and teach. This requires a mental shift. Directors don’t lay out steps to achieve actions – rather, they inspire, motivate and mentor. Start with learning the mental models behind your profession, so that you can guide people in how to think about this instead of telling them what actions to take. Once you become familiar with the established mental models it will set the foundation to become familiar with key processes and competencies in your discipline. Then practice them and become an expert at them. Take the time to analyze why you do what you’re doing instead of what to do. These are the steps to becoming a student of your discipline, where you become the person who can achieve the more ambitious goals that Directors are expected to achieve.

Chart the Course of the Company

Managers are involved in overseeing employees and supervising team implementation. By contrast, a Director has to shift their focus from day-to-day implementation, to what the company’s overall agenda should be. Before delivering instructions to managers, practice charting the course to lead where the company needs to go.

First, formulate what success will look like to your company. Is success maximizing shareholder value? Is success a target percentage growth, or gaining new customers? It would be wise to get clear on what success means to your company and the metrics that help illustrate the progress towards that success.

The next step is to evaluate the company’s processes and where they need improvement. What are the shortfalls in those processes? What bottlenecks exist? Where is the system in place working and where is it failing? If you can identify these things, you’ll be strengthening the types of decisions you’ll need to make in your future role. As you practice approaching the company’s goals through an analytical lens, you will strengthen your Director capabilities.

Develop Managers Into Being Great Future Directors

Directors have to apply influence in a different way to make things happen. Instead of focusing on the here and now, Directors need to become more future-oriented. Directors think about how they will leave a legacy at the company through their knowledge and their expertise.

One way to become more forward thinking is to coach and mentor others so they can become great future directors. As a manager, you may have helped individual contributors with a lot of potential to advance, to prepare them for a Manager role. But as a Director, you have to think beyond helping people in their individual competencies. Take time to think about what abilities a manager should strengthen, and mentor them in relational and people skills. As you practice developing people to become better managers, you will also be transforming yourself into a solid Director.

Influence and Authority

If you’re determined to obtain an executive title beyond Manager, intention, along with strengthening and practicing the key skills, can help you get there. The fundamental difference between Director and Manager is the scope of your influence and authority—the ability to influence outcomes through people and resources, and make decisions that positively impact business results. By taking the steps we have laid out, you’ll strengthen your executive abilities so you’re ready for the step. You’ll also position yourself to those around you as a Director who is ready to take on the role.

If you’d love to learn how to put the principles covered in this blog into action, join me in my executive coaching program where I’ll introduce you to a powerful self- and career-development process.

This is an implementation-to-results program for growth-oriented executives who seek greater career fulfillment through becoming a more skilled version of themselves. It is designed to help you master your mind, develop deeper insights, elevate your communication skills, and become inspired in your career growth.

If you’d love to find out how my methodology can help you with your career goals, apply HERE for an opportunity to work with me.

 © Mastery Insights Inc.  All Rights Reserved

© Mastery Insights Inc. All Rights Reserved