Five Important Personal Transitions to Make

As you grow, what transitions are useful and even expected? Let’s look at a few that you’ll almost certainly encounter and help you see what might be on the other side of the transition.

One: Hiring for Expertise vs. Money

The first good transition to make is to begin hiring people for their expertise rather than for what they cost you. In the early days, you have a budget and you hire accordingly. You aim for whatever you can get for that price, and that’s the best you can do. There simply isn’t any more money, and expertise takes a back seat to available funds.

Eventually, though, you determine that expertise is more important than money. So you outline what you’re looking for in great detail and you don’t settle for less. You have a budget in mind, but the budget takes a back seat to the requirements for expertise. That means you may bust the budget. But in this scenario, one very qualified person may actually be equally as effective as two less qualified individuals.

Two: From Judging to Shaping

The second good transition to make is to move from judging to shaping the work underneath you. I use those words advisedly. Judging is making decisions about the extent to which any given effort meets your own criteria. On one level it makes sense to monitor things in that way, but very little teaching takes place in that environment. And you’re stuck inevitably in the loop over time.

It’s better to shape the efforts underneath you, asking questions about why it was done that way and using every opportunity to teach that individual something that will make them more likely to do better work next time.

Three: Black/White World vs. Gray World

The third good transition to make is to understand that managing is a gray world (not black and white), and that managing is never finished. It’s like mowing the lawn. As soon as you’re done with one pass, it starts growing again and will eventually need to be “managed” yet again.

If you need a sense of finality in your work, you’ll be sorely disappointed. You can very seldom check something off and never revisit it. The problems recur and require constant attention.

Four: Not Solving the Same Problems Every Day

Speaking of which, the fourth good transition to make is to quit solving the same problems every day. If you find yourself in that situation, it’s a sure sign you’re not hiring well, not training well, or you’re keeping yourself in the loop to an unhealthy extent.

If a single problem keeps cropping up every day, then it’s probably the case that multiple problems keep surfacing every day. So try this: try to solve one of them in a way that’s more permanent. It requires a little more time to do so, but you’ll end up just one step further ahead tomorrow than you were today.

Just so you know, too, the method of solving problems in this way often involves more process, or at least looking at how work unfolds.

Five: Knowing Who You Are

The fifth good transition to make is to really know who you are. To be aware of that inner core that doesn’t require validation from those you are managing. That outlook with the courage to do the right thing regardless of the reaction others have, or even the consequences of your decision.


Anyway, just remember that being entrusted with management and leadership doesn’t mean things will get neater. They’ll actually get messier, with all sorts of transitions to navigate. Every time you think you have something figured out, the rules of the game change and there’s something else to learn or solve. That’s why management positions bring constant challenge. Hopefully you’ll apply your problem-solving skills to these challenges and find as much fulfillment as you did when you used those skills for clients

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