Transitioning from worker to manager

Oct 08, 2023

Three questions managers should begin asking themselves and their team to ensure employees are growing and enjoying the work they do.

Transitioning from worker to manager is a big step in anyone’s career – and it’s one I took two years ago. For most of us, this isn’t a role we are trained to do in the same way we learn our “normal” job responsibilities – and I knew it would take work and time to learn the skills to be an effective manager.

How do you ensure an employee is happy, fulfilled, growing, and the work is done right and ahead of schedule? How do you maintain your own daily responsibilities and ensure that your direct manager’s needs are also being met? It’s a whole new balancing act, and I needed someone to toss me a balancing pole.

As I prepared for this new role, I considered many of the conversations I had with my manager over the years, what kept me at the same company for more than eight years, and why other people left their roles in search of something more fulfilling. After some thought, research, and trial-and-error, I came up with a few questions managers should start asking themselves and their employees:

  • Is there anything you’d like to learn more about? One of the most exciting parts of being a manager is helping others to learn and grow. Many employees will stay (or leave) a company based on their relationship with their manager. Employees are looking for direction and a path forward and it’s now your responsibility to provide the map. One pitfall I try to avoid is assigning what an employee is “best” at or what might be the easiest task to pass along. I like to take a pulse check at least once a month by asking, “Is there anything you’d like to learn more about”? This allows me to determine if there are any projects, stretch assignments, or meetings – where appropriate – that an employee can be involved in. This gives them some ownership in the work they do, the chance to release some additional responsibilities from your own plate, and provides opportunity for growth.
  • Can I delegate that? Your success is now measured based on the growth of your entire team – not just your individual contributions. It might feel overwhelming to relinquish some control, but delegation is key to a manager’s responsibility and success. Start to ask, “Can I delegate that?” Delegating routine tasks and responsibilities will free up time for you to focus on higher-level strategic planning and leadership objectives.
    When delegating a task, your employees may feel worried about taking on a new responsibility. Provide clear instructions and write down a process for very detail-oriented tasks. Get a pulse for how your employee feels about the new task and schedule a specific date to touch base and review progress. It’s important to be available for help, without micromanaging. If a task can be done in different ways, allow your employees to explore what works best for them.
  • Could I have explained this better? If you delegated a task as a manager and it was not completed correctly, something was missing, or the deadline was not met, you may feel frustrated or disappointed. Before you try to assign blame, look inward first and ask, “Could I have explained this better?”
    Explain the task in full and outline what success looks like. Approach this as a learning opportunity and a way to empower your employees. Where possible, show an example, then watch as they complete the same task. Set firm deadlines, follow up, and make it known that you’re available for questions. When a task is completed, spot check the work. Most importantly, use these learning experiences to connect with your employees. It never hurts to ask how their day is going or start with a positive about what they worked on before jumping into the task at hand.

Although change can be intimidating, transitioning from worker to manager is an exciting new step in a person’s career. It is an ongoing learning experience and throughout this transition, you will begin to understand how to delegate, how best to explain tasks, and how to ensure your employees are growing and enjoying the work they do, right along with you.

Danielle Eisenstock is a training and development manager at Urban Engineers. Contact her at

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