The psychologist Carl Rogers, once said that “what is most personal is also most general.” What he meant by this is that many of us experience challenges, stress and uncertainty on our own without recognising that many others share these experiences.
Nowhere is this truer than in the experience of becoming a manager. Research demonstrates that the real time experience of becoming a manager is one that can challenge us to the core of our lives. As stated in the literature, the transitions between being an individual contributor and manager, and being a junior level manager and a more senior level of management is full of surprises, uncertainty and anxiety. The transitions are also moments in which we may start to question ourselves: “is management really for me?” “Am I good enough?” and “Do I have the competencies to cope?”
The literature also recognises that the transition to becoming a manager or senior manager is also a very exciting adventure because we begin to recognise new possibilities for ourselves. We begin to see that we had strengths that we never knew that we had, and we may experience the excitement of being stretched in ways that we never imagined.
The transitions at various levels of management are both exciting and challenging. This is why we call it “anxietment.” In the anticipation of a challenge, we have a sense of both excitement and anxiety. Sometimes the anxiety is stronger and at other times the sense of excitement is stronger.
How we deal with the transitional experience of “anxietment” is crucial for the kind of manager we become. The more we are able to embrace the uncertainty of transition, the more we will develop the skills of “psychological flexibility,” agility in responding to unexpected events and wisdom of judgment.
A danger is that because most of us go through the transitional experiences alone, we tend to think that it is only “me” that has these experiences. We tend then to look down on ourselves for experiencing the anxietment of becoming a manager. Many of us do not even realise that we are looking down on ourselves. And so instead of developing a confident sense of self as a manager, we develop much more defensive ways of managing.
We need to recognise that the anxietment of transition is not just in you or in me but is part of the experience of transition itself. We also need to develop both the physical and mental space in which we can share the experience of going through transition. In this way we can learn to learn from experience.
Dr Steven Segal