“Consider the transition from individual contributor to manager of individual contributors. Managers consistently tell us it is one of the most difficult. Why?
Simplified, as an individual contributor you get things done by doing them yourself. If you are a salesperson, you get the sale by going out and making the pitch and closing the deal yourself. Over time, you establish a personalized set of maps for navigating this individual contributor territory.
However, as a sales team manager, you must transition from doing things yourself to getting them done through others; you must change from motivating yourself to motivating others. Because the situation has changed (you’ve been promoted), what was clearly the right thing before (i.e., doing things yourself) has become the wrong thing, but you are still very good at doing it.
Or consider someone who was very successful at conveying subtle hints and cues in his communication and thereby never risking open embarrassment to anyone in public with whom he might disagree. This individual was known as a master communicator in his native Japan. He had years of success in Tokyo and developed an intricate, first-rate map for guiding his communication effectively. His map also led him to determine that those who demonstrated less tact and sophistication were untrustworthy with sensitive issues or assignments.
This individual was subsequently transferred to an attractive new position a few kilometers to the south — Melbourne.
Sadly, his carefully constructed, well tested communication map did not work so well in Australia. While he worked hard at communicating with great sensitivity and subtlety, “locals” perceived him as not being direct and therefore untrustworthy. In turn, while the locals “said what they meant and meaning what they said,” as they thought they should do, he viewed them as insensitive to others’ feelings and a bit immature and self-centered in their communication.
Not surprisingly, the assignment did not go well. Yet, this individual manager was slow to see that what was once very right was now very wrong. He was slow to see that a serious personal change was needed if he were to continue to succeed in this new and different environment.
Thus, the first and critical point about why we fail to see the need for change stems from the fact that we stand blinded by the light of successful past mental maps. The longer these maps have worked, the more it makes sense to hold on to them and the more difficult it is to see beyond them to recognize the need for changing them. This applies not only to companies and macro issues like strategies or technology, but also to individuals and issues as small as how to communicate or provide feedback to someone.”