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I work in a manufacturing company in an IT role. My role itself would have you believe that I am in a managerial role, but unfortunately, I am severely unequipped to handle such a role. I lack the confidence and the knowledge to handle a role like this and I also am anxious about how far I can go with my role responsibilities.

Expectations of me:
My boss wants me to take a more "proactive approach" in my role. He wants me to "look for areas of improvement" and actively take part in "improving how things are done here".

My problem:

  1. I am used to being the "behind the screens" guy. Be down in the dirty side of IT and not worry about any accolades or honorable mentions. Someone initiates the project, someone comes up with the budget, I am asked to do the programming, someone deploys it, someone receives accolades. I am mostly not mentioned or noticed.
  2. I work from home. My role in its entirety is working from home. This is not a special circumstance due to Coronavirus.
  3. We have manufacturing plants all over the country and I do not work from or visit any of them (due to Coronavirus).
  4. My previous job involved me working from a plant (in a different manufacturing company) and walking the floor, talking to people, learning about how they do things. This helps me with providing insights on improvements. I have a track record of doing this. So they are expecting me to do this here now.

Issues and questions pertaining to the problems above:

  1. Being a behind the screen guy, I have a LOT of confidence in programming and technology. But as a behind the screen guy, I have VERY LITTLE confidence in reaching out to folks on business process topics. I also don't know when I am crossing a line by a question or a meeting or an email. How do I know how far I can go?
  2. I don't have many connections or "friends" that I can just reach out to. My boss is available for me, a few plant IT heads are easy to access, but it is very restricted who I can reach out to.
  3. Since going to the site is restricted, I am not sure how I can be brought up to speed on the activities in their site.
  4. Without knowing what is happening in the plants, I find it hard to reach out to find room for improvement. I feel like I am being a hindrance rather than help to these people, asking trivial questions about their site that they simply do not have the time to answer. I am told by family that this is just me and anyone would be happy to talk to me about this. But how do I overcome this mental obstacle?

My ultimate question is, how do I proactively involve myself in improving how things are done, given my circumstances? Do I schedule monthly meeting invites to plant IT heads and discuss their current projects? Do I discuss their current shortcomings and figure out what I can do to fix it? Do I schedule one-on-one meetings or should I have a mass meeting with all plant heads? I do have this idea wherein I create an Excel file and have the plant heads fill in the some basic information about their plant shortcomings and I can create a Power BI report to have a pretty front-end that neatly outlines all the shortcomings of their site. The current monthly meetings always discuss what they are doing, not what they are NOT. Would this be a good idea?

I would like some guidance and some advice on how to bravely take a managerial action that engages everyone and not have them sigh and go "oh good another monthly meeting".

Thank you

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  • Do you have people that report to you? – Gregory Currie Mar 9 at 17:05
  • @GregoryCurrie No I do not have any direct reports, but I am technically in the power to "review" plant IT heads. Hierarchically, age, and experience-wise, I am smaller than the folks that I can review and question. But I am still in the power to question them. – Crazy Cucumber Mar 9 at 19:17
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As far as I can tell from your description, you should sit together with your manager and clarify the expectations set in you. I would be very cautious, whether she/he has an exact picture of what you should deliver. If she/he does not have that big picture she/he might be using you as a scapegoat. (But this is pure speculation.)

Get the full list of detailed expectations set in you, if you accept the new position. They should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Accepted (by you)
  • Realistic
  • Timely (able to deliver on time)

If you do not want to take the new position, gently say thanks, apologize and decline. ( You might point to candidate you find more suitable. )

If you take on the role, make sure to have the following written down: Your:

  • Duties (deliverables, eg. products, services)
  • Competencies (Ressources you will have soverein reign over; money, people)
  • Responsibilities (Things that you will be liable for, damage or success)

If you neither receive money or people, you will be managing yourself.

Wish you great luck with your new role, if you take it. There is a lot of material out there to study, personally I would recommend to study the difference of management and leadership.

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    Honestly, I think STAR is ill-suited here. The OP has been asked to be proactive. Asking their boss "what should I do", is a bit contrary to that. – Gregory Currie Mar 9 at 17:31
  • last time I encountered "SMRT" goals, the T stood for 'Targeted', meaning the goals feed into higher level ones. I like the definition of the A here! – Pete W Mar 9 at 19:21
  • I think @GregoryCurrie is correct in pointing out that asking my boss what my next course of action should be is counter-intuitive to the responsibility given to me. But you've essentially outlined exactly what my problem is here! I don't think declining is an option, since I already hold my current role and I am essentially being delegated with more responsibilities in my current role. I appreciate your answer, as it summed up my worry much more elegantly! And I will read on the difference between management and leadership. Thank you! – Crazy Cucumber Mar 9 at 19:27
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This is a time where you have to play to your strengths.

Sure, you're not a guy that's great at taking that first step. You're not an amazing talker. You're maybe a bit fearful.

But you are good at the technical stuff. You have a good understanding of how things have operated. You have been exposed to many projects. Surely you've from time-to-time thought: "This is really stupid, why don't we do it a better way". Now is the time to start that, and many other projects.

They company could have gone for some flashy person, with a broad white grin, charismatic and all that. But they want with you because of your strengths, with the expectations that you'll use them.

I would like some guidance and some advice on how to bravely take a managerial action that engages everyone and not have them sigh and go "oh good another monthly meeting".

Well, obviously don't do that. One-on-one discussions are far better, unless you need collaboration between them.

One-on-ones means the other person has your full attention. Give them a heads up what the conversion will be about. Let them know that everything is on the table for discussion. Ask them to let subordinates know that you're always available for a chat.

If I was your manager, I'd be less concerned with documenting what the shortcomings are, and more concerned with documenting HOW they will be fixed.

So, pick a task which will give something a good measurable improvement, and start on it. In the meantime you should engage others to determine the next task.

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  • This is very helpful. I think the best course of action would be to proceed by scheduling one-on-one meetings with all plant heads, addressing drawbacks, and coming to solutions. I especially liked your last sentence. That was my other worry, looking like I am just keeping busy and biding my time by doing nothing. This will show visible improvement in my performance and a clear sign of attempting to improve current processes. – Crazy Cucumber Mar 9 at 19:31

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