Being an effective GM
Advice for being an effective GM: a) Make subordinates understand that you know you cannot accomplish your objectives without their help because you know very little about what they are doing. (Trust me, if this is true, you might as well state it openly, because they will figure it out immediately.) b) Never try to make them believe you know more than you do. The only person you will fool is yourself. c) Learn, learn, learn. d) When you implement change, make sure that the key people for making this change a success think that this change is their idea. (Chances are, it is their idea. You may have just brought it to the surface or refined it.) "Buy in" from your subordinates is absolutely critical for implementation success. That is absolutely a reality. e) Make sure you have little successes as early as possible and take no credit for them. This can be very difficult for your ego. DON'T TRY TO IMPRESS YOUR SUBORDINATES; RATHER, BE IMPRESSED BY THEM.
Be sure that they are saying at lunch, "We finally got someone that is willing to listen to me and do it the right way. Heck, we saved $50,000 this month alone because John was smart enough to listen to me." Be sure your boss knows who on your staff made those changes successful. When your boss expresses his or her appreciation to that person on your staff for their good work, you have then gained the credibility you need with that person to move on to bigger and better things.
Trust is essential. Trust is built upon reliability and consistency. If the people in your organization can depend upon you, know that you will be consistent in your dealings with them and others at all times (in good times and under pressure). If they know that you can be relied upon to deliver when you commit to something, this builds trust. They must also know what you hold deep within you as your values and standards. Lastly, they must know where you are heading and where you are taking the organization. Therefore, if they trust you, understand and respect your values, and know where you're heading—individually and collectively—with the company, they will endorse and support you.
I found if the people understand me, they tend to tolerate my small mistakes and oversights (operational blips) because they know and respect the ultimate destination (vision and mission) for the collective group and have faith that I can lead them there. This is because they know me as a person and we have formed a mutual respect for each other. I trust them with missions and recognize their accomplishments.
Most people seem to have a basic respect for leaders but are unwilling to give that respect freely to someone who is an unknown quantity. You have to earn their respect by demonstrating your competence and your trustworthiness. Probably as a result of this obvious fact, when I have taken over a new management position I have been tested by someone or some group to see if I could "walk the walk".
Getting confidence of functional managers
My biggest challenge in transitioning to general manager was in gaining the confidence and respect of the functional managers that I was to manage.
Before being promoted I was the top marketing manager at a company dominated by technical experts. As general manager I was tasked with a variety of product development and operational responsibilities as well. Many of the technical experts did not understand why it was necessary, or even useful, to add a general management position to what was previously a strictly functional organization structure. In addition, all of my new subordinates were 5 to 15 years older, and more experienced, than me.
The key to making the transition successful was to make sure that the functional experts knew I was not going to second guess their expertise. I talked with each manager individually and asked each one what needed improvement at the company. I explained my new role as providing common direction, improving communications between departments, and helping them get the resources (both people and equipment) that they needed to get their job done. I let each functional manager tell me what needed to be done in their particular area of expertise in order for us to successfully meet our stated objectives.
Knowing the business
The better you know all the important details of your business, the more people will rely on your knowledge and wisdom. It is a great credibility builder. For many businesses the most successful performers in a company are the ones with the most information. Use your company-wide knowledge to build bridges between other departments.
It is important to ensure you have impact and voice at an early point. Building credibility is an important component in the beginning. One must balance one's old habits of taking action and getting things done with the new role of coach and priority setter.