Picture this: Your manager is going out of town and you are next in line to sit on the account management throne. Whether you are an entry-level employee or have a few years of experience under your belt, this can send you into a panic. Immediately, thoughts of everything and anything that can go down in flames appear in your mind. Dramatic.
Pump the breaks! You are perfectly capable of handling everything that your manager normally takes care of. Not only can you handle it, but this is your chance to take on added responsibility and get a taste of what your future role could look like.
It’s an opportunity. An opportunity to show yourself, and your team, that you are ready and willing to take on tasks that may even be above your skill level or pay grade. And guess what? If you make a mistake, you are able to learn and become even more skilled.
Now, you don’t just wake up one day and become a manager. You have to prepare and be ready to take on client needs and issues that may occur. Like my dad always says, “Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance” (the five P’s – anyone?).
In the past, there are a few things that have helped me keep projects moving forward while my manager is out of the office. Remember, managers need time off too! Try to prepare enough so that you don’t bother them on vacation and you look like a hero when they return.
Ask all questions before they leave
I’m sure your manager let you know in advance that they will be out of town and the dates of their time off. Some managers put together an out of office plan for their team members that explains who owns what task in their absence. But if this isn’t the case, it is up to you to meet with your manager to get the low-down on all of the moving parts you are in charge of.
Whether it’s leading calls, answering client emails or managing projects and deadlines, you need to know the ins and outs of each task. Meet with your manager but have a list of questions to cover so that when you meet, it’s efficient.
Be confident in your skills
It can be easy for us to feel overwhelmed, especially when you haven’t be in charge or communicated with the client much in the past. But don’t forget, you have witnessed your manager execute these tasks day in and day out. Just put yourself in their shoes and feel confident about your work. The only way you will succeed is by telling yourself you will. Ever heard of “fake it ‘til you make it?” Well, it works.
Make sure your to-do list is as detailed as possible
Based on the meeting with your manager, make your to-do list very detailed. I like to write what the task is, the next step after the task is completed and the deadline. In my opinion, you can never be too detailed. You are in charge of moving projects forward that you may have played a smaller role on in the past. To avoid missing a step, write everything down!
Spend more time thinking through processes
Normally, I’m sure you are pretty good at getting your day-to-day tasks completed and sent to the team. While your manager is out, complete your tasks but also think through those next steps mentioned above and how you should communicate things to the client and the internal team. Don’t act too quickly, that might end with missing crucial details.
Don’t be afraid to ask other coworkers for help
Nobody expects you to become super manager overnight. If you need it, ask for help! Questions about how you should go about client communication or problem solving are definitely okay and most likely expected. Your manager would rather you ask for help when you need it, than guessing and getting yourself into a pickle. Always ask questions and take notes when others help you.
Provide a detailed overview to give your manager when they return
Assuming your manager actually turned off her email and was able to relax, be sure to give them a detailed overview of everything that happened, was completed and still needs to be completed. The best way to do this is probably via email the day before they come back to the office and then setting up time to meet with them in person to discuss further. Don’t bombard them once they walk in, but after they catch up on emails and read your note, go tell them how great you did!
How have you handled additional responsibilities in the past? Have you had to step up to the plate while your manager is out? Comment your experiences below!