Published: 06/01/2005, Volume III, No. 5937 Page 33

I have recently been promoted in my large teaching trust and am now enjoying my first taste of operational management. But the trust is going through wholesale restructuring and although I am no longer doing my old job, much of the workload is still coming my way in the absence of a replacement.

In my exuberance to get started, I may have taken on more duties than I should. Without clear line management arrangements, what can I do to share the work around?

My wife, who is used to having me home by 6pm, is worried that I am being sucked into a dark hole of late nights in the office. I try to reassure her things will settle down, but I am worried that when this happens, I will be hungry to take on the next challenge.

Jan Sobieraj says

These early days in your new post will set the scene for how you are going to manage in the future. It is important that you are happy with the way your career is heading.

Do people know that you have moved into a new post and what your new role is? From now on your performance will be assessed on your new role - not the old one. So you need to stem the flow from your previous post by talking it through with your old and new managers. If they are not around, go up the management line.

The balance between enthusiasm and giving yourself a realistic workload will always be tricky and it is important that you manage it well. Setting some clear objectives with your manager is a good place to start.

It is also useful to agree expectations of your role. This will help define what and how you do things - It is then up to you to work out how you can deliver these in reasonable working hours and make sure that any expectations and agreements are clear and not based on friendships, grace or favour.

Once your work objectives are set, you need to agree a realistic working pattern with your family - and make sure others know it and stick to it as much as possible. A reasonable balance might not be 'home by five', but your working hours have to be something that you generally stick to - there will always be more work!

There will be times when you have to make exceptions, but these should be special occasions. The NHS is 24/7, but that doesn't mean you have to be.

Bryan Carpenter says

First, a recent promotion into a new job, although exciting and challenging, can also be very stressful, and for a while it will be difficult to assess the priorities realistically.

Although you are in the midst of a restructuring exercise, the fact that you have been promoted to a new job must be an indication that there is some stability in the system, and someone must have taken the decision to promote you.

If you are not clear who your immediate manager is, go to the next level up and explain your predicament.

Seeking clarification would be seen as a strength rather than a weakness.

Ask for objectives to be set and immediate priorities to be determined.

Given the current state of flux (every organisation has them) this might include elements of your old job. But at least you will be clear about what is expected of you and the probable timescales.

Ensure that you mutually agree the priorities and the objectives and do not take on more than you can chew. A good guide is a minimum of five and a maximum of eight major objectives to be completed in one year. Ensure that you also agree the need for 'how am I doing?' feedback meetings at least once a month.

Jenny Rogers says

The most interesting word you use is 'freedom'. Yes, you do have freedom. Freedom to decide now that you will not get sucked into that black hole and that you will have a balanced life. Sad though it may be, the truth is that the organisation may not even notice the sacrifice you may be tempted to make of your personal life.

The missing word in your account is 'boss'. Book yourself in immediately for an hour-long session with him or her. Your aim is to nail down exactly what is expected of you and to agree between you how you will judge success in your first six months and how you will monitor progress on these objectives. This should include agreeing that you cannot do your old job as well as your new one.

'Sharing the work' sounds suspiciously casual to me and could well lead to you eagerly slipping straight back into the old comfort zone. In my coaching work, the most severely neglected skill I see is the art of proper delegation - even in experienced senior managers. So learn how to do it, including managing your own anxiety, and it will pay real dividends throughout your managerial career.

Finally, agree now with your wife that you will create proper boundaries for your personal life and funnel some of that exuberance into wholehearted enjoyment of your leisure time together.

Our panel

Bryan Carpenter is HR director of Bournemouth and Christchurch trust.

Kate Gordon is an independent nurse consultant and qualified life coach.

Sally Gorham is chief executive of Waltham Forest primary care trust.

Hazel Henderson is physical fitness co-ordinator for Wandsworth PCT.

Neil Johnson is director of education and training at NHSU.

Jenny Rogers is an executive coach and director of Management Futures.

Jan Sobieraj is chief executive of Barnsley District General Hospital trust.

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