After so many years of work experience, you might be asking yourself if it’s time to move into a management role. There are generally two paths in a career: individual contributor or manager. Like most people, I’ve had many different managers over the years and only a handful of truly effective ones. Management may look attractive from the outside due to the potential exposure and salary gain, but it certainly isn’t for everyone, as it also comes with much greater responsibility and accountability. If you are considering management, ask yourself these questions first:
1. Am I able to have tough, uncomfortable conversations? Situations involving conflict happen constantly as a manager. Managers need to provide feedback, assign potentially unpopular tasks, rate employees on their performance, issue warnings, facilitate Performance Improvement Plans, and conduct termination meetings. They need to defend their team’s deliverables with other departments and their own boss. Oftentimes, they are the bearer of bad or unexpected news.
2. Do I show empathy? Employees are not robots. They are real people with feelings, full lives outside of work, personal problems, and families. If you are a naturally uncaring person and show no effort to connect, it will be difficult to build trust with a team.
3. Can I put aside my own personal biases? Managers are responsible for hiring, rewarding promotions and bonuses, and assigning work/projects. Employees on your team must be treated fairly and consistently - playing favorites is not appropriate. You must strive for diversity and inclusion in order to build a strong team. Favoring or hiring only people like yourself with similar backgrounds and interests isn’t acceptable.
4. Do I have the project management skills to lead a team? When one moves from an individual contributor to a manager role, he or she is no longer only accountable for his or her own work. The manager now has to prioritize and manage several projects, activities, and tasks and be able to provide status updates on them at all times. Strong follow-through is key. If you aren’t highly organized and detail-oriented, you may struggle.
5. Am I capable of identifying strengths and weaknesses of others? It’s critical to assess the skills of the team quickly for a few reasons: to balance the workload appropriately, to identify learning and development opportunities, to be able to consistently provide feedback, to build succession plans, and to offer support and guidance when needed.
6. Do I have an ego? It’s no longer about you the minute you become a manager. Your accomplishments become the team’s accomplishments. If you have to be in the limelight taking credit for the sake of your own ego and self-serving purposes, you will not be effective.
7. Am I willing to make the time to support a team? Leading a team successfully is a huge time commitment. Managers should be spending adequate 1:1 time with each direct report in addition to regular staff meetings. Time should be spent creating development opportunities and plans. Coaching and feedback should be ongoing. Employee relations issues should be resolved in a timely manner. If you aren’t willing to put in the extra hours, the team will hurt.
8. Can I hold others accountable? Managers are responsible for the team’s performance. If someone isn’t performing up to standards, managers must address the problems and devise a plan for correction. If you aren’t comfortable with this or tend to be a “softy,” management may not be the correct path for you.
Oftentimes, individual contributors are promoted into management roles because they excel in their current position. However, as the examples above share, management can be a tough job so it’s important to know yourself and your capabilities before signing onto the new responsibility.
In addition, it’s okay to step back from management after trying it out if you realize you don’t enjoy it. After all, it’s the employees on the team who will suffer most from a disengaged or incompetent manager!