The traditional business model propagates the idea that the individuals with the most potential to gain increased job responsibility and earnings growth are the ones with both intellectual and people management capabilities. This is because, as smart professionals know, all businesses are, in essence, people businesses. Employees need to be managed and motivated to perform, and those who can do the managing and motivating are often the most valuable to the business. But for those who have not yet been in a manager role, how do you know if it’s right for you?
First Ask ‘Why?’
Managers often agree to jump into people management roles without really deciding if it’s the right move or the right time in their career. Either they’ve been thrust into the position against their will, and worry about losing face with their manager if they decline a management role, or they assume that if so many others can do it, so can they. Whether you’ve been asked or told to move into a management position, or if you’ve decided for yourself that you want to pursue one, the first thing to do is to ask yourself why you would want to be a manager in the first place. Knowing the answer to this question will help to guide you as you navigate the many challenges of people management in the future.
Some people want to be a manager because they see it a symbol of career success, and they think it a badge of honor to be tasked with managing a group of people. Others figure it can’t be all that bad, and are just curious to see if they can do it. Others want to manage people because they see it as a way to make more money. And thankfully, there are some that want to manage because they value the reward associated with helping others to learn and do their best at work.
The important thing is to know why you want to be a manager at all. Being secure in this knowledge about yourself will be an invaluable guide to you when you become a manager and begin to deal with issues and challenges like infighting between team members, an employee who disregards feedback, and the ‘problem employee’, or ‘complainer’. So many managers in companies ask themselves, “Why the heck did I take this darn management job?” If you ask yourself this question at the outset, you’ll know and take security in the answer when your personal people management times get tough.
Know What You’re Getting Into
So many managers think that because others do it, that managing and leading people can’t be all that difficult. The truth is, for most managers, sometimes it does get pretty challenging. While non-managers deal with managing themselves and their work product and interactions with others, managers are tasked with managing that for themselves as well as for the people they manage. Being a manager means being able to keep yourself and others in check. Managing means having to lead by example, and similarly to a parent, never losing awareness that the people you manage watch your actions just as much as they hear your words.
Know that when you become a manager, you will sometimes have days when you’re spending more time helping to solve other people’s problems, than you are on finding solutions to business problems. Not only this, but you’ll also have to make sure that you’re fair with your time, and don’t create the appearance of favoring one employee over another. Each of the people you manage will expect a fair share of your time and attention, and will want to form a unique relationship and ‘connection’ with you. Be prepared for these relationship building activities to take up a considerable amount of time and thought in each and every work day.
Also know that when you become a manager, your success is built on the success of the person or team you manage and not solely on your individual success. This may seem like an elementary concept, and it is, but many managers completely miss the importance of it. Many managers believe managing people is just about assigning work and doling out projects, and telling people where they can improve. But, it is so much more. Managing people is also about building confidence in those you manage, so that they can learn and perform to their highest potential. It’s about developing capabilities in people, so that they can soon be promoted and potentially do the same for others.
Have a Fall-back Plan in Mind
Maybe you’ll ask the right questions, and prepare yourself for the realities of a people management role. But then once you’re in it, you might decide that it’s not for you. In this instance, it’s good to have a fall-back plan and have some ideas of alternatives if you decide you don’t like managing people after all. It would be a mistake to assume there can be no fall-back plan. Understand that it is absolutely possible to move back into a non-management role, without feeling like you’ve gone backwards in your career. You may need to get creative and maybe even change companies, but it is possible to make the switch back into a non-managerial role.
Thankfully, newer management thinking has made it OK again, in some companies, to reach the highest levels of ‘management’ without actually managing people. In your particular field, do some research and find out what kinds of careers might be an option for you if you decide you don’t want to manage people. You might find that relative to the career options that are available, managing people might never be right for you after all.
by Melanie Haniph