Saturday

Do You Really Want To Be A Manager?

"What do I do now?"

Craig looked plaintively across the desk at me. He'd come to me for help adapting to his new role as a manager. He was having a lot of trouble.

Craig had thought he wanted to be a manager. He'd supported himself through college by running heavy machinery in the construction industry. He was a hard worker.

When he was hired by the company that made some of the equipment he used to run, Craig was ecstatic. He liked the people in the construction industry and he thought his new employer was as fine a company as there was.

Craig was hired as a sales trainee, but his goals were something else. He wanted to be an executive and climb the corporate ladder. He started out by turning himself into a great salesperson. He let his bosses know that he wanted to move up.

His opportunity came after only a couple of years. The company tapped him for a sales manager's job. At first he was ecstatic.

Now it was three months later. Craig didn't like the things he had to do in his new job. He missed the freedom of selling on the road, spending time on jobsites and talking with people he liked.

"I used to love going to work," he told me. "Now, I get slammed from all sides. My boss wants me to make my numbers. Half the people who work for me just don't seem to cut it and they're always whining about something."

"I don't know how to handle that. Plus, my bonus is now tied to how these other people do. It was easier when I just had to work a little harder or smarter to make my numbers."

"Anything else?" I asked.

"When I was selling, the deals I cut grew naturally out of our relationship with the customers. Now, I've got my people asking me to approve deals and I'm just not comfortable deciding. It's constant pressure."

There are thousands of people out there like Craig. They start out with the idea that what they want is a management job. Then, they get one and it's nothing like what they expected. How can you keep that from happening to you?

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help decide if a management job is the right career choice.

What will I be giving up if I move into management?

This is very important to ask. Companies promote top performers. If they want to promote you to management, the odds are good that you were an above average performer as an individual contributor.

The odds are also pretty good that you like the work you're doing. So, are you willing to give it up?

You may have to give up more than work you love. If your management job requires lots of travel or more late nights or a more demanding schedule, you may give up some time at home, too. Are you willing to do that?

In some companies, promotion to management comes with an automatic relocation. Are you willing to move? Is your family willing to move?

Finally, check the income figures. Sometimes, getting promoted means a drop in regular income because commissions or overtime pay goes away.


Do I like helping other people succeed?

One of your jobs as a manager is to help the people who work for you succeed. That's not a job everyone likes to do. If you like helping other people do better, it will make your job as a manager much easier and it will make you more likely to succeed.

What if you don't? Then understand that you will probably have to put conscious effort into the work of helping others on your team. Only you know how difficult that will be for you.

Am I comfortable making decisions?

As a manager, you will have to make decisions about all sorts of things. My life experience tells me that this is not something you can learn to be comfortable with. If you are comfortable making decisions, you can improve your technique, but no amount of training will make you willing to make decisions.

Think about how you live your life. Do you make decisions as needed? Or do you put them off or hope that someone else will make the decision for you?

This one's pretty simple. If you can't make decisions you won't be an effective manager.

Am I willing to confront people about their behavior or performance?

Management is the art of controlled confrontation. Every day you will need to talk to people who work for you about their behavior and performance. You will need to confront some of them with how they're doing and what they need to fix.

We're not talking about big, blow-up, "Jerry Springer" confrontations. Most of your confrontations will be about small things. But you'll have to do them every day.

If you can't confront people who work for you about their behavior and performance, it's not likely you will do well as a manager.

Am I willing to let the group become my destiny?

This is a tough one, because it flies in the face of how we talk about management. We like to say that when you're in management, you've got power. But that's not true.

When you get promoted, you'll have less power than you do now. Think of it this way.

When you're an individual contributor and you want to improve your evaluation or income, all you have to do is work harder or smarter. When you want to achieve the same thing as a manager, you've got to convince your team members to work harder or smarter.

As one of my trainees put it: "The team is your destiny." Your success and your rewards are based on their performance. Are you ready for that?

Craig's problem was that he took a management job without thinking through whether it was something that he would like and be good at. He hadn't thought about what he liked and didn't and he hadn't considered the changes he would have to make.

Craig went to his boss and laid out the issues he and I discussed. His company decided they'd rather have a happy and successful sales rep instead of an unhappy sales manager and they let Craig pick up his old job.

All of that could have been avoided if Craig had done some analysis in advance. One of my other clients, John, was a person who did.

John was working with me on career issues for about a year when he was offered the opportunity to move up to management. We'd already discussed many of the issues, so he was in much better shape than Craig. John knew what he wanted and figured he could do a good job as a manager.

On the plus side, John really loved working with people and helping them develop. The move to management would make that a key part of his job.

Because he was a good performer as an individual contributor, John was a little leery about giving up the freedom he'd earned and about moving out of his comfort zone to a new job. In his case, relocation or money were not issues.

John thought he was a good decision maker, but he admitted to sometimes taking longer than necessary to make a decision. Sometimes he even let others make decisions he might have made better. We marked that as an area to work on in his personal development plan.

John had coached sports teams and figured that the confrontations about performance that he did in that role would help him as a manager. That has turned out to be the case.

John's biggest issue was with whether he could live with the fact that his team's performance would define his results. There wasn't any clear evidence in his background either way, but he thought he could learn to do it. We marked the issue as one for our coaching sessions.

Things worked out well for John. There were some rocky points, though. Everybody has them.

It turned out that the confrontation issue was far more difficult for him to master than either of us expected. But with concentrated effort, John mastered that and other skill issues.

When you get promoted to management you must do different kinds of work than what made you successful as an individual contributor. You gain some things and give up others. It's not a transition that everyone wants to make, but asking some key questions in advance means you can increase your odds of success when promotion comes calling.

About the Author
Wally Bock helps organizations improve productivity and morale. He is the author of Performance Talk (http://www.performancetalk.com/). He writes the Three Star Leadership blog (http://blog.threestarleadership.com/), coaches individual managers, and is a popular speaker at meetings and conferences.

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