Becoming a manager can be both challenging and rewarding. Here's what to consider if you're considering this role.
When I launched my career after graduate school, I knew I wanted to do the best I could to advance as quickly as I could. I was an eager college graduate with goals and aspirations, including making it to management level one day. That was before I knew what climbing the ladder meant in the land of corporate; actually, that was before I understood what the land of corporate meant, in general. On one hand, I had an amazing opportunity to work for one of the largest companies in the world where I received great training and experience and had exposure to an international workgroup. I also had the opportunity to work with senior leaders early in my career and had amazing mentors.
On the other hand, I was working 50 to 70 hour weeks and had a ton of projects and day-to-day business activities I had to prioritize. I also saw my more experienced co-workers working very long hours, and quickly realized the sacrifices senior leadership and executives made to get to where they were. Thus, I was reconsidering my desires to hold the title of manager.
Later in my career, I landed another job as an HR Generalist with a great organization, and though I was open to promotions and had a good work ethic to succeed in the role I was in, I didn't have the drive to land a management role. As timing and opportunity would have it, however, I was quickly promoted to senior level, and then offered the position of HR Manager of Operations for a new company that was formed as a result of a divestiture. I accepted, and I had no idea at the time the numerous ways I would be tested, trained, stretched, rewarded, and then some over the next few months and years.
Not everyone is meant to be a manager, and that's OK.
First, I want to get this out in the open and clear the air for anyone who feels they should aspire to become a manager just because others encourage it, or they think it's the right thing to do because they're supposed to want it: it's OK to decide that being a manager is not for you. If you've been promoted to manager and realize it's not for you, it's also OK to choose to step down. You're not weird, and nothing is wrong with you. As rewarding as it can be, being a manager comes with challenges and sacrifices that some don't want. I respect and acknowledge those who have enough self-awareness to realize this.
Also, accepting and declining a management position has a lot to do with personal timing. I have accepted and declined offers for management positions based on alignment with my goals for my personal life outside of work, for example.
Technical expertise and management require two different skill sets.
I've seen it happen over and over again–employees are promoted into the role of manager because they are technically and tactically good at their jobs. This happens, in part, because many companies don't have a ladder that will allow for career advancement and pay increases in technical positions similar to those of management level positions.
In a Ragan Communications post, Shel Holtz of Holtz Communications and Technology spoke to this concern. "I have always been confounded by the way people are promoted into positions where they are going to be responsible for staff as a reward for doing their tactical job. They earned their promotion because they did a great job at something that didn't involve managing people, not because they had great people-management skills."
When someone is good at their job technically, it doesn't automatically imply that they will be good leaders or that they have manager skills. Possessing strong technical skills is very different from possessing strong leadership skills, given that they are completely different skill sets. In fact, it's possible for a strong leader to manage a team successfully even if he or she does not completely understand or possess the technical aspects required of the team.
Being a manager can be very rewarding for the right person.
For the right person, managing a team can bring about great rewards and benefits, as I've outlined below.
You get to help your team evolve and grow. Becoming a manager can be amazing to witness the members of your team evolve and grow. The feeling you get in knowing that you were there to help them can be worth the added responsibility that comes with the title.
Increased income comes with the title. If your responsibilities are increasing, your salary should, too. An increase in salary often means a bump in your standard of living, increased savings for retirement, reducing debt, and the other perks that come with more money in your bank account.
It's an opportunity to hone in on your leadership skills. Being a leader is different than being a manager. A leader inspires others, and a manager manages others. A successful manager hones their skills to do the former vs. the latter, and hopefully, your company will invest in training to help you succeed in doing so.
It's a good resume booster. Having the title of manager on your resume can boost your credibility with other employers, as well as within your professional networks.
The title of manager comes with a new set of challenges.
In addition to the pros of being a manager as discussed above, there are definitely some perceived cons that come with the title.
You'll have more responsibility and exposure. As a manager, your level of responsibility increases. You're not only responsible for your work, but also for the work of your entire team. For some, this could be a pro, for others, it can mean more stress. You'll also likely have more exposure to higher levels of the organization, which can be mean more possibilities, as well as more stress, depending on how you choose to look at it.
Longer hours come with the territory. Often, as a manager, you'll be working longer hours than you were previously working, which means earlier mornings, later evenings, and work on weekends if major projects or meetings require it.
You might become alienated from colleagues. As a manager, you'll now have employees reporting to you, and your relationships will take on a different form. You might feel alienated from your colleagues if you were previously close to them, and vice versa.
Lack of training and support can make it harder. I've seen companies promote managers without offering the proper training or guidance to help the manager assimilate into their new role. This can make the transition to manager much harder than it needs to be. If this is you, seek out training opportunities to improve your manager skills on your own, or ask your company if they will provide some to support you.
Communication is not optional. As a manager, you'll be expected to communicate with your upline, as well your downline, which can be uncomfortable. In an Interact/Harris Poll survey of 1,120 U.S. workers, 616 of whom managed employees, a whopping 69 percent indicated they were uncomfortable communicating with employees. At the same time, lack of communication is one of the top complaints that employees have about executives and leaders of a company, as reported in the Harvard Business Review. Providing clear directions, taking an interest in the employee's life and work, and providing ongoing performance feedback are all important steps for managers to take to create and support a successful work environment.
If you have aspirations to become a manager, don't let the possible challenges deter you, as the rewards often outweigh the challenges, and the experience will look great on your resume. Plus, if you accept a position and decide it's not for you, then at least you'll know you gave it a try. Be proactive and look for resources to help you hone in on your leadership and management skills before you land a management position. You might also consider reading, 8 Traits of Highly Successful Leaders.
On a final note, if you are offered the position of manager, take some time to think about it, and if you have a significant other or family, consider having a heart-to-heart with them about the impact your new position will have on your life and lifestyle if you choose to accept it. It will help make the transition easier if those important to you in your life support it and are aware of any changes that might take place.
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