Technology enthusiast, passionate about building great teams and scaling organisations
Every person at some point in their career may need to ask themselves “Do I really want to be a manager?” The question may seem straightforward, but the answer is not. It requires digging deeper and finding answers for ourselves without relying on what others believe is the right thing for us to do.
Management may seem like a natural career progression for a great individual contributor, while it may not be the best way to expand our role. Much like our earlier decisions that landed us in a particular field, the choice to be a manager or not requires careful examination of our options. Management isn’t the only way to grow, get a raise or take on additional responsibilities from our current role.
Think of management as a maze with a simple entry that requires navigating multiple unknown paths along the way. It’s easy to get lost, feel stuck and lose hope unless we have patience, curiosity and ability to learn from it’s unique challenges. It requires reprogramming our brain to accept responsibility not only for ourselves but also the team and provide the necessary tools and resources to help them succeed.
I have seen people take on management roles without much clarity only to realise later that they are terrible as a manager. Some make the shift to individual contributor roles and others continue being miserable.
While there’s still time for you to take the leap, ask yourself “Do you really want to be a manager?”. To answer it honestly, reflect on these 5 questions and find answers for yourself.
So you want to be a manager.
If you want to embrace it fully with the right reasons, answer these questions for yourself, spend time reflecting on your thoughts, be true to how you feel and then make a decision. Take time in deeply evaluating each one, there’s no need to hurry through the list.
Do you feel accomplished by building things yourself, derive a sense of purpose by going deep into the problem and finding solutions on your own? If you enjoy being in the flow of things while exploring the solution yourself and prefer spending hours researching the problem space, then the manager role may not be the one for you.
In his book, Your Brain At Work, David Rock cites psychologist and scientist Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi -- pronounced “Cheeks-sent-me-high” -- who describes the state of flow as “when we are immersed in an experience and the time seems to stand still”.
As a manager, you may still have your highs, but in the form of achievements through others. It requires a mindset shift from the belief that you are the best person to do the job and resist the temptation to do it yourself.
A manager builds trust by empowering the team in helping them find a solution on their own as opposed to being the one providing solutions. It requires learning the art of delegation to challenge the team with more forward looking work and motivating them to strive for more.
A manager’s job is to constantly ask “What does my team need now. How can I increase their productivity by providing support?” It requires learning the daily challenges of the team, shifting gears from the role of the doer to the role of the provider and investing in team development from norming to performing.
In summary, if you cannot you give up the desire to learn by doing and shift to a place of learning through others, you probably don’t want to be a manager.
Do you like stitching a personal story for each of your team members by learning their personalities, aspirations, challenges, backgrounds and experiences or do you find it exhausting?
Understanding that every person is different and learning what makes them tick, what motivates them, what do they need on a day-to-day basis requires taking interest in their life way beyond work.
People change and so do their circumstances. A manager who’s dedicated to the actual well-being of their people takes time to deal with these nuances and connect deeply with their people. They engage with people out of genuine curiosity and constantly inquire:
Being a manager requires building a mentor mentee relationship of accountability and responsibility, of seeking and providing feedback and putting the needs of others above yours. It requires actively listening, learning about their deepest desires and finding ways to connect opportunities to their aspirations.
Julie Zhuo conveys a very useful message to managers in her book, The Making of a Manager
What you quickly realise as a manager is that the single most effective way to set up a team for success in the long run is to focus on the people
In summary, if you like working with people but cannot go beyond mentorship and general advice to being responsible for people’s growth and finding pure joy in seeing others succeed, then being a manager may not be the right role for you.
Both manager and individual contributor grapple with finding answers to problems, but a manager has to deal with multiple unknowns that are not directly under their control.
Managing production issues, customer complaints, people matters, business expectations, market shifts, technological advancements, planning, delivery schedules and future growth may be overwhelming. Instead of being bogged down by the demands and pressures of this role, a manager must learn to accept its challenges as a way to learn and grow.
As a manager, you need to find for yourself that the single most effective way to manage stakeholders is to work with them and not against them. It requires taking interest beyond your circle of competence to understand other functions, learn their unique challenges and approach them with an element of trust. What may look impractical from outside may sound completely reasonable when approached with the desire to actively listen and understand.
One of the most interesting aspects of moving from an individual contributor to a manager is the shift in expectation from getting immediate feedback from your actions as an individual contributor to learning to live with the delayed feedback loop that comes with the responsibility of being a manager.
In summary, if you like working in a zone that you can control as opposed to dealing with the uncertainty of decisions that come from myriads of issues beyond your control, then you probably do not want to be a manager.
What’s the first thought that comes to your mind when thinking about conflicts at work? Do you avoid it or find difficult conversations as a means to grow in an organisation.
A manager has to deal with conflicts in most of their interactions - communicating bad news to their team, sharing important decisions with stakeholders, creating the right balance of business expectations to achieving team stability, saying no to ideas that do not align with long term goals, managing poor performance, rejecting a promotion request...the list is endless.
Managing conflict requires open and authentic communication with the desire to resolve conflict effectively. It necessitates taking a stand in doing what’s right as opposed to going with easy decisions and popular opinions even if that means it may upset some people in the short term. It demands asking questions, repeating information again and again, seeking and providing clarity. It’s a tough job in ensuring you are being heard while also actively listening to others viewpoints.
In summary, if you have a propensity to keep others happy and avoid conflicts instead of striving for excellence through constructive dissatisfaction, then you probably do not want to be a manager.
Time is the most precious resource for everyone. There are countless distractions that do not add value to work. People who do not learn to manage their time run against it moving from one activity to another without conscious thought and planning into how it helps them achieve their goals. Time is never enough for such people as they attribute their busyness for the lack of doing truly meaningful work.
Citing lack of time for making a team inclusive to the decision making process, ignoring important activities like feedback, future planning and hiring to build the right team cannot be mere excuses for someone in the management role.
As a manager, being responsible for people also requires being respectful of their time and that means engaging yourself and your team in doing work that aligns with their goals and helps them succeed in the workplace. Managers need to employ Eisenhower matrix to reduce, schedule, delegate and declutter work for themselves in effect creating better opportunities for their team by entrusting them with more responsibilities.
By consciously making an effort to learn from the present and be forward looking in their approach, they can create the right balance of effectiveness and efficiency.
In summary, if you feel responsible and accountable for your own time but do not invest in putting practices in place that helps others maximise their potential, then you probably do not want to be a manager.
In the end if you do decide to become a manager, embrace the opportunity. It comes with a lot of hard work but the journey itself can be fulfilling as seeing others grow is the most rewarding experience. Celebrate this milestone as it’s only the beginning.
If you don’t have all the skills yet, but the right mindset to attend to the demands of this role, that’s a great sign for a potential manager. Make sure to work with your seniors and find opportunities to build these skills in your day-to-day work.
Once you take on the role, the feeling of imposter may be natural in the beginning. Be confident and true to yourself and your role by asking the same 5 questions and reflecting on where you stand.
I hope you will make the right decision for yourself and others, because management is a responsibility beyond us, a challenge to learn, contribute and build the next generation who’s passionate about their work and intrinsically motivated to find their own success.
My journey into management was part intentional and part accidental and I am grateful that I continue to love it. What about you? How did you decide for yourself when you first took on the role?
Previously published at https://www.techtello.com/do-you-really-want-to-be-a-manager