How do you feel about being asked-Do you want to be a people manager?
Post by Silviu Hotaran
Do you want to be a manager?
I often ask this question, especially to young and ambitious people, who have passion for what they are doing. If they are respected for their individual contribution and their professional competence, there is often an important moment in their life when they have to decide if the next step in their career is into management.
I was asked this question many years ago and it profoundly changed my life. I was, like many other people, deeply passionate about my work, in my case IT and programming. I was ambitious and enthusiastic. Influenced by my own experiences and preconceived ideas, my first reaction was a categorical denial:
“I’m no good at managing people, I don’t like it, I don’t want to be a manager.”
Management was not a vision I had for myself, and it was not a personal aspiration.
Fortunately, I had the chance to think about the proposal and reconsider the challenge. I was lucky enough to meet a special kind of individual who, by asking the right questions, influenced my destiny. Finally, I accepted the management role and I’ve never regretted the decision.
What I noticed was my first reaction. It was fear of the unknown, a fear of potential failure or of looking foolish. My first learning was that this fear must be confronted. Our own positive experiences, especially the successful ones, may help create a comfort zone around us. Any possibilities or options to step beyond our comfort zone tend to be seen as negative or are even feared. We should try new experiences, get out of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves. This is the only way to know ourselves better, to discover new talents and passions.
The second lesson is that leaving our comfort zone requires preparation and planning. Moving from being a good individual contributor to managing people is a significant transition. This process should be understood, prepared for, and planned. Another important question is: Can you be a manager? Do you know what changes should be made in your skills, mindset and influence to become a good manager?
When we make the first steps toward “people management” we’re still individual contributors, respected for our skills. As managers, the situation changes completely. Our responsibility moves from our personal activity to that of the whole team and of each team member. The required skills change too, while respect and trust are won in a very different way. For example, in the hierarchy of the top habits of highly effective Google managers (Project Oxygen), technical skills are the last on the list. Leadership “soft” skills – being a coach, a good communicator, expressing personal interest in colleagues, empowering and delegating, having a clear vision – are much more important for the employees.
Here are some reasons for which managers are respected. I’ve added a few questions for you as food for thought:
Managers listen to their team, plus they ask for and give constructive feedback.
Feedback, both positive and negative (constructive), is a very important motivating factor. Too often we have the habit of speaking “about” colleagues instead of talking “with” them. By the way, when have you been praised by your manager? How often do you praise the activity of your colleagues? How often are you giving or getting “uncomfortable” feedback?
The manager establishes individual and team objectives.
The manager delegates and avoids micromanagement. Of course, trust has an important role. How much do you trust your manager? How much does your manager trust you? How much do you trust your colleagues?
The manager facilitates building a team spirit.
The manager integrates new colleagues and builds a team ethos. How many synergies do you have in your team? What is your contribution towards helping new colleagues and building the team spirit?
The manager is results-oriented.
The manager establishes priorities and removes obstacles, whilst involving colleagues in the decision-making process. How much are you involved in decisions in your team? How often are you asked for your opinions? How much are you interested in your colleagues’ opinions?
The manager is a good communicator at the individual and team level, both formally and informally.
The manager encourages open dialogue and is accessible. When did you have your last meeting with your manager? How often are you meeting your colleagues?
People development is another important objective.
Knowing your colleagues, their strengths and weaknesses, being interested in their development and success, are priorities of the manager. Do you have a personal development plan? How much is your manager involved? How much do you know your manager and your colleagues?
The manager connects each team member to the vision/mission/strategy of the company.
Do you know the vision/mission/strategy of your company? What is your company culture, what are the values? How can you compare them with your personal ones? How often do you discuss these subjects with your colleagues?
Unfortunately, we do not usually learn these “soft” skills at school. Quite often, great individual contributors are promoted as people managers. Feeling they are the best; they want to be involved in solving every important problem. They don’t delegate and do not help grow their colleagues. The negative consequences for team performance are unavoidable.
Fortunately, “soft” skills can be learned and developed. First, we must understand how important these skills are for successful people managers. Then we must develop them through practice, to train continuously. Our attitude plays a key role, we must be “hard” with ourselves to constantly overcome our obstacles. Having or developing strong willpower is a key priority.
If you have realized that you want to be a manager, that you can be a manager, getting respect and results, another important question is: do you like to be a manager? This is key for the sustainability of your effort, whatever you’re doing. Passion is a great source of motivation and positive energy, in this case, the passion of working with people. We’re all willing to do what we like. Do you like what you do?
Do you have your vision about management, the strong willpower to develop the capabilities, the enjoyment in what you’re doing? If the answer is yes, you may add another question: why? It’ll help you to go deeper in finding even more reasons.
If you are keen to move into a management or leadership role or want to improve your skills in this area, our team at Hansen Beck have a range of development programs to support you. Contact us today to find out how.
Written by Silviu Hotaran
I have been lucky to enjoy a lot of things in my life. I started as a researcher in IT, then I had the chance to build from scratch the business.