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Published on September 16, 2019

Is People Management the Right Career Path for You?

Is People Management the Right Career Path for You?

Even though career paths are no longer linear, the title and position structures of many professions have not adjusted to the changing nature of work and how people are navigating their careers. In many professional jobs, it is very common to be a technical worker in your field for a number of years and then, the next natural progression would be a people management role and then a senior leadership role.

Is becoming a manager and people management actually good for you? You’re the only one that can answer this question as long as you’re prepared and know what you’ve signed up for. Do your homework. Remember there is no glory in becoming a manager. It’s actually ‘ok’ to stay in an individual contributor or technical role if that’s the work you enjoy most.

However, if you think that becoming a manager is for you, there are 3 major areas you’ll need to consider when making the shift from a technical role to people management. But first I’ll highlight common reasons why people take on promotions:

  • Satisfying the ego
  • Larger income
  • Meeting career goals
  • It’s a natural next step

Rarely do I hear the following from people when asked why they want to be a manager:

  • I want more responsibility
  • I want to deal with difficult situations
  • I want to manage performance issues
  • I want to collaborate with others to build organizational capacity
  • I want to motivate and develop others

I highly encourage you to look beyond the prestige of the job title and salary to determine if a people management role is really meant for you.

Common Challenges People Managers Face

The next step towards a leadership position may not feel natural because being a high performing technical expert requires very different skills sets than a manager.

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Shifting to a management position is one of the toughest career transitions. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Your responsibilities have increased.
  • You’ll need to manage multiple agenda and interests.
  • You’ll need to let go of former technical responsibilities and deal with conceptual ideas.
  • You need to deliver difficult messages even if you don’t agree with them.
  • You’ll need to focus on the big picture, results, and employee development.
  • You’ll need to collaborate across the company and influence without authority.
  • You’re stepping into a new social role as you are no longer a peer to former colleagues.
  • You’re expected to navigate office politics gracefully.

I’ve seen many technical staff get promoted because they’ve done a good job for a long time. However, after the promotion, many have shared their struggles and the feeling of being “out of their element.” The job was not what they expected or they weren’t ready for the transition.

Technical skills will only get you so far. Just because you’re good at your job doesn’t make you management material – yet.

Here are some questions to help you decide if a promotion to become a manager is right for you:

  • Why do you want to be a people manager?
  • What and who are doing this for?
  • What type of work is fulfilling for you? Be very specific here.
  • What are the responsibilities and expectations of the role you’re aspiring for?

And here are some challenges faced by new people managers or even experienced managers:

Understanding the Big Picture and Future Direction of the Organization

As the leader of your team, you need to ensure that you have a sound understanding of the company strategy so that the actions of your team is aligned with the direction of the company.

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Increased Organizational Visibility

With increased responsibility as a people manager, you’ll be more visible since you’ll represent your team. It’s not just about you anymore.

Identifying and Streamlining Processes

You’ll need to continuously find ways to integrate with other departments.

Thinking Outside of Your Functional Area

You’ve got to move beyond your functional area and observe the interests of other teams and the overall goals of the organization; so that you and your team can deliver results that are aligned with the company.

Collaborating Across Boundaries

To achieve company results, you need to represent your team and partner with other teams to achieve company goals.

Managing Multiple Agendas

Not only do you need to consider your own interests, but you’ll also need to be mindful of your team’s, company’s, and other stakeholders’ interests.

Influencing without Authority

Your ability to influence and persuade others is essential when navigating the company and having an impact to achieve your team’s objectives.

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Driving Accountability and Empowering Others

To achieve optimal results for the team and company, you’ll need to clearly communicate how your team will support the company strategy and motivate them to perform.

Maintain a Balance Between Driving for Results and Supporting Employee Development

In addition to all your other responsibilities, you can’t neglect the development of your employees who are doing the day-to-day work to help achieve the team’s objectives. This is where you need to have a solid handle on your own management style and understand each of your employees well. Each individual is unique and needs to be managed differently.

How to Become an Effective Manager

Key Mindset Shifts to Learn

Having highlighted the major challenges shifting from a technical role to a people manager role, there are a few mindset shifts you’ll need to make as well.[1]

1. You’re Responsible for the Successes and Failures of Your Team

With increased authority as a people manager, you also have the responsibility to use your power for good to support your team to achieve goals. This also means shouldering the failures of your team without blaming your team.

Because ultimately, you manage your team and you are part of the failures for any mismanagement of your team. Being resilient to learn more about the failures of your team can help you become a stronger manager.

2. You Represent the Team Within the Organization

When you attend meetings, build relationships and navigate the organization, remember that you represent the interests of your team.

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3. You No Longer Need to Be the Technical Expert or Need All the Details

Many managers have a challenging time letting go of the details because they were high performers in a technical role. You’ll need to trust the ability of your team to look after the daily details so that you can focus on the strategic work.

Basic Skills and Competencies of a Manager

Now that you’ve had a preview of the key responsibilities of a people manager, here are some of the skills and abilities you’ll need to develop:

  • Translate company strategy and integrate it into functional plans for your team.
  • Take different perspectives and ‘think outside the box’.
  • Manage resources, risk, and processes.
  • Identify opportunities to drive improvement and changes.
  • Build high performing teams.
  • Coach and develop employees.
  • Influence and persuade multiple stakeholders.

Advancing Your Management Skills

Here are some key areas to help improve your management skills:

Summing Up

Becoming a people manager is a challenging undertaking. You need to look inside yourself to determine if this is the right career path for you. Are you taking on increasing responsibilities that are aligned with your values and strengths? Revisit the questions at the beginning of the article to determine if this is the right move for you.

Talk to people who you believe have successfully made the transition to a management position. What were some of their challenges and how did they overcome them?

More About Management and Leadership

Featured photo credit: You X Ventures via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Ami Au-Yeung

Workplace Strategist | Career Coach | Workshop Facilitator | Writer | Speaker | Past Business Professor

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career

9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career

Congratulations, you’re starting a new job! You’re feeling relieved that the interviews and the wait for a decision from the hiring manager is over, and you’ve finally signed the offer.

Feelings of fear and anticipation may surface now as you think about starting work on Monday. Or you may feel really confident if you have plenty of work experience.

Remember to not assume that your new work environment will be similar to previous ones. It’s very common for seasoned professionals to overestimate themselves due to the breadth of their experience.

Companies offer different depths of on-boarding experiences.[1] Ultimately, success in your career depends on you.

Below are 9 tips for starting a new job and succeeding in your career.

1. Your Work Starts Before Your First Day

When you prepared for your interview, you likely did some research about the company. Now it’s time to go more in depth.

  • How would your manager like you to prepare for your first day? What are his/her expectations?
  • What other information can your manager provide so that you can start learning more about the role or company?
  • What company policies or reports can you review that can get you acclimatized to your new job and work environment?

You’ll need to embrace a lot of new people and information when you start your new job. What you learn before your first day at work can help you feel more grounded and prepare your mind to process new information.

2. Know Your Role and the Organization

Review the job posting and know your responsibilities. Sometimes, job postings are simplified versions of the job description. Ask your manager or human resources if there is a detailed job description of your role.

Once you understand your key responsibilities and accountabilities, ask yourself:

  • What questions do you have about the role?
  • What information do you need to do your job effectively?
  • Who do you need to meet and start building relationships with?

Continue to increase your knowledge and do your research through the company Intranet site, organizational charts, the media, LinkedIn profiles, the industry and who your company competitors are.

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This is not a one time event. Continue to do this throughout your time with the company. Every team or project you engage with will evolve and change.

Keep current and be ready to adapt by using your observational skills to be aware of changes to your work environment and people’s behaviour.

3. Learn the Unwritten Rules at Work

Understanding your work culture is key to help you succeed in your career.

Many of these unwritten rules will not be listed on company policies. This means you’ll need to use all of your senses to observe the environment and the people within it.

What should you wear? See what your peers and leaders are wearing. Notice everything from their jewelry down to their shoes. Once you have a good idea of the dress code you can then infuse your own style.

What are your hours of work? What do you notice about start, break and end times? Are your observations different from what you learned at the interview? What questions do you have based on your observations? Asking for clarity will help you make informed decisions and thrive in a new work setting.

What are the main communication channels?[2] What communication mediums do people use (phone, email, in-person, video)? Does the medium change in different work situations? What is your manager’s communication style and preference? These observations will help you better navigate your work environment and thrive in the workplace.

4. Be Mindful of Your Assumptions

You got the job, you’re feeling confident and are eager to show how you can contribute. Check the type of language you are using when you’re approaching your work and sharing your experiences.

I’ve heard many new employees say:

  • “I used to do this at ‘X’ company …”
  • “When I worked at “X” company we implemented this really effective process …”
  • “We did this at my other company … how come you guys are not …”
  • “Why are you doing that … we used to do this …”

People usually don’t want to hear about your past company. The experiences that you had in the past are different in this new environment.

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Remember to:

  • Notice your assumptions
  • Focus on your own work
  • Ask questions, and
  • Learn more about the situation before offering suggestions.

You can then better position yourself as a trusted resource that makes informed decisions tailored to business needs.

5. Ask Questions and Seek Clarification

Contrary to common belief, asking questions when you’re starting a new job is not a vulnerability.

Asking relevant questions related to your job and the company:

  • Helps you clarify expectations
  • Shows that you’ve done your research
  • Demonstrates your initiative to learn

Seeking to clarify and understand your environment and the people within it will help you become more effective at your job.

6. Set Clear Expectations to Develop Your Personal Brand

Starting a new job is the perfect time to set clear expectations with your manager and colleagues. Your actions and behaviors at work tells others about your work style and how you like to operate. So it’s essential to get clear on what feels natural to you at work and ensure that your own values are aligned with your work actions.

Here are a few questions to reflect on so that you can clearly articulate your intentions and follow through with consistent actions:

Where do you need to set expectations? Reflect on lessons learned from your previous work experiences. What types of expectations do you need to set so that you can succeed?

Why are you setting these expectations? You’ll likely need to provide context and justify why you’re setting these boundaries. Are your expectations reasonable? What are the impacts on the business?

What are your values? If you value work life balance, but you’re answering emails on weekends and during your vacation time, people will continue to expect this from you. What boundaries do you need to set for yourself at work?

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What do you want to be known for? This question requires some deep reflection. Do you want to be known as a leader who develops and empowers others? Maybe you want to be known for someone who creates an environment of respect where everyone can openly share ideas. Or maybe you want to be someone who challenges people to get outside their comfort zones?

7. Manage Up, Down, and Across

Understanding the work styles of those around you is key to a successful career. Particularly how you communicate and interact with your immediate manager.

Here are a few key questions to consider:

  • How can you make your manager’s job easier?
  • What can you do to anticipate her/his needs?
  • How can you keep them informed (and prepared) so they don’t get caught off-guard?
  • What are your strengths? How can you communicate these to him/her so that they fully understand your capabilities?

These questions can also apply if you manage a team or if you deal with multiple stakeholders.

8. Build Relationships Throughout the Company

It’s important to keep learning from diverse groups and individuals within the company. You’ll get different perspectives about the organization and others may be able to help you succeed in your role.

What types of relationships do you need to build? Why are you building this relationship?

Here are some examples of workplace relationships:

  • Immediate Manager. He/she controls your work assignments. The work can shape the success of your career.
  • Mentors. These are people who are knowledgeable about their field and the company. They are willing to share their experiences with you to help you navigate the workplace and even your career.
  • Direct Reports. Your staff can influence how successful you are at meeting your goals.
  • Mentees. They are another resource to help you keep informed about the organization and your opportunity to develop others.

Other workplace relationships include team members, stakeholders, or strategic partners/sponsors that will advocate for your work.

Learn more in this article: 10 Ways to Build Positive And Effective Work Relationships

9. Keep in Touch With Those in Your Existing Network

“Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” – Michelle Obama

You are part of an ecosystem that has gotten you to where you are today. Every single person and each moment that you have encountered with someone has shaped who you are – both positive and negative.

Here’s How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

Make sure you continue to nurture the relationships that you value and show gratitude to those who have helped you achieve your goals.

Summing It Up

There are many aspects of your career that you are in control of. Observe, listen, and make informed decisions. Career success depends on your actions.

Remember to not assume that your new work environment will be similar to previous ones.

Here are the 9 tips for starting a new job and succeeding in your career:

  1. Your Work Starts Before Your 1st Day
  2. Know Your Role and the Organization
  3. Learn the Unwritten Rules at Work
  4. Be Mindful of Your Assumptions
  5. Ask Questions and Seek Clarification
  6. Set Clear Expectations to Develop Your Personal Brand
  7. Manage Up, Down, and Across
  8. Build Relationships Throughout the Company
  9. Keep in Touch With Those in Your Existing Network

Celebrate, enjoy your new role, and take good care of yourself!

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Featured photo credit: Frank Romero via unsplash.com

Reference

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