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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 March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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