To Be A Manager or Not Be A Manager?
I think one of the critical decisions any person makes in a professional field is whether or not they decide to accept a managerial role.
A recent example. I was approached recently by someone in one of my workshops who had once been the primary manager of an entity and now they are second-in-command. They said “I don’t think I am cut out to be a #1, I am much more comfortable being a #2.” At that point they asked me the key question. “Is that ok?” The answer from me is always YES. If someone would have asked me the reverse, “I am cut out to be a #1, I am comfortable with that, is that ok?”. The answer from me is always YES. It’s ok. Time and results will prove you right or wrong, but it IS OK to go for it, especially if for the right reasons.
This is a struggle many people face. I use this example to point out that many people think being successful means you attain some managerial position and begin your way up a company hierarchy. For many, that is a great choice. For others, their career decline began the day they decided to become a manager. Clarity is key. What does success mean to you? You have to define it for your yourself and make the decision accordingly. People get into trouble when they allow anyone or anything else define what success is for them. This leads to a lot of frustration.
If you work in a company, there are two paths you can choose. One is to become the best technically skilled person in your organization. The second is to choose to become the best managerial person in your organization. Hardly ever do these two paths run congruently. In other words, it would nearly impossible to do both. The day you decide to become a manager is the day your technical skills are going to start to decline, because if you are doing the manager part right, you are no longer using your previous technical skills as before. Now, you are training people to do it, but you are not doing it. You are now doing manager-skill stuff, and the more you do it, the better you get. If you are a manager, the more you continue to do your technical skill, the more you hold on to it, but the less you grow as a manager, and the more resentment you create from people who want to be better at the technical skill because they feel you will not get out of the way.
Decision Points On Whether Or Not Management Is For You
Why do you want to be a manager? Do you want to take this path? If you want to do it so no one will be able to tell you what to do, that is the wrong motivation. You will always make concessions in life, no matter if you get into management or not. So, if the drive is to be in charge, you might want to check that one. Many people are successful being the best sales representative, the best scientist and the best engineer, they don’t need to be a manager. They are typically very happy until someone tells them they should be a manager by now. Why?
So, the important point. Examine your WHY and if it is to be the best manager, you know you are on the right track. In my 20-something years of running companies, I never gave anyone a raise for accepting a management position. Money is not a motivator, a desire to be the best is. Once that desire is shown and some initial results shown, then some reward can be given. Why would anyone ever reward someone in a new management role who has yet to show they can actually be a manager? It doesn’t take long to know, 90 to 180 days at the most. 60 days at the least. Neither has to wait long, the results show up for better or for worse pretty quickly.
What do you need to stop doing? When you decide to become a manager, you should be giving up what got you to this point. Are you prepared to do that? I have seen sales people flounder in sales manager positions because they could not give up selling. They could not resist running to a phone booth to change into their Superman suit to swoop in to save the day. “Stand back young sales person, I am here, now!”. Moving into management means you will now supervise, mentor and coach those who now do what you used to do. Can you be comfortable with that? Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Isaiah Thomas were all great players and terrible manager/coaches. On the other hand, some mediocre players are hall of fame coaches.
Where will your support come from? Hopefully not from people who have not grown in management themselves. Many times, people who have never succeeded themselves are the first to tell you how. This where a mentor or good coach can really help you. After all, if you want to be the best manager, you need the best help and support you can find. Look into some good management training, because now you are responsible more than just yourself, you will be in control of major resources in which you will need skill and talent to manage.
Let me be a contrarian here. In my view, it is perfectly fine to make the decision to not be a manager. If you want to continue growing your technical skill set to be the best you can be, I applaud you while standing. If you want to become a manager, do it with the intent of being the best manager you can be, one step removed from the work you used to love, but going head first into work which you will now dedicate yourself.