So you want to be a manager….
Unless you are in some specialised field such as a doctor, a lawyer or a cab driver, your company will have some sort of organization chart where the one above you will be your manager. Perhaps the title might be misleading as there are many different titles floating around such as Team Leaders or Supervisors, it is all the same.
Let’s not talk about the roles where one has a title of a manager but does not have anyone reporting under. Let’s explore managers who need to manage people. This is a topic close to heart as I became a manager when I was very young and I have made a lot of mistakes along the way, silly mistakes but I quickly learnt never to make them twice and as a result, I grew quickly. I will share most of my mistakes in my website and what I learnt from them so you don’t have to make the same mistakes.
Most of us who wants to advance in our career, either a lateral move in the company (let’s be frank here, not a lot of companies out there would be willing to allow you to make a lateral move especially since they can promote within their department) or a vertical move which means to say usually it is a managerial or at least an assistant managerial position.
The question you need to ask yourself, are you suitable for managerial position?
Not everyone is suitable to manage a team of people. And you do not want to be the manager that everyone groans about. The following checklist will help you to realise whether you are suited to become a manager.
- Are you willing to sacrifice your time?
By sacrificing, I mean your own time without overtime pay. Managing a team does not mean you knock off the same time as your team does. In fact, you need to work harder and smarter to set a good example to your team. You will need to balance time for your team, checking in on their progress, bond with them and allow them to have the luxury to approach you as and when they need advice. This leaves not much time for your reports, emails and of course, plenty of meetings and conference calls. I’ll teach you on how to effectively manage your time in another article but I will admit it is easier said than done.
Jessie (*not her real name) from one of my previous companies was a newly promoted team manager. She was popular among her peers; bosses like her and her results were exceeding expectations until she got her promotion. Then she starts to go home 10mins before her end of shift, she starts taking longer lunches, she is always nowhere to be found and soon enough, her team results begin to slide drastically. When her teammates couldn’t find Jessie, they will approach other managers for advices or instant quick fixes. This in turn, has the team working towards in different directions and they soon lose trust in their own manager.
2. Are you intuitive towards others’ feelings?
If you are one of those who are emotionally sensitive to others, your life is a lot easier. You can instantly pick up something is wrong with a team member; it can be a personal problem or a work issue but most importantly is that you pick up the signals. Quickly identify the problem will help you to tackle it appropriately and not have the problem escalated affecting your team’s performance. Given the hierarchy behaviour instilled in Asians, it is unlikely a team member will voice out their displeasure in your face. In fact, there is a lot of guessing work in place.
When Jessie starts to take longer lunches, some of the teammates begin to copy her behaviour and thought that as long as my boss is doing it, I could do it too! The other teammates did not like what they see and did not understand why Jessie does not take any action against them. They concluded that Jessie is biased and begin to hold it against her silently. The team’s result begin to suffer from an average to a below average. Jessie couldn’t figure out what is wrong and when she did asked her team, no one wants to volunteer information. This continue for a couple of months before someone in the team called it quits, and then another someone, and another someone. Until, 6 months later, there was only a quarter of the original team left.
3. Are you willing to sacrifice for your team / cause / principle?
Sometimes, management comes down with a hard decision. Sometimes, these hard decisions are not easy to swallow. And some of these times, you need to act on the interest of your team. Or at least try to find a win win situation. If it is in the interest of your team to say no to the management, be prepared to reject your boss with of course, your facts and justifications armed and ready.
Depending on your boss, and largely depends on your justifications as well, you may just win the respect of your boss and your team if your reasons are strong and reasonable enough to say No. But don’t just say No, rejecting your management without an alternative solution is just plain negative. You can always turned the situation around to your advantage, I’ll show you how in another article.
4. Are you willing to teach?
Being a manager is also about guidance and mentoring. I have seen selfish managers who are so afraid of being overtaken that they withheld teaching. A good manager shouldn’t be wary about having someone underneath climbing up the corporate ladder, in fact, they should be proud that their guidance are taken seriously by someone. It actually represents a great leader you are when you have a team of members who outgrown their current positions and seek higher challenges within the company.
I love it when members of my team come to me and seek advices, and you see that they appreciate you taking time to listen and giving out appropriate advices. The greatest give back would be when they actually act out on your advices and it works for them.
So there you have it, the 4 basic points of being a manager. Yes, of course, being a good manager takes a lot more than that however, if you don’t have the 4 basics, you should seriously consider if leading a team is something you would want to explore in.
As for Jessie, she left the company after a year of struggles. Before she left, we did had the chance for a chat and she admitted to me that she had thought being a manager is easy, just delegating tasks for her team to do, she did not calculate in the human factor and how inept and overwhelming she felt as her team went from bad to worse and she is helplessly watching by the sidelines, her team drowning themselves. So I asked if she would still hanker for a managerial position in future? She scrunched her face up, I could see that this experience left a distaste in her mouth. Quoted from Jessie “I wished I had read up more or prepare myself more on how to manage someone better. Too little, too late did I realised I am playing God with someone else’s rice bowl.”