For many individuals aspiring to greater heights and salaries in their careers, the idea of managing is enticing. After all, the manager gets to call the shots, delegate the work, and make the important decisions, right?
Well, sort of.
It turns out for many failed first-time managers; the idea was much better than the reality.
One manager described her 8-months in the role as: “A daily [email protected], and I was in charge of shoveling.”
Another offered: “I never realized people were so difficult to deal with until I took this job.”
And a third added: “I couldn’t wait to get out of this job and focus on the only person I can control myself.”
Yes, the job of manager would be easy if it weren’t for the people.
While some navigate the early, awkward days of learning to manage, the flame-out rate is high—some surveys put at over 50% in the first year—with significant costs to the firm, team, and the failed manager’s career trajectory.
If you are considering the move to manager, it pays to go in eyes-wide-open. Here are some questions you should ask and answer before making a move.
Consider These 10 Questions Before Making the Move to Manager:
1. What do you think the job is all about?
Interview recently promoted and experienced managers to gain a clearer picture.
2. Why do you think you want to manage?
Power, prestige, parking spots and compensation are all lousy drivers. Dig deep and strive to understand what motivates you about this role. A senior engineer offered the perfect answer: “I realized I could accomplish a lot more through others than I could working on my own.”
3. What hard evidence do you have that says you might be good at managing?
Unless you can offer examples where you’ve informally guided and succeeded through others, you have no hard evidence. Try some soft experiments first before you make the final call on this move.
4. How do you feel about having almost no time to do the work that has made you successful thus far?
For many first-time managers, leaving the work they’ve enjoyed and succeeded at behind is frustrating. The reality is that your time is spoken for, with a very little left to work on your projects.
5. Are you a teacher?
Good managers teach. Are you inspired to help others learn? Or, would you rather do it your way because you know it will get done right?
6. Are you willing to let go of workplace friendships?
Those workplace buddies are no longer buddies when you are their boss. Are you willing to give this up?
7. Do you thrive on pressure from your boss?
If you think it was intense as a soloist, wait until you discover what it is like to be accountable for the performance of an entire group.
8. Are you motivated by the spotlight of success?
If you are, this might be a lousy job for you. Great managers shine the spotlight on their people.
9. Do you pride yourself on always having the right answer?
Hmmm. Another warning sign. Your job as a manager is to help people uncover the answers.
10. Are you a good receiver of feedback?
This odd question offers an indication of whether you have an appreciation for the power of constructive feedback. If you see red when the boss suggests you can do a better job, you might stand a chance of becoming a manager who delivers effective feedback.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
Too many first-time managers arrive in their roles by accident or, at least without deliberate forethought. Your boss likes your work and needs someone to step-in, and you like the idea of the challenge, not to mention the likely salary upgrade. However, fair warning: this is a difficult job that’s not right for everyone. Measure twice, cut once. Ask and answer the questions before you jump into the role of manager.
For additional resources, check out my First-Time Manager series.