As a child, I’m fairly certain I never told anyone I wanted to be a manager when I grew up. As it turns out, though, managing has been one of the most rewarding challenges of my career. But, while I strongly recommend everyone try supervising at least one person during his or her career, the gig definitely isn’t for everyone.
If you’re thinking management might be in your future, there are a few things you should consider first. While being the boss has its perks, it also comes with a lot of work, responsibility, and stress (not to mention transitioning away from the job you’ve been doing for the past several years). Here are a few things you should weigh before stepping into that corner office (or cube).
Do you love meetings?
OK, so this isn’t really a fair question. I don’t think anyone really loves meetings, but if you want to manage, then you’ll have to at least be able to tolerate them. Lots of them. When I first started out as a manager, I was blown away by how much of my time was spent in meetings. And, all of them were actually important, too. Which meant I had to stay awake and retain everything for every one.
Having a calendar bursting with meetings isn’t fun for anyone, but for managers, it goes with the territory. If you have a painful aversion to meetings or find you are struck with a sudden case of narcolepsy every time you enter a conference room, think twice before throwing your hat in the ring for a management role.
Do you like to teach or coach?
One of the best parts of being a leader is seeing your team improve and succeed — especially when you know you helped get them there. I’ll never forget one of my first employees. He was painfully shy and could barely look anyone in the eyes. Since his job was to work with wealthy clients, this was an issue I knew we’d have to work through. It took us about a year, but with a lot of coaching and listening (on my part) we figured out how to get him out of his shell and comfortable being front and center with clients.
By his second year, he was the head of the team, and managers of other groups were regularly telling me how much he’d improved and how happy they were with his performance and how well he handled the clients. Needless to say, my employee was happy, too!
Sharing information and knowledge with someone else can be incredibly rewarding, and, if you’re lucky enough to see those lessons in practice, too, you’ll understand why good managers love to manage (even if they are stuck in meetings all day). But, this isn’t a motivator for everyone. And if you find that you’re more excited by, say, the work you actually produce than by coaching and training others, consider whether that’s really what you want to be doing all day.
How are your feedback skills?
One of the most important things a manager does is provide feedback to his or her employees. And, I’m not talking about a simple “Thanks for your help on those TPS reports, Bob.” I’m talking about meaningful, relevant, and timely feedback that will actually help your staffers improve and let them know you see them kicking ass and taking names.
Whomever you end up managing will be looking to you for guidance and, yes, feedback. Lots of it. And, some of it might not be so rosy — there will be plenty of tough stuff to dole out as well. If you think you’ve got what it takes to give constructive and continuous feedback, you might be ready to be a boss. If, however, you’re not a big fan of feedback, management might not be in the cards for you.
Does conflict make you cringe?
Believe it or not, there are people out there who don’t run and hide when conflict comes to town. So, if you’re planning on becoming a manager someday, it’ll be best for everyone involved if you’re part of the former group, rather than the latter.
I had a manager a few years back who absolutely could not handle conflict or confrontation of any kind. Whenever an issue arose that needed his approval or opinion, he’d be halfway to Starbucks before I could walk to his desk. As you’ve probably already guessed, he did not make my list of best bosses ever.
If you find you do well in challenging situations — like dealing with an angry client — you might be better equipped to handle conflict than you thought, and management could be a great fit for you. If, however, this whole section just sounded like nails on a chalkboard, you probably want to steer clear of supervisory positions.
Are you a good cop or a bad cop?
No, I’m not talking about the game we all played as kids, but trust me, there will be times when you feel just like your parents must’ve felt when you asked one of them if you could go to a party because the other said no. Managers still have to report to their own managers, which means sometimes decisions are made that just won’t make much sense by the time they trickle down to the team. And that’s when managers have to start playing good cop, bad cop. But, honestly, it’s mostly bad cop who makes an appearance.
Here’s how it usually went with me and my team: I’d get approval from our budget to throw a small happy hour for my team to congratulate them on meeting their quarterly goals. My boss would give me the thumbs up, and I’d announce the good news to the team. Everyone would be excited, and we’d all start lightheartedly arguing about where we should go, and when. Then, after everything’s been reserved, and it’s time to lay down the corporate card, my boss calls me into his office. It’s bad news. They’re announcing layoffs in another department that afternoon, and the company feels my team having a party that same day looks bad. A decision has been made, there’s nothing I can do, and now I have to tell my team the party’s off. In an instant, a happy, celebratory event morphed into a disappointing (and potentially worrisome) afternoon at our desks, instead of at the bar.
Some days, it’ll be all wine and roses, but others, you’ll feel pretty crummy. You’ll be the bearer of bad news, you’ll have to make tough decisions, and you’ll feel pulled in a thousand different directions, unable to pick just one and go for it. In short, managing is tough, confusing, frustrating, and tiring.
But, it’s also a pretty amazing experience. I know I’m a better worker and a better person because I was a boss. If none of these things send you to hide in the closet, management may be in your future. And, if it is, I promise you, you’ll learn more about yourself — and your team — than you ever thought possible.