Is People Management a Good Fit for You?

Despite the fact that career pathways are no longer linear, many professions’ title and position structures have not changed to reflect the changing nature of work and how people are navigating their careers.

Many professional positions need you to work as a technical worker in your industry for a number of years before moving on to a people management function and finally a senior leadership post.

Is it really beneficial to become a manager and manage people? As long as you’re prepared and understand what you’ve agreed to, you’re the only one who can answer this question.

Make sure you finish your homework. It’s important to remember that there’s no glory in being a manager.

If you prefer working as an individual contributor or in a technical function, it’s actually ‘okay’ to stay in that position.

If you do decide that being a manager is right for you, there are three important factors to consider when transitioning from a technical function to people management. But first, I’ll go over some of the most typical reasons why people accept 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.

Related: How to Move Up in Your Career (and the Big Mistakes You May Be Making)

Common Challenges People Managers Face

Because being a high-performing technical expert needs quite different skill sets than being a manager, the next step toward a leadership position may not feel comfortable.

One of the most difficult career transfers is from an entry-level position to a managerial post. Here are some of the reasons for this:

  • The scope of your tasks has widened.
  • You’ll have to juggle several agendas and interests.
  • You’ll have to let go of previous technical obligations in order to focus on conceptual issues.
  • Even if you don’t agree with the messages, you must convey them.
  • You’ll need to concentrate on the broad picture, the results, and the development of your employees.
  • You’ll need to work with people across the firm and exert influence without having any formal authority.
  • You’re assuming a new social role because you’re no longer a peer to your former coworkers.
  • You should be able to elegantly handle office politics.

Because they’ve done a fantastic job for a long time, I’ve seen a lot of technical personnel be promoted.

However, many people have expressed their dissatisfaction with the promotion and the feeling of being “out of their environment.” They were either unprepared for the change or the job was not what they expected. 
Technical abilities can only take you so far. Just because you’re good at your work doesn’t mean you’re ready for management. Here are some questions to consider while deciding whether or not a promotion to manager is good 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?

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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 are aligned with the direction of the company.

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.

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

You can’t ignore the growth of your employees who are doing the day-to-day job to help the team reach its goals, on top of all your other obligations.

This is where you must have a firm grasp on your own management style and a thorough understanding of each of your staff. Each person is distinct and requires different treatment.

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

As a people manager, you have more authority, but you also have the duty to utilize it wisely to help your team achieve its objectives. This also entails taking responsibility for your team’s failures without blaming them. 

Because, at the end of the day, you manage your staff and are responsible for any mismanagement. Being resilient in learning more about your team’s setbacks might help you grow as a manager. 

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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.

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 your company’s strategy and incorporate it into your team’s functional plans.
  • Consider many viewpoints and ‘think beyond the box.’
  • Resources, risk, and processes must all be managed.
  • Identify chances for change and improvement.
  • Create high-performing groups.
  • Employees should be coached and developed.
  • Persuade and influence a large number of people.

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Advancing Your Management Skills

Here are some key areas to help improve your management skills:

  • Be prepared to work extra hours without being paid for it.
  • Have a firm grasp of your personal management style.
  • Know how to deal with disputes in a timely and effective manner.
  • Develop problem-solving, critical thinking, and rational analysis skills.
  • Maintain open lines of contact with your coworkers.
  • Develop your coaching abilities.[2].
  • Recognize the importance of appreciation in your life.
  • Understand group dynamics and how to deal with ex-colleagues.
  • Continue to learn and grow as a person.
  • Consult a mentor or a coach.[3].

Summing Up

It takes a lot of effort to become a people manager. To figure out if this is the proper professional choice for you, you must go deep within yourself.

Do you find yourself taking on more responsibilities that correspond with your values and strengths? To see if this is the appropriate decision for you, go back to the questions at the beginning of the article.

Speak with persons you believe have made the move from an entry-level role to a management one. What hurdles did they face and how did they overcome them?

Reference:

  1. Center for Creative Leadership: 6 Shifts New Leaders Much Make to Succeed

2. Harvard Extension School: 3 Coaching Books to Help You Be a More Inspiring Manager

3. Monster: How a Mentor at Work Can Help Your Career

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