So a great management position has just come your way and you’d love that new title — not to mention the salary bump. But, before you rush to submit your application think long and hard about whether you have not only the right skills, but also the right personality for the job — especially if the managerial position you’re interested in includes supervising others.
No matter how good that pay increase may sound or how impressive the title may be, understand that not everyone is cut out for management. Sure, you may have been with at the company for several years now and you may have mastered the skill set required for your current position. But that still doesn’t necessarily qualify you for management. Being an effective manager requires a set of interpersonal skills and personality traits that may not be required for your current position.
Let’s take Carl’s* situation as an example:
A senior graphic designer with several years of professional experience, Carl had longed for the day when he would be able to advance to the level of creative director, a position that requires strong people supervision and leadership skills. Carl was creative and very proficient on the last design software. The position would require him to manage a team of designers, present ideas and be responsible for directing the creative department’s projects. So when a position opened up at his company, Carl jumped at the opportunity to apply. However, soon after his promotion, it became quickly apparent that he had overestimated his preparedness for the position. Despite being newly-promoted, he was often late or absent as he tended to ongoing personal issues, leaving his staff to work around his frequent absences and take on additional responsibilities because he wasn’t available.
Additionally, as a result of his frequent absences, his time management suffered and his projects were often late. On top of that, Carl had low self esteem issues that caused him to feel insecure when leading meetings, making decisions, providing employee feedback, establishing a direction for his team and selling others on his ideas. Soon, his staff lost faith in his ability to lead them. As such, some followed his poor example and began to also slack on their own work commitments, while others began job-hunting, rather than continuing to work on his team. Carl’s boss was forced to give him an ultimatum: Improve your performance or lose your job. Unfortunately for him, Carl’s performance never substantially improved. In the end, he lacked the key personality traits and skills that his management position required – as well as the ability to adapt his behavior enough to correct the problems.
So, before you apply for that next management opening, be sure to ask yourself these 7 important questions (and be brutally honest with yourself when you answer them):
1. Do I have self-confidence?
As a manager, enforcing procedures, establishing a solid direction for your team, providing constructive feedback, and getting buy-in on your ideas requires confidence and conviction. If you have a tendency to crumble when presented with negative feedback or you back down easily when faced with opposition, management may not be a good personality fit for you. If you don’t have confidence in yourself, your team won’t have confidence in you either.
2. Do I have strong planning skills?
Successfully leading a team or implementing a project demands that you not only know what the end-result should be, but that you also have the ability to identify the key steps necessary to make it happen. To do that, you need to be able to create a clearly-defined project plan that will help you and your team stay on track by establishing goals, individual roles, and action items. If this level of detail is just not your thing, you’re likely to have a difficult time keeping your team moving in the right direction and effectively executing your vision.
3. Am I good at quickly making sound decisions?
When members of your staff bring to your attention operational issues (i.e., equipment purchases, departmental processes, etc.) which require you to make a decision, they will expect you make sound judgment call in a timely manner. If you tend to labor over the pros and cons of even the most basic decisions or you routinely delay decision-making in hopes that someone else will make the decision for you, you’re probably more of a follower, than a leader. If you can’t make a good decision, you won’t make a good manager.
4. Do I know how to motivate others?
Getting a team pumped up and keeping their morale high is critical to the success of any team. One of the easiest ways to motivate your team is to be appreciative of the work they do. Simply giving praise for a job well done can be a huge motivator. If team members know that their contributions are genuinely appreciated, they’re much more likely to go that extra mile when it’s needed. But, if giving someone a compliment makes you feel uncomfortable or you believe that the only a pat on the back employees deserve is their paychecks, you’ll likely have a very hard time keeping your team motivated and eager to go above and beyond on the job.
5. Am I good at following through on what I say I‘m going to do?
Nobody likes empty promises. Likewise, your staff will feel the same way. They will count on you to do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it. If you have a bad habit of repeatedly missing deadlines, dropping the ball on key tasks or not following up on issues, that will quickly erode a team’s ability to trust you to meet your managerial obligations. Once that trust is gone, so is your reputation as a manager.
6. Am I a good communicator?
One of the easiest ways to get the reputation as a ‘bad manager’ is by being a poor communicator. If you like the idea relying on occasional emails and meeting infrequently in person to touch base your team, you’ll be in for a rude awakening. Effective managers are expected to meet with their teams routinely to provide them with direction, project updates, constructive feedback, or solutions to operational roadblocks.
7. Would I be able to set a good example for my team?
Becoming a manager doesn’t mean that you no longer have to follow the laws of the land. If you have a tendency to show up late for work, you frequently call in sick or often allow your personal life to impact your work time, you will set a poor example for your team. Do as I say, not as I do may work for children. But, that decree isn’t very effective in the workplace.
If you answered ‘NO’ to three or more of these questions…
Chances are that you’re not ready for management. However, if you feel that you still want to pursue a management position, start taking the steps necessary to improve your weak areas. This may include:
- Enrolling in management training.
- Volunteering to lead a complex team project that requires project planning, task assignment, and interpersonal skills.
- Joining a public speaking group like, Toastmasters, to sharpen your presentation skills.
- Getting potential personal distractions in order (ie., reliable child care arrangements, relationship problems, health issues, etc.)
- Asking a manager whose style you admire to serve as your mentor.
While these highlighted tasks can lead to management skill improvement, it’s also important to understand that other key personality traits (ie, a passive demeanor, a poor self image, low stress tolerance, etc.) may not be as easy to overcome. If you’re currently dealing with some of these personality-related roadblocks , you should seriously reconsider if management is a good fit for you.
The Bottom Line: Before you apply for that next open management position, be very honest with yourself about not only your skill set, but also your personality type and your personal habits. It’s true that the world is full of managers who wouldn’t be able to pass the above test, but we have a name for those people: “BAD MANAGERS.” Don’t become yet another member of that infamous club. Instead, if you believe you have potential to be a manager, set your sights on becoming the most effective leader you can be. Do that by getting your personal issues in check and developing the proper leadership skills prior to throwing your hat into the management ring.
*The name Carl is a pseudonym.
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