The money and upward mobility may be better in your organization if you are a manager BUT DO YOU REALLY WANT TO MANAGE OTHER PEOPLE DOING THE ACTUAL SERVICE, PRODUCT, OR ANALYTIC WORK of your company, business, agency, department, etc?????? This is not a trivial question and answering it honestly is something every manager, or prospective manager, ought to do before plunging into management for the long haul.
Recently I was asking a young staff officer if she had ever managed. “Yes”, she said, noting that she had served as a line manager for several years. “Did you like the job” I asked? Her answer was ambivalent. She acknowledged that she got better over time but also said that she did not really enjoy the people management part all that much. Her dilemma was her next career move and I encouraged her to spend some time with the question I highlighted above.
Management is not for everybody. It suits certain personalities and temperaments more than others. Moreover, contrary to what some managers would like you to believe, it is not just the superior folks among us who are willing to step up to the task. The only thing that differentiates managers from non-managers is their job, not their importance, intelligence, courage, stamina, or willingness to work hard.
So, what should you consider when thinking about whether management is for you? At a minimum, I suggest the following four things.
First, the responsibility a manager must shoulder. Although you may delegate frequently as the best managers do, the ultimate responsibility and accountability for the actions of those under your authority remains yours alone. Moreover, making decisions that will impact many others is not quite the same as making those that effect you alone; especially when you consider those decisions that inevitably will not work out.
The weight of bearing this responsibility is heavy at times and is the source of considerable stress. Life is hard enough as it is. You must really want to carry the manager’s responsibility for your own and the actions of others, or why bother to do so.
Second, many managers must surrender jobs as specialists after years of education, training, and a demonstrated track record of performance excellence. Being a good manager requires letting go of something for which you received much praise and recognition, and now teach others to do it as well as you did. Most of us who have managed can remember how hard that was, especially during our first few rookie years where mistakes are frequent, our value added contribution seems a mystery, and a true sense of job satisfaction remains elusive.
For some managers, that job satisfaction never comes, nor does the sense of having given up something special ever abate. Some attempt to compensate by micromanaging the work of subordinate specialists much to everybody’s detriment. In these cases, a “this job is not for me” decision sooner rather than later represents sound, logical reasoning, not an admission of personal inadequacy or failure. Persevering in a unfulfilling profession is not the secret to a fulfilling adult life.
Third, one of the beauties of many specialist occupations is that they offer jobs and assignments that have a defined beginning, middle, and an end, and the opportunity for sustained focused concentration. For many humans there is a wonderful sense of satisfaction that surrounds finishing something and moving on to the next challenge. Many managers, however, will tell you that this rarely seems to happen in their job. Their day is an endless stream of this and that, leaving them at day’s end wondering what, if anything, they accomplished. Time for sustained concentration on any one thing is rare.
Although this difference may seem inconsequential, believe me it is not. The rapid pace of most manager’s jobs and the requirement for rapid shifts in topical focus and concentration, suit certain personalities and temperaments and exhaust and frustrate others. Self awareness is an important consideration here.
Finally, management is, at its very core, ALL ABOUT PEOPLE. Everything a managers does, every decision he or she makes, involves people in some way. Dealing with people day in and day out — those you like, those you dislike, the competent, the incompetent, the reasonable, the unreasonable, those who always get it, those who never seem to get it, those who do as you ask, those who do the opposite of what you ask, and all of those in between — is unavoidable.
At a minimum, you must be willing to take on the people challenge if you wish to be a manager. It’s even better if you like and welcome this challenge as most of the really good managers do. If you do not, this alone may warrant serious consideration of a non-managerial profession.