Many of the managers I have worked with over the years have never asked themselves if they were the right person for their current job.  Having been selected for the position, they naturally assume they were the right choice.

Others, however, perhaps less self-confident and self-assured, have let the “right person” thought enter their consciousness and often far too often for their own good.  So here is a bottom line:  a small dose of self-doubt will serve a manager better as a motivator over the long run, than will an arrogant, over-confidence that inhibits one’s ability to learn from her or his mistakes.  But I have counseled many to avoid taking on — or continuing to shoulder — the responsibility inherent in managing human beings and their productive efforts if they: haven’t the desire; conclude the job is not for them; or lack the basic confidence deep within that they are up to that task.

But what if you are one of those individuals who is especially sensitive to what others think of — and about — you and are ever attuned  to environmental cues?  For example:

  • The winner of a competition for a key management post often faces a band of losers and other bystanders who openly express their belief that they or someone else would have been the better choice.
  • There are also those subordinates who have no compunction about making clear from time to time that they believe they could do a better job than their current boss.
  • And organizations frequently send mixed messages by attaching the qualifier “acting” or “interim” before the title a manager carries.

How a manager responds to these cues — if at all — goes a long way towards determining their successful performance in their job.

Let’s start with the notion of “right person” or “right choice” for a management job.  I have long believed that this is a conviction that can only truly be reached in retrospect.  One person is chosen for a management position from a range of potential individuals.  Whether she or he was the right choice can only be empirically demonstrated by how they perform over time.

I have seen way too many “can’t miss” management selections flounder in the job — and too many “I’m not sure individuals” become stars — to believe that there is any true way to judge the wisdom of a management selection other than how they do the job.   At the time any of us were selected for management, someone was simply engaging in an act of faith.

As for those who would actually tell someone directly that they believed they were a poor management choice, I have one simple response.  Tell them you wanted the job and that they selected you.  Because your parents did not raise a fool for a daughter or son, you said yes.  That should end the conversation.

And let us not forget that the nature of a manager’s job itself guarantees that you will make your share of unpopular decisions.  Some of these, in turn, will almost certainly convince a few others that somebody else could do better.

There is, however, no way around the tentativeness inherent in the “acting” or “interim” connotation when applied to a management selection.  It implies, at a minimum, a test period and yet another decision down the road to either remove the label or replace you with somebody else.  But I have never accepted that there is any such thing as acting like a manager.  You either manage or you do not.  You either exercise the full authority inherent in a management position, or you do not.  You either make the many daily decisions required of you in a manager’s role and accept accountability for the outcomes, or you do not.  When you don’t do any of these things, you will drive your subordinates crazy, cause your organization to seriously underperform, and hasten your removal.

If you accept a manager’s job on an acting or interim basis, then do it ignoring the label.  Resist any hesitancy to exercise the full range of your responsibilities and let the future unfold as it may.  If the “acting” label represents a test, an aggressive approach to the job is the best way to earn a passing grade.

In time, both your superiors and you will have the opportunity to evaluate your performance in a management role.  Giving it your best effort while trusting in yourself and in the results you achieve, is as good as it gets in determining if you were the right person for the your job.

Categories: Exercising Responsibility, Managing & Leading, Self-Management

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