Often when we talk about career development, we talk about climbing the ladder, or taking that next step “upwards”, yet often we don’t know what this really means to us. We are conditioned to think that success always should mean a vertical climb, when in all truthfulness, success comes from achieving whatever the f*ck YOU want to!
I have had a number of conversations with people lately about what their career path should/could/would look like and more often than not the next step people think they need to take in order to be “successful” in their careers is to lead or manage a team.
For a lot of people this is a fantastic opportunity and something that they will absolutely thrive at, for others, it is just not something that they enjoy doing – and quite frankly, therefore, should not do it. Often people are promoted into roles by the Company they work for because they might be a great individual contributor or technical expert in their field, but, move them into a role where they are managing people and responsible for others development, and they are no longer competent, or even capable of thriving in what they once were an expert at.
Leading a team of people, be it 1 or 100, is a tough gig. It takes patience, encouragement, trust and a genuine belief that other’s success is your success. I often see and speak to people that are not ready for a leadership or management role, yet get thrust into them because they might be a fantastic individual contributor, all to then realise that they actually hate it. This often leads to demotivation, frustration because they are no longer working in a role they find fulfilling and, in some cases, leads to a once high-performer now being a low performer.
You can still be an incredibly successful person and go far in your chosen career path, without managing a team of people.
There are a couple of things that I deem critical to being a successful leader and would encourage you to truly reflect on BEFORE you find yourself managing a team, or put your hand up and say you want to.
1) A good listener, who enjoys taking the time and listening to people to help them problem-solve? When people want to talk to you, you’re pleased to stop and chat and you don’t see it as an annoyance. There is nothing worse than a manager who tells employees “I don’t have time for this!” when they have questions about the work. If this might be you – stop and reflect if becoming a manager is really what you want.
2) Sincerely keen to learn more about yourself and other people, and you’re willing to look in the mirror as you learn and make the necessary changes? Leadership is not easy and it’s not always fun. To be a leader, you have to be humble enough to learn from your employees. A leader who thinks they have all the answers will never gain the respect of their team mates – and without that, you really can’t go very far.
3) Excited by the idea of developing a team and helping people see their full potential? Do you get sincere satisfaction out of encouraging people to step up? Then being a manager is likely for you. Note: If you see developing others as just “fluff” that HR expect you to do, I’d probably stop right now, do not pass GO, do not collect $200 dollars.
4) Skilled with well-developed time management and organisational skills and you are able to manage your own workload very well? It is not your teams fault that you have work to do too – you’ll need to find a way to manage this and ensure you’re available for them when they need.
5) Patient and don’t get frustrated by questions that you might know the answer to – just because you know the answer, doesn’t mean everyone does.
6) Prepared for what can at times be a lonely gig – leadership can be lonely, particularly if you have gone from colleague to manager. You need to find a balance now between being the friend and the decision maker and that is by no means easy.
7) Prepared to have to make some pretty tough decisions or execute on some pretty rough decisions that you may not always agree with?
If you said yes to all of these, then well played Ma’am – you are likely someone who will thrive when managing a team.
Finally, consider this – if the main reason you want to become a manager is because it pays more than your current job pays, then perhaps this isn’t really what you want. AND guess what – that is ok! But, do yourself a favour and truthfully reflect on the above and whether the thought of all these things lights you up, or you see it as an inconvenient task that will just get in the way of you doing your job.
Stepping into a management role isn’t the only way to progress and lead a successful career. If you want other tips and tricks to ensure you enjoy professional success without becoming part of the corporate climb, check out my recent blog post about how you don’t have to go UP, to move UP. CLICK HERE
If you need some help working out what your next career move is, I can help. I help women get out of their own ways. I help you deal with the overthinking. The Imposter Syndrome. The self-doubt. The career confusion or crossroads. All the things currently getting in your way of being a confident, kick a** woman in your workplace and in your life.