I went looking for a post to help someone decide if they should move into management, but couldn’t find one that I really loved. These three posts aren’t bad. Nor is this HBR article. But since I couldn’t find a post that I thought nails the spirit of the question, I thought I’d write one myself.
So here are the ten questions you should consider before making a move into management.
1. Do you genuinely care about people?
Far and away this is the most important question because management is all about people. If you don’t enjoy working with people, if you don’t enjoy helping people, or if you’d prefer to be left alone to work on tasks or projects, then do not go into management. If you do not genuinely care about people, then do not go into management.
2. Are you organized?
While a small number of organizational leaders and founders can get away with being unstructured and disorganized, the rest of us in management need to be organized. If you are naturally disorganized, management will be hard for you — and the people who work for you — because your job is to make the plan and coordinate work on it.
This is why one of my managment interview questions is: “if I opened up your kitchen cabinets what would I see?”
3. Are you willing to continuously overcommunicate?
In a world filled with information pollution, constant distractions, and employees who think that they can pay continuous partial attention, you’d be amazed how clearly you need to state things and how often you need to repeat them in order to minimize confusion. A big part of management is communication, so if you don’t like communicating, aren’t good at it, or don’t relish the idea of deliberately and continuously overcommunicating, then don’t go into management.
4. Can you say “No” when you need to do?
Everybody loves yes-people managers except, of course, the people who work for them. While saying yes to the boss and internal customers feels good, you will run your team ragged if you lack the backbone to say no when you need to. If you can’t say no to a bad idea or offer up reprioritization options when the team is red-lining, then don’t go into management. Saying no is an important part of the job.
5. Are you conflict averse?
Several decades I read the book Tough-Minded Management: A Guide for Managers Too Nice for Their Own Good, and it taught me the importance of toughness in management. Management is a tough job. You need to layout objectives and hold people accountable for achieving them. You need to hold peers accountable for delivering on dependencies. You need to give people feedback that they may not want to hear. If you’re conflict averse and loathe the idea of doing these things, don’t go into management. Sadly, conflict averse managers actually generate far more conflict than then non-conflict-averse peers.
6. Do you care more about being liked than being effective?
If you are someone who desperately needs to be liked, then don’t go into management. Managers need to focus on effectiveness. The best way to be liked in management is to not care about being liked. Employees want to be on a winning team that is managed fairly and drives results. Focus on that and your team will like you. If you focus on being liked and want to be everyone’s buddy, you will fail as both buddy and manager.
7. Are you willing to let go?
Everybody knows a micromanager who can’t let go. Nobody likes working for one. Good managers aim to specify what needs to be done without detailing precisely how to do it. Bad managers either over-specify or simply jump in and do it themselves. This causes two problems: they anger the employee whose job it was to perform the task and they abdicate their responsibility to manage the team. If the manager’s doing the employee’s job then whose doing the manager’s? All too often, no one.
8. Do you have thick skin?
Managers make mistakes and managers get criticized. If you can’t handle either, then don’t go into management. Put differently, how many times in your career have your run into your boss’s office and said, “I just want to thank you for the wonderful job you do managing me.” For me, that answer is zero. (I have, however, years later thanked past managers for putting up with my flaws.)
People generally don’t complement their managers; they criticize them. You probably have criticized most of yours. Don’t expect things to be any different once you become the manager.
9. Do you enjoy teaching and coaching?
A huge positive of management is the joy you get from helping people develop their skills and advance in their careers. That joy results from your investment in them with teaching and coaching. Great employees want to be mentored. If you don’t enjoy teaching and coaching, you’ll be cheating your employees out of learning opportunities and cheating yourself out of a valuable part of the management experience.
10. Are you willing to lead?
Managers need not just to manage, but to lead. If stepping up, definining a plan, proposing a solution, or taking an unpopular position scares you, well, part of that is normal, but if you’re not willing to do it anyway, then don’t go into management. Management requires the courage to lead. Remember the Peter Drucker quote that differentiates leadership and management.
“Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things.”
As a good manager, you’ll need to do both.