Thursday, December 4, 2008

7 Myths about Management

Are you interested in becoming a manager? Has your manager tapped you as a “high potential”, and wants to begin to develop you for a management position?

The decision to become a manager is an important one and should not be taken lightly. It’s important to do some self-reflection, and examine your values and true motivations.

It’s also important to make this decision based on facts, not misperceptions. Here's a list of some of the common “myths” about management, along with my view of the reality.

Myth #1: The best performer on the team is the most qualified to be the manager.

Many new managers are frustrated to discover that the same skills that made them the best individual contributor don’t work when it comes to managing others.

Reality: The skills that lead to success as an individual contributor quite different from those needed to manage. It’s true that top performers usually are the first ones to be considered for promotion – and they should be. High performance should be a pre-requisite for promotion to a manager – but it shouldn’t be the only consideration. The ability to enable others to improve their performance becomes even more important. High performers often have never struggled in a job, and have no idea why anyone wouldn’t have the same work ethic and want to succeed like they have.

The skills you bring to your new position will remain valuable throughout your career. However, as a manager, your success will also depend on a different set of skills—particularly people skills.

Myth #2: Managers get to tell people what to do, and they do it

As a manager, you’ll finally get to call the shots. Instead of being told what to do, you’ll now get to do the telling, and people will have to do what you say.

Reality: Managers do have more power, authority, status, and access. But these privileges do not guarantee that a manager has influence. High achievers usually do what their managers ask them to do. Then, when they get promoted, they find out that’s not always the case with their former peers or new team.

Influencing the actions of direct reports is just one type of influence. A manager also has to rely on their power of persuasion and collaborative skills to influence peers and others as well.

Myth #3: You have to sell your soul to the devil to be a manager

Most managers are evil, and care about nothing but the bottom line.

Reality: Leaders care about the success of others and the success of the business. While it may be true that managers can’t be friends with their employees, they can be and often are respectful, caring, and fair. They realize that’s the only way to ensure long-term, sustainable high performance.

Myth #4: Managers have a lot of freedom

Many new managers believe they'll have far more freedom to make decisions and take action than they had as individual contributors. Some may also assume that they'll have more free time than before, because they'll have direct reports to handle a lot of the work that needs doing.

Reality: Managers often have far less freedom to act alone than they might have anticipated. There’s a lot more people to look out after, influence, and network with. There’s a whole new set of duties, obligations, and relationships. I’m sure there a lot of CEOs and business owners that sometimes long for the days when they were starting out and had more freedom.

Myth #5: Managers make more money than individual contributors

Myth #6: Managers make less money than individual contributors

Reality: It really depends. Commission based jobs, artists, athletes, and scientists often make more than their managers. Management doesn’t always mean more money – it’s just a different type of work that requires different skills. However, as a general rule of thumb, more money usually comes with greater responsibility.

Myth #7: You can prepare to be a good manager by taking a training course or reading books.

Reality: You can learn only so much through training or reading. The best way to prepare for a management roles is to:
- Get as much practical experience as you can. Look for off the job leadership opportunities, get practice leading meetings and interviewing, practice your influence and relationship building skills, and be seen as a leader well before you’re promoted
- Observe and learn from other managers. Watch what the good ones do and ask them how they do it and why. And of course, learn what not to do from the bad ones.
- Courses are books will help, but it won’t truly sink in until you have a chance to apply what you’re learned


HM @ RiseSmart said...

In addition to individual results, I think added criteria for management potential is mentoring ability. If someone can be a really tuned-in mentor for newer employees and be directly related to getting results from newbies, yet still relatively well-liked by colleagues, they could be demonstrating management potential. They have learned to strike the balance between humanity/relevancy and teaching/getting results. Plus, mentorship and feedback is really, really important to the Gen Y group of workers now stepping up.

Rachel - I Hate HR said...

The money thing tends to come up a lot in our organization. People think they're going to get a huge increase when they become a manager.

Pawel Brodzinski said...

A nice list. However those myths didn't come from nothing. I know organizations where it works that way. Best performers become managers, no matter how much they want it, later (not before) they learn management from books and they finish as task dealers instead of leaders.

Freedom level usually depends on a size of the company mostly - the bigger is the company the less freedom you have. On the other hand if you have "over-protective" boss you won't have much freedom anyway.

I think people we'd like to see as our leaders fit to reality sections in your post, but what we see every day unfortunately usually suits to myths. I'm not sure if we should call them myths though.

Chris Young said...

Nice post Dan! I think myth 1 is one of the biggest challenges facing organizations and can destroy an incredible amount of value incredibly fast.

I can't tell you how many times I have encountered this issue with sales manager positions in organizations I consult with!

I've selected your post as one of my Rainmaker 'Fab Five' blog picks of the week found here:

Be well Dan!

Mary Pat Whaley said...

Another Myth I would add is "Respect is a byproduct of a management job title." I teach my managers that respect is earned by consistency, communication and support, and some managers never earn it.

Great post that I plan to share with my managers!


Mary Pat Whaley

Dan McCarthy said...

HM, Rachel, Pawel, Chris, Mary Pat - thnaks for your comments, and some nice adds to the myths and realities.