Three Questions for Potential Managers to Ask Themselves

My organization conducts a number of “So you wanna be a manager” kinds of programs, so I get to meet a lot of aspiring managers. Many of them are aware that they’ll need to learn new skills and behaviors in order to succeed in a management role. Some of them realize they need to take a hard look at their true motivations. However, not many realize that they need to be prepared that being a manager can change who they are as people.

If you are considering a management role, there are three questions you’ll want to ask yourself, and perhaps even discuss with a trusted advisor:

1. “Why do I want to be a manager?”

People often want to be managers because they want to:
– tell people what to do, instead of being told what to do
– make more money
– solve all of those nagging problems and show everyone else the right way to do things
– move to a nice office or more prestigious surroundings
– become noticed
– prepare themselves to become the next CEO

Some of these things may happen, and some are just plain myths about management. For example, new managers often find out that:
– they now have more people telling them what to do than ever before
– they may make less money
– problems that looked like no-brainers are really way more complicated than they thought
– increased exposure can be a double-edged sword
– people don’t always do what you tell them to do

However, becoming an effective manager often does provide a chance to:
– have a larger impact on the organization because of the larger size of your role
– help your employees develop new skills
– help your employees achieve their own career goals dreams

It’s important to be honest with yourself about what your real motivations for being a manager and have a realistic understanding of what the role is and is not. Don’t go into management for all the wrong reasons!

2. “Do I have what it takes to be successful?”

Once you’re clear on your motivations, the next question is a harder one to answer – do you have what it takes to be a successful manager? That’s a hard question to answer if you’ve never been in the role, so to some extent, there’s some guess-work involved.
We know there are certain skills and attributes that can be demonstrated in a non-managerial role, that if done well, are predictors of managerial success. For example, Development Dimensions International (DDI) has developed a set of criteria that they say will accurately predict executive success, based on their own experience and research, and research by others.

According to DDI, the “right stuff” for future managerial success include:

1. Propensity to lead. They step up to leadership opportunities

2. They bring out the best in others

3. Authenticity. They have integrity, admit mistakes, and don’t let their egos get in their way

4. Receptivity to feedback. They seek out and welcome feedback

5. Learning agility

6. Adaptability. Adaptability reflects a person’s skill at juggling competing demands and adjusting to new situations and people. A key here is maintaining an unswerving, “can do” attitude in the face of change

7. Navigates ambiguity. This trait enables people to simplify complex issues and make decisions without having all the facts

8. Conceptual thinking. Like great chess players and baseball managers,the best leaders always have the big picture in mind. Their ability to think two, three, or more moves ahead is what separates them from competitors

9. Cultural fit

10. Passion for results

Try assessing yourself against this list of criteria. Better yet, ask your manager and others to assess you. If you’re lacking in any key areas, that’s OK – most of these things can be improved with awareness, practice, and feedback. Other management skills are learned and mastered once in the role and with experience.

3. “What do I want to become?”

New managers often find that due to the nature of their role, they end up changing how they see themselves and how others see them. People around them may start seeing them as more:
• aggressive
• demanding
• dictatorial
• harsh
• indecisive
• arrogant
• overly serious
• guarded

Sometimes the changes are so subtle and gradual we don’t even realize we’ve changed. Or we tell ourselves “that’s just how I have to be at work – it’s not the real me”. The reality is, if you’re not careful, you can end up becoming a person you don’t want to be.

Instead, start with a vision of who you want to be as a manager – and even more important, as a leader. What’s the legacy you want to leave, on your organization and others? What kind of a leader do you want to be remembered as? Who are the leaders you admire the most? This list of characteristics become your own personal leadership vision statement that you’ll use as a north star to make sure you’re not straying from who you want to be.

So do a little soul searching before you’re offered that promotion. Taking the time to ask and answer these three questions will help ensure your success as a manager and leader.