I studied management science in college. My expectation after graduating was to obtain a management position after a few years in a globally recognized firm. No one told me how to manage my career path, but many of the classes I took in business school had the word management in them. For example, I had to take Management, Operations Management, Managerial Accounting, and Financial Management, just to name several. I was convinced that my goal at work was rise to the rank of manager as quick as possible. It wasn’t until I was looking for a new job after being laid off did I realize that I wasn’t ready for a management role. All the management positions I applied to did not reply back.
Thinking back, I should not have set a goal to become a manager in the least amount of time. I learned later in my career that I had to develop a strong foundation and work towards a path of management through training, learning from mistakes, and having career discussions with my managers so that they could give me opportunities to manage and lead. I concentrated on developing the hard skills of the job, but not the soft skills and office know-how.
Below is a list of managerial traits that come to mind.
- Accountability. Are you ready to assume responsibilities for your actions, the good and the bad, and the ugly? If you or your team misses deadlines and not meet goals, you’re on the hook and will have to explain yourself to management.
- Recognizing Bullshit: This means being able to call someone out on something since you know it’s a load of crap. Just because you’re a manager does not mean people won’t try to take advantage of you. For example, I asked a team member to update a spreadsheet. He told me it would take a few days. I called him out on it because I knew what was needed to update the spreadsheet and it would take less than an hour to update. I got it back in thirty minutes.
- Being Decisive: This means being able to make decisions without receiving guidance from the higher-ups.
- Able to Work Independently: There won’t be people to look upon to help you perform your work. You’ll get a bit of direction from management on goals to meet, but don’t look to them to hold your hand, it’s all on you.
- Ability to Manage People: Perhaps one of the hardest jobs a manager has is to manage people, and it doesn’t suit everybody. You’ll be responsible for each person’s work, salary, bonus, and promotion. And let’s not forget about the topic of conflict management, you’ll have to deal with that as well.
- Staying Out of the Weeds: You won’t be getting your hands as dirty as before. Which means you’re not, as some say it, working in the weeds anymore. The technical analysis and “hands-on” work are now performed by those you manage. You’ll still be responsible for the quality of their work though. Managers also perform more administrative work, such as gathering metrics and data to report or present to high-level management.
- Hiring and Firing: Managers also have to interview candidates, make hiring decisions, as well as fire employees if necessary.
- Interacting with other Managers: Be prepared to interact with other managers, especially those who are higher ranking.
- Budgeting Skills: You may manage a budget. Can the company trust you with making sound financial decisions?
- Provide Guidance and Coaching: Managers should also have a stake in helping their employees grow. It means spending the time and resources to develop their employees’ skills and to be a coach when necessary. The more accessible you are to your employees, the better.
As you can see, being a manager is anything but simple. If you think you meet most of the traits above, then you may have what it takes to be a manager. Many people are promoted to a managerial position based on their hard skills alone, but end up failing because they lack the soft skills and experience necessary for the role. Keep in mind that being a manager may not mean managing people. For example, there are portfolio managers, account managers, marketing managers, and process managers who manage assets and intellectual property. As long as you work hard and have your efforts recognized, you’ll reach that management position, but whether you end up being a great manager, or an incompetent one, is up to you.