How to Prepare Yourself for a Management Role
As a fairly successful working professional, it’s likely occurred to you that it may be time to take on a leadership role. Some individuals have a strong inclination to lead, while others feel it’s the obvious next step to take in their career. As you look ahead to your professional future, it’s worth asking yourself whether you have a true desire to lead others, and if so, how do you prepare for that responsibility?
Looking Ahead: How to Prepare Yourself for a Management RoleAs a fairly successful working professional, it’s likely occurred to you that it may be time to take on a leadership role. Some individuals have a strong inclination to lead, while others feel it’s the obvious next step to take in their career. As you look ahead to your professional future, it’s worth asking yourself whether you have a true desire to lead others, and if so, how do you prepare for that responsibility? If you’re not sure management is right for you, one way to know is to understand whether you enjoy seeing others succeed in the workplace. Whether you have a stake in their success, by coaching them or contributing to their accomplishments in some way, many great leaders find fulfillment in how others develop and elevate their own careers. While good people skills are obviously an important aspect of being a manager, so is having a zest for serving as a mediator between team members. Managers have the difficult position of leading while being individual contributors, to shape the messaging and strategy brought to the leadership team. If tackling this challenge is energising, rather than draining, you may be a great future manager.
If you’re primarily interested in a leadership position because of an increase in salary, or simply because becoming a manager means you would have more power, it may not be the right career move. Serving as a manager requires a great deal of patience, flexibility, maturity, and willingness to listen - and it often requires a desire to serve others, rather than the desire to earn a higher salary. Additionally, it’s important to realise that great managers are interested in what’s best for their team and the company as a whole, not the just what benefits them individually.
The good news is, should you decide a management role is right for you, there are ways to prepare yourself for that promotion. Some of the common challenges first-time managers commonly report include: learning how to motivate others, dealing with conflict between team members, coaching and developing individuals, and finding resources for the team. While you may have experience informally addressing these issues, formal leadership training courses at your company are a great place to start your path to management. Although not all companies offer this sort of learning and development, your organisation may be able to fund formal training through a third-party facility.
If no formal training or other resources exist, it’s time to get creative in the workplace. Start out by networking with other managers whom you trust and admire. Ask for their lessons learned and for any advice they are willing to share. Actively seek out their input on any difficult situations you encounter as they happen, or before you take action. Just as you encourage your own team members to find a mentor, take on your own. A mentor doesn’t need to work at your company, either. It can be someone from your peer group or community. Finally, don’t forget that you can seek formal learning opportunities on your own, and they are generally inexpensive. You can enroll in online leadership coursework through respected business schools, read leadership books, and attend conferences with the goal of becoming a better leader.
Once you take the plunge and become a manager, it’s particularly important to focus on how to gain and build respect. You’ve probably heard that parents should be authority figures rather than their child’s best friend; and in this case, the best leaders are well-respected by their teams, not necessarily well-liked. Although the two usually come hand-in-hand, it takes time to earn your team’s respect, and it’s a form of trust gained through good decision making, fighting for the right thing, delivering difficult feedback, and making a sincere effort to understand others.
The greatest leaders bring a desire to make a team and organisation better, constantly looking forward and encouraging others to achieve their goals. By actively taking on the challenge and adapting along the way, you will certainly set yourself up for success in your first managerial position, and for the rest of your career.