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To Manage or Not To Manage, That Is The Question…

June 18, 2013, 07:00 AM
Topic: Careers

I’m sure you have heard “You need management experience on your resume….” or “You need to manage to be promoted…” or “MANAGEMENT is when you’ve hit the big leagues.” It has been ingrained in all of us that to be a successful professional, we need to manage. Is this really true? Is management for everyone? What if you take a management job, and don’t like it, then what? The Peter Principle, commonly noted, is: "Employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence." You don’t want to be in this position, believe me! And to make sure that you don’t become a Peter Principle example it will take some soul searching and research.

So you are doing great in your current job and are offered a management position. You are obviously excited and honored and want to jump at the opportunity. But WAIT, think about it first. Do you have a comprehensive job description and have you talked to a person in a similar position? Do you thoroughly understand and accept what being successful at the job will entail, from skills required to time? You must put aside your ego while working through this decision and dissect not only your present skills but also your ability and flexibility to learn new ones; examine your strengths and weaknesses; determine if you have the appropriate personality and people skills to be able to be successful in a management role. Also, are you and your family ready for the time commitment it will take to be successful in this position? Let’s say you have done all of the above and are ready to say ‘Yes’.

One more moment, please! If you’ve done an appropriate analysis of your skills and you know there are some you are missing, how are you going to gain them? Does your company have a management training course or a mentoring system that will help you? Will they assist you in learning and making the key internal relationships necessary? Are they willing to give you the time and dedicate the resources to ensure that you have what you need to succeed? If all of this is in place, then let’s continue with the decision making process. Review and answer the following questions. If your honest answers are positive then it would seem you are ready for a management position; otherwise think twice before taking it.

  • Am I self-confident? Does it make you feel better when you believe everybody likes you, when you get constant positive reinforcement? Are you really capable of enforcing systems and giving criticism both positive and negative? How about the ugly job of firing someone -- maybe a ‘nasty’ someone -- are you up to it? Or, will you get an ulcer worrying about it? You need to believe in yourself and what you are doing and be able to convey this to be a good manager. You cannot depend on anybody else telling you that you are good. If you can’t take walking around a corner in the office, finding two of your direct reports standing there talking, and watching them snap their mouths shut when you arrive -- think twice about being a manager.  If you are not confident enough to either put an employee on a PIP or even fire someone, without it rocking your professional world, think twice…well, you know the end of that statement!
  • Am I a good project manager? Leading a team of people takes a lot of project management and planning skills. For example: developing a strategic or sales plan, setting goals, establishing steps to attain goals, assigning roles to team members; motivating team members. Good communication is as much an important part of project management as it is an important part of people management. Are you good at communicating with people? This doesn’t mean just saying it or putting it in writing: good managers will know that each of his/her team members communicate differently and will adjust their style accordingly for each. The same goes for motivating your employees – each will do better with motivation given in a form that they can accept, be it appreciation, public praise, bonuses, or being given more responsibility. Are you capable of analyzing each employee’s personality to ascertain what motivates them? Are you comfortable with giving warm and fuzzy praise?
  • Can I make good decisions, quickly and without a lot of information? As a manager, you will be called on to make decisions all the time. In many instances, there will not be enough information readily available to assist you in making the decision. Remember when your boss took forever to make a decision? Didn’t you get frustrated? Not only will you need to make the final decision, but you will also need to know when it is acceptable to wait for or ask for more information. Are you comfortable making decisions in this manner? If you always second guess your decisions, think twice about being a manager. None of your reports will respect a manager’s decisions if he or she second guesses themselves.
  • Do I do what I say I’m going to do? Akin to the decision making (above), as a manager you will be making promises all day long –‘Sure, I’ll get a draft of that to you by end of day’, ‘ I’ll ask HR about….’, ‘I will redesign the commission plan by {date}…’, ‘I’ll take that issue to executive management and get back to you…’, etc. And like decision making, a boss who doesn’t keep to his/her promises is a boss that will not earn trust from his/her team.
  • Do I toe the line? Just because you’re a manager doesn’t mean you can relax about following process and procedure. In fact, you must set the example for your team: always be punctual; always “cross your 't's and dot your ‘i’s” regarding work product and HR related topics (attendance, taking sick time, etc.). Can you act as an example for your team at all times regardless of the stresses on you (both personal and professional)?

Last but not least, for those of you in sales: I assume you are being considered for a promotion because you excel in sales. This most likely means you took home some hefty commission checks, no? In some cases (not all), going into management may mean a loss in annual income because you lose the commissions. Make sure you check this out before you make the decision to take the promotion.

Now let’s take a look at the other side of the equation: you’ve done your homework, everything mentioned above – it all looked good and you took the management position…..and you HATE IT! or you SUCK AT IT! Either way, something needs to be done. Don’t stay in the position for any length of time if it is not working out -- cut the ropes quickly and move on. If you can, do it within a year so you can keep it off your resume. It will be better for you, your family and the company. But how do you get out of it without losing face? Well this presents a very tricky situation…

Situation: You are performing well in the management position but don’t like the toll it is taking on you and/or your family and want to go back to a line position with the same company.

In this case you have some good leverage to ask your company for the next open line position. Do so with care, offering to assist the new manager and to stay in the role until a new manager is hired – maybe even handling both the line position and the management role until such time. Sure that would be hard to do – but in this situation if you wish to stay with the company you will need to do whatever it takes to lessen the impact of your moving back to a line position. After all, they invested in you when you took the management position! If you are relinquishing due to personal reasons, it’s payback time! If you are not comfortable doing some groveling or reporting to someone (potentially) who is in the management position you once held, then you have no choice but to look for a position outside of the company.

Situation: You took the management promotion and are not performing well in the position – you want to go back to a line position with the same company.

First, is it very clear to everybody that you aren’t doing well? If so, as before, there are only 2 choices: de-promote yourself by asking for a line position or leave the company. Staying with the company will mean sucking it up, going to your manager and being honest. Even if you think the company didn’t do what they could to assist you, I would suggest that you tell them you really took your time, assessed your personality and thought you would be a good manager but, in fact, it is clear you are not. It was a mistake on your part; that you remain dedicated to the company and want to stay, but would like to go back to a position in which you know, due to past experience, that you can excel; it is best for not only me but the company as well. Again, if you are not comfortable doing this or reporting to someone in a position that was once yours, you will have to look for a position outside of the company.

Situation: You took the management position, either hate it or are not performing well and want to leave the company. What do you tell prospective employers?

The only issue here is that you must be able to totally convince the potential new employer that you really do NOT want to manage and that is the ONLY reason you are looking to leave your current employer. Do not bad mouth your current employer for any reason – keep the focus on you and what you want to do and why you will be good at it. Be honest about the reasons you didn’t like being a manager, unless those reasons have something to do with the way the company handled your promotion. In which case, find other reasons (i.e., ‘I found I didn’t like evaluating employees’, or ‘I was surprised by the amount of reporting paperwork. I’m an action person – I’d rather be doing it than reporting on it.’)  Be prepared to discuss your ability to take a decrease in base salary.

There are a couple of important facts to remember as you climb the corporate management ladder: management is not for everyone and for most it is a learned skill; you must be painfully honest with yourself about your own abilities so that you know when and where to climb the promotion ladder; you must be able to assess your personal situation and understand its boundaries before climbing. Last, but by no means least, you must be in a company that wants you to be successful and is willing to work with you.

So what about all of you out there who have already been there and done this? How did it work out for you? If management wasn’t your thing – what did you do? Tell us, teach us!

Gni Grossman
Founder | GG Companies
Gni Grossman is a principal at GG Companies, a human resources consulting and executive recruiting firm. She started this company after over twenty years as a human resources generalist with corporations such as The Hay Group and De Lage Landen and 5 years focusing on recruiting for the equipment finance industry at Molloy Associates, Inc. Gni holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the Johns Hopkins University.

Readers may contact Gni Grossman at and/or contact Gni at 781-859-5157.

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