should you become a manager?

So you’ve been offered your first leadership role and you’re trying to decide whether or not to take it. Good, most people just grab on to any promotion they can get, but you’re taking a moment to think it out. Ask about your new responsibilities, ask about your new career path, ask about your pay raise. All good things to know, but there are a few important aspects to leadership people never seem to mention.

1. It’s now your fault. What’s that you say, you didn’t do it? It was one of your staff? Great, good to know. You’re still responsible. That’s right, you’re now accountable for other people’s mistakes.

2. Not everyone has your work ethic. Those lazy slackers you outworked right into your new promotion? It’s now your job to motivate them. You know how you take pride in never missing a day of work? Some of your team take pride in minimizing their days of work.

3. You’re now hated. To your team you are now one of them. People will talk about you, mock you behind your back, and worry about what you’re going to say to them. You remember what you used to tell your friends or family about what an idiot your boss was? You’re now that idiot in other people’s conversations.

4. The big problems are now yours. As a manager you will be delegating work to others and anytime it gets difficult they will hand it right back to you. Angry customer? You. Someone in another department is causing problems? You. Any other manager mad about someone on your team? You. Telling someone they have eye watering body odor, aren’t dressed appropriately, can’t have time off, and settling pre-school level arguments between employees. Yep, that’s all you.

5. You probably don’t really get paid more. Yes, there’s a bump in pay, but… probably not in line with the bump in responsibilities and headaches. But… you’re now expected to work more hours, which is great if you’re hourly but not if you’re salaried. But… if your new job switches you from hourly to salary you might even make less than you did before if you used to get regular overtime. A few more promotions and you will be making more, but not this first promotion.

6. You will probably stink as a manager. No one will tell you this, but it’s true. Leading and managing others is a very distinct skill set (with a whole bunch of new, fun legal issues) and you didn’t get promoted for your leadership skills. Think hard about that: you got promoted because you were really good at your old job, not because you are good at the things needed in your new job. It’s one of the few promotions where the responsibilities come on day one and the knowledge and skills come (much) later.

7. Meetings. Those team meetings you always hated? They’re yours to lead now. Oh, and you probably get to attend lots of new meetings you never knew existed. Good times.

8. HR is now your friend. Or your enemy. Either way, they will be more involved in your life so I suggest making them your friend.

Of course, there are some downsides to leadership also, but I’ll save those for another time. 😉

not another post on change

Change has been on my mind lately. Judging by recent posts from other bloggers, I’m not alone. Change is everywhere, every day, always happening, yet handling and managing change is a persistent issue.

Connie Podesta jokes that she has a four-word workshop to help people in organizations through periods of difficult change. Here it is in its entirety: “Change. Deal with it.” Funny and true in the sense that there will always be change so we might as well just get on with our lives.

Perhaps change isn’t the real issue, though. What if it’s the uncertainty of the situation? The Holmes-Rahe Scale rates life changes on a scale of 1 – 100 in terms of the amount of stress (or “life crisis units) caused. Interestingly, many of the events are differentiated based the size of change and not on whether it’s perceived as good or bad. That is, “major business readjustment” is the same amount of stress whether you’re benefiting or not. Same for “major change in responsibilities at work”. Same for “change in work hours or conditions”. Same for “major change in living conditions”. In fact, “taking on a significant mortgage” is listed as slightly more stressful than “foreclosure of mortgage or loan”. Good or bad doesn’t seem to enter into it as much as how significant the event is.

The more significant the event, the less certain we are about how it’s going to turn out, and the more we worry about the change. Changing offices is probably not a big deal. But a big promotion pushing us beyond our comfort zone really is. So is discovering you’re now in a completely different section of the org chart.

Consider this: the people initiating change have often been thinking and debating changes for weeks or months. They’ve processed the advantages and disadvantages and understand the whys and needs inside and out. Then it all too often gets foisted on the rest of the organization and everyone is expected to fully and immediately support the changes.

None of this is to say “don’t change”. Change needs to happen, but change is never without cost or challenges. Jon Bartlett urges us to consider the real human cost to change. People are not cogs or Lego blocks that can be removed, moved around, tossed aside, or recombined instantly and without effect. Even when change is good, even when necessary, us humans need time.

We talk about managing change, but how different would things be if leaders concentrated on managing uncertainty instead of change? The change would still be there, but I suspect we’d start focusing more on communication. We’d involve people sooner, explain the whys and hows, give them time to process and ask questions, and provide clear and consistent (and accurate and true) messages throughout. We’d make sure people knew where they stood and what to expect. We all know how important it is for US to know what’s going on, yet so often don’t do a good job of communicating to OTHERS. Robin Schooling recently explained this so well when she described the ONLY excuse for poor internal communication (hint: you don’t care about the impact).

Why does all this matter? Why can’t we simply expect employees to be adults and deal with change? One reason: the most talented people always have options. People with options don’t have to suffer poor treatment, half-thought through plans, or command and control temper tantrums. Whit at HR Hardball said it well: “Strong swimmers are the first to jump ship.


The World’s Shortest Lesson on Being a Great Manager

Being a manager is a tough, tough job and there are many things a manager needs to be able to do. But, if you want to put yourself above 90% of the managers out there, focus on developing your skills in four key areas:

  1. Selecting people who are a great match for the job and the company. You are responsible for their results and if all goes well they will be with the company for years to come. Plan your effort accordingly.
  2. Giving your people a clear vision for their role and clear understanding of your performance expectations.
  3. Investing time, energy, and resources into developing your people so that they can perform at the level expected. This includes coaching, training, advising, and giving feedback.
  4. Holding your people accountable for delivering results.

Enough said.