One question I’m asked a lot is how to know if a person is ready to move from an individual contributor role into a job that includes people management. Unfortunately, determining the answer isn’t as simple as taking a few tests, such as the written and driving tests you must pass to qualify to drive a vehicle. Although, it would be nice if it were that easy.
Not every individual contributor will be a good people manager, because people management is a lot more difficult than most would imagine. Research reveals that only about one in 10 people have the necessary traits to be a good manager.
Whenever I’m evaluating clients or employees to determine if they’re ready for people management responsibilities, I look for both content knowledge as well as the ability to consistently demonstrate behaviors that will lead to good people management. If you’re interested in moving into a management role, here are 7 areas you should evaluate:
- You achieve consistently positive results in your current job. If you can’t complete outstanding work in your current job, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to handle the additional responsibilities that come with managing others. You must prove you are organized, self-motivated, and ready to take on higher-level challenges.
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- You have established positive work relationships with employees throughout the company. Being a good people manager means you must be good with – people. I look to see if the person has cultivated trustworthy relationships with other employees, especially those in different departments. If you’re a loner who rarely interacts with others, then you might want to reconsider your career goals or seek out opportunities to test your people management skills, such as by leading project teams.
- You can demonstrate successful leadership of project teams with multiple participants. Most employees aren’t given a manager title with people management responsibilities unless they can prove they are ready. One way to do this is to volunteer or take on roles leading project teams with at least three or more members. You should be able to demonstrate success in these types of leadership roles, managing project teams with progressively more challenging work and with increasing numbers of participants. Even better is when you can prove your success leading cross-functional and cross-cultural teams.
- You handle conflict well and are able to analyze most angles of a situation before reacting. One attribute in being a good people manager is being able to handle conflict proactively. This requires the ability to remain levelheaded and uncover all the information necessary to analyze the various angles of a situation before you react. Those with anger management issues rarely make good people managers. Characteristics necessary for people management: fair and unbiased, calm under pressure, high integrity, ethical, gives credit where it’s due, able to mediate conflict, tolerance for ambiguity, approachable, treats others with respect, and able to manage change.
- You are a good teacher/mentor/coach. Being a good people manager means you’ll need to be a good teacher, because you’ll be coaching and mentoring others EVERY day. If you can’t demonstrate that you have these characteristics necessary for people management, it’s doubtful you’ll be given a job as a manager: excellent written and verbal communication, active listening skills, patience, empathy, ability to motivate others, ability to be specific, trustworthy, collaborative, value others, value diversity, and confident (but not arrogant).
- Your coworkers respect you and come to you for advice. There is a big difference between being “liked” and being “respected.” You can like someone’s picture on Facebook, like a coworker because they bring great muffins to work on Friday mornings, or like another employee because they tell great jokes while you’re all waiting for meetings to begin. Being respected runs deeper than being liked. As a manager, there will be times you’ll have to make decisions based on what’s the right thing to do versus what is politically correct – and not everyone will like your decisions. Being liked is superficial, whereas respect is something you earn. It means people recognize your expertise, your knowledge, influence, trustworthiness, and most importantly, your character and integrity.
- You are viewed by management as a leader. To determine if someone is ready for people management responsibilities, I also look at how management views the person. Have they been identified as a high potential employee? Do they have a career development plan and can show progress on accomplishing their goals? Do they ask for challenging projects and tasks? Do they attend training sessions each year? Do they actively solicit constructive criticism and take feedback well? Are they strategic (able to define a vision and the steps necessary to achieve it)?
Not every individual contributor will be a good people manager, because people management is a lot more difficult than most would imagine. Research reveals that only about one in 10 people have the necessary traits to be a good manager. So before you jump into a role where you’re managing others, make sure you’ve done your homework: fully understand the job and evaluate yourself against the seven areas I’ve listed above.
~ Lisa Quast, author of the recently released book, Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach: A Foolproof Guide to Getting the Job You Want. Every Time. Join me on Twitter @careerwomaninc