Often in professional development discussions young team members bring up the topic of becoming a manager. My first question is always, “Why?” As the conversation continues, I usually have to practice the 5 Why’s to get to the heart of the matter and I can share the truth about being a manager.
As a manager, I’ll have more power. This is probably the biggest myth of management. Even CEOs of major corporations are accountable to shareholders and a board of Directors. Entrepreneurs are ultimately accountable to their bank accounts and likely their better halves. While your position as a manager does come with more inherent authority, that authority comes with expectations, many of which may not be possible to meet. These expectations come from the team, your peers, the people above you, and your external clients. In addition, respect for that authority must be earned every single day. So, what is perceived as more power is actually more voice, which you use in many, many more conversations.
As a manager, I will no longer need to do the job. That depends. In many companies, a first level manager is expected to roll up his or her sleeves and help the team get the job done. If you are the manager of a small team or in a start-up, that will even more likely be the situation. Even in a large company where you are expected to do management 100% of the time, being able to help the team in some way, in a time of need, is a big asset.
As a manager, I will get more respect for my ideas and/or I get to do things my way. Are you sure about that? If your ideas are not respected as a member of the team, they won’t suddenly get more respected just because you’re a manager. You need to earn that respect and the influence to get the ideas accepted.
As a manager, I will get paid more. That depends. In some companies and industries, that is the case. In others, experts in their fields are valued and paid more.
If the above reasons are the only reasons I hear why someone wants to become a manager, then I will seriously encourage them to not go into management. Managers with only these motivations will likely not be very happy with the role, nor will the team be very happy with them as managers.
If you still go ahead and become a manager, be prepared for the following changes to your day-to-day life:
1. You will spend a lot more time in meetings, but you will still be expected to get reports, analyses, plans and presentations done at the same time.
2. Your productivity will be more about how many people you talk with than how much work you get done at your desk.
3. Your success will be earned through the success of others. In other words, you will succeed when your team succeeds.
The bottom line is the advice I received from the best manager I ever had: only go into management when you are truly done doing the job of the team. If you still love engineering, programming, accounting, marketing, art, or whatever it is that you do, then keep doing it for as long as you can. It is possible to be a leader in your field without becoming a manager. If you have leadership skills, then management will always be an option when you are ready for and want the realities of the role.