Sunday, October 3, 2010

So you want to be a manager, eh?

Organization chart

Shuffling through my desk of old papers this weekend, I discovered an old manager feedback form I wrote for a previous manager and decided I should write about what it takes to be a manager and what it looks like for those of you interested in becoming one and being skilled and successful in the role. You might be wondering and thinking to yourself, "I can do that." And that's a good place to start - by inquiring. As a start, a manager sits within an organization having direct reports and itself being managed by another manager. They have a responsibility to get results of the organization through the work of others, namely their direct reports. They not only have their own projects, but also the projects of their direct reports. In general, they have a greater span of control and need additional skills not required by being an individual contributor, one with no direct reports.

As you think about your plan for becoming a manager, keep these areas in mind and find opportunities in your current role to build your skill and gain experience. (Also, see last month's post on Stretch Projects.) If they don't exist, then you can find opportunities in other organizations and activities, such as volunteering.

The areas I want to focus on are Communications, Development, Diversity, Team Building, Goal Setting, Customer focus, and Values. I'll stray away from the why for now and focus more on the definitions. The why's is such a larger topic of discussion and can lead to discussions regarding legal issues. If you keep your context of being a manager to someone committed to the success of their organization, you'll avoid most issues related to poor people management.

As a manager your communications become very important as you want to encourage discussions that are open and productive. For example, when issues arise within your team, are you open to listening? Or do you blame the messenger? Can you see a deeper commitment of the message and not just the message itself? Are you able to share information that your direct reports need to do their jobs and help them to understand how your division or group contribute to the company's overall success? Do you avoid sharing unpopular news?

As a manager, you become the advocate and supporter of your team's development. This aids not only in achieving your immediate team goals, but also in providing the company a talent pipeline such that your team can move on to other roles that the company needs and provides your team a pathway for career success and their potential. You will want to show sincere interest in your direct's career by not only creating opportunities within their current role, but giving them challenging opportunities. If a training and development opportunities comes up like a conference or an outside program, can you support your direct's time away from work?

As a manager, you will definitely work with different cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives. Respecting diversity will only help to make you a better manager and ambassador for your group. What it looks like is you considering points of view that are contrary to your own and leveraging those strengths and differences. When you have a diverse group of people working for you, then you have additional skills and inputs to get your job done.

As a manager, you are not only concerned for yourself, but for your group and so team building becomes more of your focus. You'll need to be vigilant on the status of your group's integrity and morale. You'll be now seen as a leader. (Of course, you can lead also as an individual contributor.) You'll be required to inspire your team to achieve business results, effectively as opposed to burning out your team. You'll also be asked to remove obstacles and roadblocks while placing your own needs after the groups.

As a manager, you are setting the bar for your organization. This is called goal setting. Can you set, prioritize and communicate realistic and achievable goals? Do you have conversations with your group on where they are at on meeting their goals?

As a manager, you get customers as part of your added responsibilities so you'll need to take action on customer feedback demonstrating your focus on keeping your relationships positive. Sharing customer feedback with your team is also something you need to take into consideration.

Last, but not least, as a manager, whether it's integrity, operational excellence, and customer focus you are responsible for having your team be aligned to the values set at your company.

In summary, being a manager takes alot of preparation and people skills and developing these skills takes time and investment on your part.

Having read this, do you see actions you can take today that tomorrow will lead you one step closer to being a manager?

And if you're wondering about what happened to my manager who I gave feedback. Today, she is now a Sr. Executive and is very successful.

Gil Gido
NAAAP Seattle

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