Our culture values ambition. History is rife with stories of leaders who have climbed the corporate ladder to attain executive leadership positions – and the public reverence and accolades that come with it.
Don't believe that we place our business leaders on a pedestal? CEOs' photos fill the newspapers' society pages, books crammed with their philosophies dot the New York Times' Nonfiction Bestseller List, and a prominent business owner tops a major party ticket in the U.S. Presidential election.
And why not? Business schools consistently drill into students' minds the value of upward mobility. Individuals who are elevated to increasingly responsible positions often demonstrate initiative, intelligence, and interpersonal acumen – all traits we value. And by combining these to get promoted, we improve our social standing, influence, and personal wealth. We get more power, and we get paid more money to wield it.
Climbing up the management ranks has its perks, but it also has its drawbacks. If you're currently an individual contributor (i.e., you don't manage anybody), consider the following about life as a manager before accepting that promotion to Department Supervisor:
- Managers usually get paid more than non-managers. You will likely be rewarded for moving up the chain, as you are being compensated for taking on more responsibility and the additional value you are expected to provide.
- Risk increases the higher you climb. Your paycheck grew when you took that promotion, but some of that money is hazard pay. Expectations on your ability to deliver increased with your title. In addition, there will be people who will be gunning for your job, who believe they deserve the position.
- Managers are responsible for the results their department produces. In other words, your team may or may not meet its goals, but as manager you own the end result regardless of how hard you worked or how well you believe you directed your team or set strategic vision.
- Supervisors are expected to lead their teams – and others. There's a great deal more to managing employees than giving directions and expecting the team to follow them. People are sentient beings with their own desires, perceptions, and ideas. Just because you ask them to perform a task doesn't mean that they necessarily will do it the way you want – or do it at all. A good manager can motivate, inspire, educate, mentor, influence, persuade, and cajole, modulating their message to their employee to maximize results. And he or she can also be a taskmaster when the situation calls for it.
- Delegation is essential. If you're a detail oriented micro-manager, where you need to be in control of absolutely every detail and you have a hard time trusting others to get things done, managing others will keep you awake at night; you will worry whether your employees will complete their assigned tasks to the standards you expect and you'll be popping Rolaids like candy.
- Management is a different job. Let's say you started your career as an engineer, and you've been tapped to lead the department as Manager. You're going to find yourself doing a heck of a lot less engineering, and many more managerial functions: budgeting, resource planning, scheduling, hiring and firing, conducting performance appraisals and talent reviews, putting out fires, attending status meetings, strategic planning, fighting for resources, reporting, and so on...
Before accepting that managerial promotion, it might be wise to ask yourself the following:
- What is my tolerance for the additional demands this promotion will place on me? Am I prepared to play the political game? How about the extra stress and responsibility? Can I handle the extra risk? If you welcome the uncertainty and the challenge, it's probably a no-brainer.
- How well can I manage other people? If you've never supervised anybody before, this can be difficult to answer. But try to be aware of how people have responded to you when you've worked with them on projects or delegated assignments to others. Likewise, try to be aware of whether you can handle having other people do tasks instead of doing everything yourself.
- What would I enjoy more? The job I was hired to do, or the managerial responsibilities the promotion entails? If you're ready for some new and different challenges, management may be perfect for you. On the other hand, if you bristle at the idea of giving up a career as an Account Executive to manage sales people, then you may be better off staying in your current position.
Bottom Line: As you progress higher up in an organization, you will need to leverage different skills and competencies than the ones you utilized when starting your career. Before accepting the promotion into a managerial role, carefully evaluate the position, what will be expected of you, and the value you will bring to the organization, and ensure that your skills - and desires - are aligned with the new position.
Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. He is a Human Resources professional and staffing expert with almost two decades of in-house corporate HR and staffing firm experience, and is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC).
Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at email@example.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.