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Want to Be a Manager? Ask Yourself This One Question First

Want to Be a Manager? Ask Yourself This One Question First

It’s a truth universally acknowledged: A great technical employee does not a great leader or manager make.

Successful technical leaders can be promoted into management, only to find their careers derailed due to poor results. The inability to carry over success as a technical leader to the position of manager can have lasting and costly effects, leaving employee teams decimated by low morale, mistrust, productivity losses, and turnover.

How does this happen? Technical skills are based on calculations, facts, or judgement. While these are positive skills, they are only a portion of those needed to succeed as a people leader and manager. Management requires using motivation, communication, business, negotiation, and other skills that individual contributors may not develop.

Think you may be ready for the leap from individual contributor to manager? But how do you know? How do you prepare before you’re promoted?

[Related: Tomorrow's Leaders]

One question to ask: Are you ready to hold yourself accountable?

Are you ready to engage in open dialogue, set expectations, and keep others accountable?

More importantly, can you develop your own managerial training plan and hold yourself accountable? If you can’t commit to personal accountability, how do you expect others to become accountable to you?

Successfully bridging the gap between a technical career move into management can be difficult, but by applying effort and forming a plan with accountability, you can be well on your way to a promotion into leadership.

Find your why.

The first step is to be clear about why you want to move into a management role. Do you think:

  • You’ll work fewer hours?
  • You'll have a more flexible schedule?
  • You'll work more with people?
  • You'll get away from the pay plateau?
  • You'll avoid technical work?
  • Someone else thinks you should?

Make sure that you’re ready to move into management for the right reasons. Managers can spend a large portion of their time on things such as paperwork, approvals, training others, meetings, assigning resources and priorities, and dealing with personnel issues. If an employee can’t meet a deadline, you may be expected to pick up that work yourself.

It’s important to talk to your manager or others about the reality of managerial work.

[Related: Are You Seen as Strategic Enough to Lead Others?]

Own your plan, own your career.

Many companies offer managerial training only after you’re already a manager. That’s too late.

If you’re clear on your why, approach your employer to communicate your interest. Your workplace may offer resources, training, and assessments such as 360-degree feedback, core values exercises, emotional intelligence tests, Dominance Influence Steadiness Conscientiousness, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, CliftonStrengths (was StrengthsFinder 2.0), and the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. If your employer does not offer resources, it’s important to take control of your own career plan.

Identify the gaps in your skills that are needed for a management position. These might be things such as organization, project management skills, influence, managing up and across, and motivating down. It’s also good to ground yourself with a self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses — be sure to ask trusted coworkers, family, and friends for help.

Form a plan with your specific skill goals, including priority, action steps, and dates. How will you develop each skill? Can you build or learn the skills you need through reading, audiobooks/podcasts, leading a volunteer group, or taking an in-person or online course? How will you measure improvement and success? Are there any particular obstacles to achieving your goals? Obstacles such as time management, personal life, work delegation, and how you react under stress are important to include in your plan.

Own accountability to your plan.

Now that you’re clear on your plan, what’s next? According to the University of Scranton, 92% of people never achieve their goals. What can you do to increase your chance of success?

Consider working with a mentor, coach, accountability partner, or all three. A mentor will offer advice about your industry or employer. A coach does not offer advice, but will listen and ask thought-provoking questions to guide you through goal-setting and forming a plan. A coach will hold you accountable to your plan, and can role-play with you to reinforce your skills.

You could also use an accountability partner system to help stay on track. If both partners want to be held accountable to their goals, consider using an accountability circle (or chain) where partner 1 is accountable to partner 2, who is accountable to partner 3 for a certain amount of time before shuffling. This method allows for higher standards for accountability than a two-person exchange.

Successfully moving from a technical career into management can be accomplished by forming a plan with accountability. Determine your reason for moving into management, and speak with others about their experiences. Assess your managerial skill strengths and gaps, and form a plan to achieve those goals. Think through your own personal accountability plan for achievement — considering help from a mentor, coach, or accountability partner.

If you want to be a manager, accountability is a fundamental, yet powerful, skill for personal and workplace success. You must be able to have an open dialogue about clear expectations in the workplace and hold others accountable. Developing this starts with accountability to yourself, which will, in turn, affect how you lead others.

Are you ready to hold yourself accountable? If so, good luck – future manager!

[Related: The Way We Work]


Alisha C. Taylor is an engineering program manager and life coach. Her work has been featured on Ellevate Network, The Startup, and Thrive Global. A STEM advocate, checklist champion, and learning addict, you can find her @AlishaCTaylor and

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