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Are You Management Material? Not Everyone Is…

by | Feb 27, 2024 | Career Advancement

Many professionals set their sights on management because they think it’s what they’re “supposed” to do. But truthfully, management isn’t for everyone. Some people just aren’t cut out for it, and that’s perfectly okay! There are plenty of other ways to advance your career without going into management.  

I speak from personal experience. My first “real job” out of college was as a management trainee at the country’s largest financial institution (at the time). It was a yearlong program and, quite honestly, I consider it a highlight of my career to this day. Not because I loved management, but because I loved learning…and still do. But I actually discovered early on that management was not a fit for me. Looking back, I think my discomfort in the role could have been due to my inexperience. Perhaps if I had stuck with it, I could have grown to love it. But I quickly moved on and never looked back.  

The idea of management never intrigued me after that, and I’ve been able to advance in my career just fine without it. Today, as a business owner, I leverage managerial skills in many aspects of my work (like a lot of “non-managers”) but I’m glad that management itself is not my primary focus.  

If you’re considering moving into management but not sure if it’s a fit for you, here are 7 signs you might not be cut out for it.   

You may NOT be suited for management if… 

  • You will do anything to avoid difficult conversations.  

Managers are often responsible for sharing difficult messages with employees, leaders, and clients. They have to resolve conflicts, set boundaries and provide feedback without alienating or demotivating people. They have to be comfortable saying hard things that people don’t want to hear, in a way that people actually do hear them. The best managers are truly master communicators who don’t shy away from the tough stuff.   

  • You prefer to focus on your individual to-do list rather than on team objectives. 

Just as the title suggests, managers are usually the people in charge of “managing” the work, not necessarily executing it. They provide direction, resources, guidance, encouragement, and support, but ultimately, they rely on the team to accomplish the work. This doesn’t mean they don’t still have work of their own, but they tend to have a greater focus on team objectives. If you’re more of an autonomous, independent worker who enjoys the satisfaction of checking things off the to-do list, management may not be as inherently satisfying in that regard.  

  • You are highly competent in hard (technical) skills but lacking in soft (people) skills. 

This is often a tough one for people to understand and it’s one of the reasons there are so many “bad” managers out there. If someone is good at the technical aspects of a job, they often get elevated to management. But, for managers, technical skills are far less important than soft skills. Just because someone is good at making widgets, doesn’t mean they will be a good manager of widget makers. They might be, but the skillset is fundamentally different. Technical skills are helpful, but they won’t carry you as a manager.  

  • You are not especially adept at problem solving and decision-making. 

Managers are responsible for the results of their team. Therefore, a big part of the job is helping to remove obstacles that may block team members or slow them down from achieving their goals. Managers have the unpleasant responsibility of fixing problems and making decisions—many of which involve high levels of risk and visibility. They must have the ability to see the big picture and the minute details simultaneously and balance the needs of their team with the needs of the organization.  

  • You care deeply that everyone at work like you. 

We all want positive relationships at work, but managers are not always universally liked. The goal is not to be popular; the better goal is to be respected. As a manager, you might have to make tough calls that people disagree with. You have to prioritize what’s best for the team and organization, and that might make certain people unhappy. That’s okay. If your primary concern is being liked by everyone, it could hinder your ability to make objective, results-driven decisions and could impact your effectiveness as a manager.   

  • You’re not interested in developing others.  

A primary responsibility of managers is helping your team grow and succeed. If you have little interest in coaching, mentoring, or investing time in the development of your team, management may not be the right fit. Great managers actively seek opportunities to offer guidance and create an environment where employees can learn and achieve their professional goals. We’ve all had (or heard of) managers who want to keep their best employees trapped in place. They’re afraid to lose a star player so they limit their growth opportunities. What a backwards approach! Managers should want to support their employees, even if it means losing them to another department. Holding them back means you’ll ultimately lose them to another organization.   

  • You don’t love speaking in front of groups.  

Managers frequently have to speak in front of groups ranging in size and purpose—from small team meetings and client presentations to company-wide town halls. They often need to convey their vision, provide guidance, and inspire their teams through clear and persuasive communication. If you have a deep aversion to public speaking, consider how essential this element might be.  

Now, don’t get discouraged. If you’re worried that management is not a fit for you but it’s something you still desire, don’t give up. Most (if not all) of these skills are learnable. However, you must have an interest and willingness to put in the effort required.  

On the other hand, you may have all of the necessary skills and yet, you still may not enjoy management. Again, that’s okay! You can still be a leader, even if you have no aspirations for a formal managerial role.  

If you’re interested in honing your leadership skills as an “unofficial” leader, consider joining the upcoming Leadership Learning Lab 

Learn More With Deep Dive Leadership Training

A Learning Lab is a full-day live, interactive, virtual workshop where you learn and work at the same time

About the Author

Chrissy Scivicque is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and certified Professional Career Manager (PCM). She is an author, in-demand presenter and international speaker known for engaging, entertaining, educating and empowering audiences of all sizes and backgrounds. Learn more here.

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