As you envision the future of your career, you probably see yourself rising to the top of your team. You’ll be so great at your job that, eventually, you’ll be offered a bump in salary, a big office, and a shiny new title that commands respect: Manager.
But moving into leadership isn’t solely about being the best at what you do now. When I landed my first management role, I faced challenges I never expected, and I had to gain an entirely new set of skills in order to lead my team effectively. In short, I felt completely unprepared for the job title I had wanted for so long.
So, if you’re thinking about a move into management, ask yourself these eight questions first. With a clear picture of the position, you’ll have a much better idea of whether you’re ready for the role and if it’s the right fit for you and your career.
1. Can You Let Go of Your To-Do List?
When I stepped into my first corporate leadership role, I was used to having a to-to list full of defined tasks that I could cross off as I completed them. But in management, your day-to-day work is often a lot less task-oriented than what you’re used to.
Instead of tackling individual projects yourself, you’ll be tasked with more ambiguous duties that will help your employees complete those assignments—like “motivate your team,” “provide coaching where needed,” and “oversee the marketing project.” It’s up to you to translate these overarching management goals into actionable tasks that you can perform on a daily basis.
2. Are You a Great Communicator?
As your team’s motivator, coach, and disciplinarian, it’s up to you to clearly communicate with your team. But it’s more than just telling everyone what they need to do: To achieve real success, you’ll need to be able to convey why a task needs to be done, how it can be accomplished, and the impact it’ll have on the rest of the company—all without communicating too much, to the point at which you’re micromanaging. Oh, and you’ll also need to provide thorough feedback and ample recognition for a job well done.
From beginning to end, everything centers around clear, constant communication—with you as the facilitator.
3. Are You Willing to Be Accountable for Your Team’s Performance?
It’s pretty scary to be held accountable for an entire team. After all, when you’re just one member of a team, you’re responsible for your own work—and that’s it. But as the leader, if any one of your employees messes up, you’re going to hear about it—and be expected to remedy the situation.
And the solution won’t be to simply repeat the criticism to the offending employee—because if he or she failed, the responsibility partially falls on you. Whether you didn’t provide sufficient training, ignored a performance issue, or simply weren’t paying enough attention, you have to be able to look at the way you manage with a critical eye and figure out how you can improve, too.
4. Can You Set a Great Example for Your Team?
When you step into your department’s head position, all eyes will be on you. And that brings more pressure than you might think. Every time you arrive late, leave early, take shortcuts, miss deadlines, or gossip about co-workers, your employees will notice—and take it as a sign that it’s OK that they do those things, too.
And sure, maybe you left the office at 2 PM because you had a business meeting across town. But the point is, your team is always watching—so you have to be ready to set the best example you can.
5. Are You a Great Motivator?
One of the hardest things I found about being a manager is learning how to effectively motivate my team. At first, it seems like people should simply know what they need to do—and do it. And often, that actually does happen.
But there’s more to leadership than helping your employees fulfill the minimum requirements of their jobs. Your job is now to motivate your team to go above and beyond, to complete their tasks with enthusiasm, and to help their co-workers achieve their goals. And this can be difficult, especially when you don’t have the resources to provide incentives like bonuses and raises. So, you’ll have to think creatively and dig in to find out what else—money aside—will motivate your employees.
6. Can You Make the Tough Calls?
As a team member, it’s easy—and expected—to lean on your manager to help you make decisions and determine the best way to proceed in tough situations. And when you’re the boss, you’ll have to do exactly that for your team.
So, when a long-time problem client is threatening to leave the company again, how will you respond? You may also have to make some tough calls regarding your own team members. What happens when a previously successful employee is now continually underperforming? How long do you provide coaching until you make the hard decision to let him or her go?
To make those calls, you’ll have to be able to thoroughly (but quickly) think through a lot of information to decide what’s going to be best for your team and the company.
7. Are You Ready to Be There for Your Team—in Every Way?
Sure, you expect that part of your managerial duties will be to motivate your employees and address performance issues—but you’ll encounter some unexpected situations, too. Employees have come to me with everything from sicknesses and divorces to pregnancies and marriages—and that’s just the beginning!
And even though these things may not seem job-related, whatever affects your employees’ lives is ultimately going to affect how they do their jobs—and how you do yours. So, you have to be prepared to appropriately respond on a personal level—and then figure out how to make it work within the scope of the rest of the team.
8. Can You Celebrate Your Team’s Successes?
OK, management is challenging—I’ve probably made that clear. But it’s also incredibly rewarding, in a different way than you might be used to.
For example, as a staff member, you might get recognized for your excellent service to a client, a job well done on a particular project, or your willingness to jump in and help a co-worker in a tough situation.
But when you’re a manager, your team’s successes become your successes. When a client submits praise for the attentiveness of one of your employees, that’s a “good job!” for you, too. When your team hits a goal, you feel a swelling sense of pride that it was, in part, due to your leadership. The spotlight may not shine directly on you, but in my experience, that’s completely fine. In fact, I find more joy in celebrating with my team.
Tough questions? They sure are. But here’s the kicker: You don’t have to be 100% sure of yourself in all of these areas to step into that management role—because no matter what, you’re going to learn a lot along the way. As long as you know what to expect and have the right attitude toward your role, you’ll be off to a great start.