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The right question to ask, which I've rarely been asked, is "Should I become a manager?"
That is in fact the more important question.
I understand why this question doesn't get asked. In most companies the only path to career advancement is through management. There is no other path available so the question doesn't even come up. Unfortunately not everyone is cut out to lead people. And that's ok! Not everyone is cut out to be a brain surgeon or a teacher or an engineer or a fireman either.
When I'm being asked by a mentee about how to get into management my first response is a simple question back: "Why do you want to become a manager?"
Here are some of the answers I've received:
- To get more responsibility
- To earn more money
- To get an office
- To have a secretary
- To get more visibility with upper management
- To make people listen to me
None of these are the right reasons to get into management. In a mentee's response I need to hear some amount of energy and enthusiasm about working with people for me to think that this person is a candidate for management. Personally speaking I got into and stayed in management and leadership because I discovered during my career that while I love working in my industry the highlights of my day were the one on one meetings with team members. That is in fact a criteria I suggest to mentees seeking to become managers: are one-on-one meetings the highlight of their day?
Right now at companies all around the world individuals are promoted into management who don't have and are unlikely to attain that skill. If you've ever had a bad boss you know the havoc that person can wreak on a team and ultimately to the customer and to the business.
Mentoring is about helping people reach their full potential through self-awareness and self-realization. It's just as important to know what to step back from as it is to know what to move towards. By guiding certain people away from becoming managers we are helping them as well as future teams and companies.