If you’ve been working your way up in your company—whether you’re at a small startup with less defined levels or a big corporate with more rigid structures—you might be curious to try your hand at managing others. But being a people manager is an altogether different challenge than doing well in your current job, even if you’re working with the same team and subject matter.
Here are a few things to consider as you decide whether you're ready for management:
While being a manager technically means you control the people reporting to you, we all know how awful a micromanager can be. Somewhat counterintuitively, being a good manager often means trusting your team to do their best work—and therefore releasing some control over the outcome.
This also means understanding that your way isn’t necessarily the right way, and giving your team members the freedom to do good work even if it’s not exactly how you would do it. If you had enough time in the day to do the work of everyone on your team, you wouldn’t have a team—and painstakingly reviewing minute details isn’t just a time suck for you, but can also make your reports feel you don’t value and trust their work.
While being a manager can be rewarding in many ways, it also means you may need to give tough feedback (such as a not-so-stellar performance review or breaking the news that someone didn’t receive a promotion)... or even tell someone that he or she no longer has a job.
This responsibility also requires the emotional intelligence to recognize when someone is damaging to team culture—even if they’re amazing at their job. As a manager, you’ll need to take the wider view that the whole is bigger than the parts, and make the correct calls about when someone isn’t contributing to the team’s wellbeing, no matter how talented they are.
As an individual contributor, your responsibility is over your own work and career. As soon as you manage others, however, you become the point person for anything that goes wrong (and well!) as a result of their work—as well as the person responsible for growing each team member professionally.
If you’re more concerned with growing your own career rather than nurturing others, that might be a sign that being an individual contributor is a better fit for you. It’s important to remember that being a manager isn’t necessarily better: At the end of the day, if you do what you’re best at, you’ll likely end up happier and more successful than if you try fitting your square peg of skills into a round hole of a role that’s not for you.
As manager, you’ll be the face of your team, which means increasing the visibility of your collective work, attracting resources, and vouching for your team members when it comes time for reviews. All of this requires healthy working relationships with other divisions, and often the ability to call on these people for favors on behalf of your team.
If the idea of spending more time in meetings and building new relationships at work makes you cringe, management might not be the right path for you. But if you can’t wait to collaborate with your peers—and to use these relationships to promote what’s best for your team—becoming a manager may be the most natural next step for you.