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You put in the work, honed your skills, took the training, and excelled as an employee over the past few years. Now your hard work has brought you to the next step on your career path: management.
Or is it the next step? You might just be at a fork in the path.
Doing your job well so far might mean that you're ready for management. But it doesn't always. It could also mean that you're ready for new challenges as an individual contributor.
In this article, we'll look at what it takes to go down that management path.
Becoming a manager is not for everyone, and that’s ok. Being a manager isn’t easy, but it can be rewarding. You’ll take on new responsibilities, grow as an individual, and help others achieve their potential.
Often the move to management comes with a pay raise, but it isn’t free money.
But here’s the problem: How do you know if you want to be a manager if you haven't managed? And, how do you get hired (even internally) to do something you’ve never done before?
Let’s go over what you need to earn that managerial position.
Signs you’re ready to become a manager
Manager roles will vary depending on the industry, but many soft skills span disciplines. Here are some signs you're ready:
1. You put the team’s best interest ahead of your own
As a manager, you’ll be responsible for a group of people. Effective leaders need to do the right and honest thing, even when it’s inconvenient for them. If you’re comfortable with this idea, it’s a good sign that you’re ready.
2. You think you can be a great example for others
You need to keep everyone’s spirits up in the face of adversity. Your positivity must be contagious to build morale among your staff.
3. You can accept people’s differences
As an employee, it’s easy to fall into cliques with those you get along with. Hopefully, you’ve outgrown that, and you can adapt to your team’s varying work styles and personalities.
4. People trust and respect you
Do you have a history of walking the walk and talking the talk? Do people know they can count on you? This is a critical part of being a leader, and you’re set if you already have it.
5. You’re a problem solver
When adversity strikes, you spring into action. You always seem to have a solution up your sleeve. And if things don’t go as planned, you see it as a lesson learned, so you’re ready for next time.
11 steps towards becoming a manager
Here are some things that can help you win that promotion if you think you’re ready:
1. Join a growing company
The first step is to make sure your organization has room to grow. Many not-for-profits, for example, consist of small teams — so you’re unlikely to find a management position there. On the other hand, growing companies will open the door to new roles and offer more opportunities.
2. Grow yourself
Being really good at your current role is a prerequisite. In many companies, especially larger ones, you need to demonstrate that you are already acting as a manager or practicing the skills of a manager before you ever get promoted. The skills and capabilities of leaders are different from those of an individual contributor, even a rock star one.
You need to keep growing and developing yourself, personally and professionally. Show a growth mindset. Look for opportunities to pick up new skills, knowledge, and experiences that will prepare you to lead a team in a new role.
3. Add value to your team
Hard work pays off. Do 10 percent more than your regular daily workload to show your worth in your current role. And make sure you deliver on your promises — stretching yourself too thin and failing to deliver is more detrimental than helpful. Pay attention to your time management and the quality of your work.
If you need help finding the right balance, consider meeting with a BetterUp coach. They can keep you accountable and help you be the best version of yourself on your journey to a management position.
4. Volunteer for high-visibility projects
Is your boss looking for help on a new project? Volunteer. Not only will this take you out of your comfort zone, but it’ll strengthen your relationships with those who have a say in promoting you.
5. Don’t fear risk
6. Be a mentor
Keep yourself open to your team members and let them know you’re there if they need any help. When someone has a question, you can practice teaching and being a good mentor — demonstrating vital skills for any good manager.
7. Find your voice
Don't be afraid to speak up in meetings. Always come prepared with intelligent questions, insights, and suggestions. Open the door to discussion, and be ready to change your mind if someone else has a good idea.
8. Learn the bigger picture
Develop your business acumen. If you can, ask to sit in meetings with the leadership team. Pay attention and take notes. This shows that you’re interested, and what you learn will be helpful in future interviews.
9. Ask for advice and seek support
Your manager isn’t a mind reader. Unless you tell them you want to move up in the company, they won’t know you’re interested in a new position. The best managers will help you succeed. They might even give you a preview of upcoming job descriptions.
Make sure you trust your boss. Many toxic leaders would either deliberately work against you or let their own insecurities and territorialism get in the way. A 2019 Gallup report suggests that "talent hoarding" managers short-sightedly try to keep their best employees close by not promoting them if the new opportunity would be off the team. Be careful.
10. Show empathy
Being vulnerable and empathetic are vital communication skills. Know how to communicate authentically with others and see things from their point of view.
Relationships are vital to your career development. Try to have coffee with at least one new person per week; it could be a member of the management team or a coworker at your level. The point is to meet new people and build rapport to show your team that you care about them and have the potential to lead — and don't hesitate to add them on LinkedIn. You never know where someone will end up and what opportunities they could offer you.
You got the job — now what?
Congrats. Now it’s time to flex your leadership skills in your managerial role. You need to move thoughtfully and confidently to own this role. There’s no formula dictating how to be a good manager or leader, but here are five ways to start on the right foot:
1. Keep building relationships
As a new manager, you now represent your team to the rest of the organization. You’ll be working with other leaders and department heads. Build a relationship with everyone. This will help you in the long run.
2. Set up one-on-ones with your team
If you’ve been promoted, you may already know your team. Meet them again, for the first time. One of your most important early goals is to build trust and confidence in your team. Not everyone will speak up in a group context, and people often keep their concerns and questions to themselves.
One-on-ones are an effective way to receive feedback. They can also lead to frank conversations and highlight issues that you didn’t know about but have the power to address.
3. Manage up
Being a great manager is about handling your bosses just as much as your staff. People management encompasses the whole team, so maintain your relationship with higher-ups, but defend your employees when necessary. Know your team’s limits, and don’t make promises you can’t keep.
4. Celebrate your wins
Even the smallest victories count. Find reasons to celebrate with your team. This will make you look good to senior management, build morale, and improve teamwork.
5. Get support
Being a first-time manager is overwhelming, no matter how strong your management skills are. BetterUp can help you through your first day, weeks, or the rest of your career. We’ll build you an individualized plan to discover and meet your goals while providing expert guidance on managing your professional relationships.