Below is a small sample of Embrace The Lead, Mitch Mitchell's first book on leadership.
Different people have different ways they got into management. Some have been leaders all their lives. Some got there because they were good at the job they were doing. Some got there because of their educational background, or previous work experience.
Are you a new manager? Did you walk in the door starting a brand new job and someone laid the title of team leader, supervisor, coordinator, manager, director, chief, vice president, president, or CEO on you? I doubt it, unless you started your own business.
In practical experience, people get promoted for usually two reasons. The first is that they showed some kind of aptitude in the job they were doing and someone said "Hey, let's promote this guy". The second is that you've been around so long that someone figures you must know something, and maybe you can impart that knowledge onto someone else.
In any case, most of the time when someone is promoted into a lower management position, they will have had no practical leadership experience; they certainly didn't have any previous job experience in management for that company. When you look at your peers in management, I'm betting many of you are saying "How the heck did that guy become a manager?" The rest of you are saying "I wonder if I can get my project finished correctly because those other guys don't have what it takes."
Initially, you had it very easy. Whether you came out of high school or college, all you had to do was go to work, do your job, and go home; someone else had the worries. Now, suddenly it's you, and in some instances you still have to do some of the actual work while managing other people. This can be a very scary proposition for most people, which begs the question 'Why do people accept positions they don't think they're qualified for anyway?'
Like most other things, there are many reasons this occurs. The biggest reason is that it pays more money to be a leader than a regular worker; that was simple. Another reason is that some people feel if they don't take it their superiors will think less of them, and they'll never get another opportunity, which, unfortunately, is true more often than I'd like to say.
Still another reason is that someone really thinks they're ready for the job; this is the most tricky one of all, because some people haven't come to grips with the reality that they've never led anything more serious in their lives than a bar discussion on who's the better piano player, Billy Joel or Elton John. Other minor reasons are diverse and usually pretty petty: because I deserve it; because I'm smarter than anyone else; because it will look good on my resume; because I really want that other job and this will help me get it; I don't know, I'll just take it; on and on.
I truly believe that the majority of people have no idea how to manage other people. This is just a point of fact; it's not an attempt to blame anyone or any system. Every single organization I can think of that has any significant number of employees has more employees than it has managers; that's just the way it's supposed to be.
Very few people in this world start out at the top of the management ladder, and those that do have usually either started their own businesses or worked for their parent's family-owned business, which often means they at least had some kind of training in the business. For ladies, being a manager is quite different from being the mother; I'm not saying that one is tougher than the other, although I'll never have the opportunity to be a mother, but your immediate audience is much different. The answer "Because I said so," an answer children hate, is tolerated more than if you use it on an adult. I'm always amazed when I hear a manager use that particular phrase on an adult employee. I often wonder if managers who use phrases like that on their employees speak to their friends that way; I doubt it.
Truthfully, the most effective management style will always be closest to what your personality is, and often times, I hate to say, but if you have a bad personality you will be a bad manager. That doesn't necessarily hold true the other way around, because there's some people who have very open and friendly personalities who will be bad managers because they don't have what it takes to get the job done. None of this has anything to do with a person's intelligence, because some of the smartest people are some of the worst managers.
Why did I go into management? Initially, it was just because someone offered it to me; simple as that. I was a regular worker, a billing person, putting in my 8 hours a day and then going home. Well, okay, I was actually putting in 9 hours a day, but very few people knew that.
When I initially got the position, I was living at home with my parents, and I used to ride into work with my dad. Because he left very early in the morning, I had to obviously leave with him very early. This left me with two options: one, sitting in McDonalds for an hour reading the morning newspaper, or two, going into the office and doing some extra work. I got tired of the morning newspaper really quickly, so I went into the office.
I have to admit, I was pretty good at what I was doing, and learned most of it relatively fast, so one of the first things I used to do when I got into the office in the morning was take someone else's accounts and bill them. Sounds fairly sneaky, but that wasn't my intention. I knew that a couple of my co-workers had some trouble keeping up with their workload, so I would just help them out. It wasn't anything I didn't volunteer to do during the regular work day when they were there, so I figured they wouldn't mind my helping out.
What I didn't know is that the computer tracked how many billed accounts each person was putting out; not which accounts, just numbers. And, of course, within a few months I was way above everyone else, and on a consistent basis. So, based on this, I was offered the chance to move up after only 8 months on the job. And though I'd really like to say that I had this overwhelming urge to take the job and show what I could really do, to be this great leader of souls, to change everyone's lives for the better,... the reality is all I thought was 'I can do it, so why not.' End of story.
There are many reasons why people get into management and why people accept management positions, whether they're qualified to handle it or not. Most people never know at the time they're offered a leadership position exactly what it was that motivated them into accepting it, or what motivated someone else to decide " Hey, I think I'm going to make that person a team leader, or supervisor, or a manager, or director,…" or any other lofty position titles you can think of. I have identified nine possible reasons that people end up with some kind of management responsibility:
A. Earned promotion.
If you've ever watched any of the old cop dramas you have probably heard the line "If you solve this crime you'll probably get a promotion." That concept probably isn't all that far from the truth. Every day people have an opportunity to try to excel at the job that they do, and people are always watching them to see how well those people are doing. If someone is doing exemplary work over and over, at some point they will have earned a chance to be promoted into some kind of management position. This doesn't mean they're qualified for the position, but they've earned their shot at it.
B. More money.
This is the most common reason that people accept higher responsibilities. And who can blame them; after all, aren't we all out there trying to get as much money as we possibly can? It's probably one of the worst reasons to ever accept a management position, because once you're into any kind of management level position you suddenly have to rely more on the work of others than on your own talents, and if you haven't developed any personal skills which will help to encourage others to work for you then you're going to be lost and your reputation within that particular company will never be the same again.
C. Good at a job.
This is almost the same as an earned promotion, but it's probably not as dramatic a move. Usually this person has been very steady at doing a particular function and doing that function well, and someone above them decides that maybe they will also be good in some management capacity.
D. Been around a long time.
How many times have you heard "You know, so-and-so has been here almost 20 years, and I think it's time for promotion," or something like that? Longevity has promoted more people than I care to remember, and at least some of the times those people think it's about time they were asked. Except for reasons beyond that person's control (such as a glass ceiling for women or the lack of opportunities for minorities and such), usually there was a reason these people didn't get opportunities earlier. Quite possibly they knew they weren't ready earlier; more often than not, though, they weren't ready then, and they're not ready now. They're often the best choice available at the present time. It doesn't mean they may not end up being pretty good, but the reason they got the position is a weak one.
E. Afraid to turn it down because another opportunity might not come, or upper management might get mad.
I've heard this one often from people who know they don't want to deal with the politics of the position or some of the people they know they would have to work with. Yet they end up taking a position they really don't want out of some kind of what I considered to be irrational fear of upper management not treating them fairly later on based on the decision they really want to make. The reality, unfortunately, is that within an organization another opportunity may never come up, and if so then those are the breaks.
F. Truly believes they can do a better job.
Whether they can or not, you're usually hoping that the majority of people who accept management positions are doing it for this reason. In some companies this probably takes on a cutthroat mentality because everyone may feel that they can do the job better than anyone else. I have rarely hired the person who thinks they can do the job over a person I feel can do the job, but I know I'm on the minority side of this one.
G. So someone else doesn't get it.
I almost hate to admit to this, but I have often encouraged certain individuals to put in for position that I know they're qualified for to try to keep it from someone who I know would do a terrible job. There are people who see this for themselves, who really don't want to be in management, yet don't want to suffer the consequences of working for a particular individual, either because that individual is inept or because as co-workers they don't belong in a supervisory capacity. Sometimes this isn't fair, but the reality is that if someone gets a position on the basis of not wanting someone else to have it, that person was probably pretty good to begin with; at least they interviewed better anyway.
H. It looks good on a resume.
Unfortunately the truth is that it will look good on a resume, but if it's the only reason a person is taking a position then they're probably already plotting their eventual decision to leave.
I. Wants a different job and sees this as a stepping stone.
This is different than 'H' because this person isn't looking to leave a particular company, but is looking to establish themselves so that they can go higher within that same company. I have no problems with this person because if they ever do get the opportunity for further advancement within the same company, they'll at least know about more than one area of the organization.
In the long run, does it matter how someone got a management position once they're there? Not as far as I'm concerned. You and they are in the position now, and you can't control them, at least not initially, until you've learned how to handle management in your own right. What are you going to do with your opportunity? Do you know how to do what it takes to be a good manager? What are you, a jerk or something (more on that later)?
For more information, please contact:
T. T. Mitchell Consulting, Inc.
P. O. Box 2512
Liverpool, NY 13090