Leadership optimize

Should you accept a management position?


I recently came across a work forum for engineering professionals. One of the members was weighing the decision of whether to accept a management position in his company. His fear is that his performance as a manager would depend on other people rather than just himself as it currently is.

I thought this list of the pros and cons of management, from Mike Halloran of Pembroke Pines, FL, USA, was pretty interesting:

Pros:

- People who choose managers think you can do it ... or that you are the least awful choice available now.

- You get to choose the team on which you depend ... eventually.

- You get more money.

On the other hand:

- Virtually nothing you do will be fun anymore.

- Your current peers will behave differently toward you.

- You will have to evaluate everything in terms of internal politics, not numbers.

- Until you can build your dream team, you have to work with what you've got, and accept responsibility for whatever they do.

- You won't be the go-to guy anymore, because you'll be in meetings.

- You are afraid. It might be just uncertainty, or it might be your subconscious mind screaming at you.

- They may not give you enough money to offset the negatives. There may not _be_ enough money...

Can you add anything else to the list?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

37 comments
zbatia
zbatia

I did not read the replies, not that I don't respect them but due to time limit today. I want to specify 3 conditions to be met before you can accept the job of a manager. 1. You have to be a leader by the nature, not the follower. 2. You have to be proficient in what your potential employees do. 3. You are not afraid of responsibilities and enjoy challenge of managing people. It maybe simplified but "close to the bone".

professordnm
professordnm

Not everyone is cut out to be a manager... and shouldn't be no matter what. Having been there, my list of suggestions to managerial aspirants is: Make sure the money is there. No dough, no go. Make sure the aspiring manager's supervisory authority parameters are clearly defined, as well as the chain of command over the manager-candidate. Be clear as to what's expected of the manager and his or her department. Realistic goals or chaos containment? Manager aspirants have to be honest with themselves and come to grips with their confidence in delegating, goals fulfillment expectations, job and task assigning, trouble-shooting, and if needed, discipline enforcement. Does the aspirant get a new office, or office setting with a door? Administrative help? If not, I would question the sincerity of intent on the part of management making the offer. Without the visual reinforcement of the promoted manager's authority and positional separation from his/her former peers, there will exist an unworkable casualness that saps away the power of managerial authority. 'Door?' The manager is going to need it when it comes time to interview new prospects, hold undisturbed meetings, or, fire someone. If the managerial aspirant cannot bring himself or herself to fire an underling, then stay away from any managerial position. Finally, can the aspirant motivate people to take on and achieve a departmental goal? If not, don't take the job.

mollenhourb
mollenhourb

Given your pros and cons of being a manager, and your fear that your performance is based on somebody else, you are correct. You should not take a management position. AT THIS TIME, you are not manager material. I know that sounds harsh in a BB posting, but it is not meant as a lifetime condemnation. Perhaps in a couple of years you will feel differently about the position. It's kind of like raising kids. When you are ready, you?re ready. Until then, you wonder why anybody would want to do that, or focus on all the things you see as negatives. All this comes from being a manager in a technology company. It was the best job I ever had, and I went there directly from a revenue producing position where all my pay was based solely on my performance. I loved that job too, but the manager position was even better (right up until the time I got laid off, along with 20% of my staff 8^/ ).

pmtk724
pmtk724

they shouldn't have to agonize over the decision. It ought to be a natural progression - acting upon what's innate in the person. If a technical person makes the transition just for the money and advancement allure, it's probably the wrong decision. If you have a vision for the way things ought to be done, and can influence people to share the vision, go for it. People enjoy working with a manager who is excited, credible, able to set the example, not be afraid to make decisions, and places a high value on individuals. If all this sounds like garbage to you, you probabaly ought to stay in the technical career track. You are no less valuable there, and find a place that rewards you for that value.

Mitch121
Mitch121

I am at this stage as well and many managers have advised me to stay as an engineer cos of the pay and flexability. I,e when you hit manager status you can kiss good bye to overtime, you salary becomes fixed. Where by as an engineer you get overtime and as you skills increase so will your pay etc etc. So I am considering stay as an engineer as a Senior Tech lead and heading into technical consultancy

mdhealy
mdhealy

My boss can still code, but he has very little time to do it. On the whole he enjoys being a manager now, but seeing the stuff he has to put up with gives me VERY little desire ever to have his job. Right now, about half his time is devoted to meetings about one project; yesterday he told me when it's finally rolled-out he will have spent about a month full-time-equivalent on actual implementation of his solution -- and several times that on getting buy-in from all the constituencies involved. Me, I'm glad HE gets to deal with most of the Dilbert stuff, even what gets past him to my level can be aggravating. During a recent visit to my mother-in-law I was reading a Dilbert strip in which a certain buzzword that's currently in favor with PHMs was lampooned; early in the next week I heard THAT EXACT BUZZWORD in a meeting!

mkunkel
mkunkel

I actually just this week made the transition from IT Development to IT Management. I can see where it takes a certain type of person (frankly probably not often found in IT) to make the move, and while on my fifth day, I can see a great deal of success in this area in my future. I made the move into management with a new company, and that has pros and cons too. One, you don't have to worry about previous peers will treat you, and you walk in the door with the respect of the title. However, you also don't know anyone, especially including your team, and as mentioned, you inherit a group that you have to get to know very quickly, while getting the layout of the business, and not to mention implemented technology.

Labrat636
Labrat636

Eventually you will need to accept some kind of management position if you want to advance. It is no accident that those that have more experience and practical knowledge of the job and the politics of the company are the most effective managers. Your management style is up to you. Just remember: It is better to ask then to demand.

Wayne M.
Wayne M.

First, let me assert that management can actually be enjoyable and then address some of the issues raised. 1) You will never be able to pick the team you want. You will always have to work with the people you have. One of the joys of management is seeing your people develop and improve. The flip side is that you will have to give your people tasks that they are not yet qualified to do (this is called career growth) and then hang on and try to enjoy the rollercoaster ride. 2) On the technical side, successes are not entirely due to personal effort. There is quite a bit of effort from the management side to assign tasks that people will succeed at and make sure the people have the skills, resources, and support to receive. 3) On the positive side, good management skills do not become obsolete. Management version 2007 will not come out and negate your years of experience. Management is still a creative task. Managers still need to analyze situations, diagnose problems, and identify solutions. The difference is that you are working with people instead of machines. The joy is that when you are working with machines, you are trying to get the machine to do what it is capable of doing, with people, you get to see them increase their capability.

Wayne M.
Wayne M.

I strongly believe that a manager in a technology industry, especially the first level manager, needs to be knowledgeable about the technology in use. I think the term "proficient" implies a higher level of knowledge than I think is necessary or even feasible. At one time, I was proficient in C++, and, in my own mind at least, I am still above average. I also realize that the technology has moved on. I have managed Java developers who were far more experienced in Java that I was or that I have any desire to be. I have managed Oracle DBAs who were far more experienced than me. I have managed VB programmers who were far more experienced than me. I do still try to stay current with technology and I do try to introduce newer technology, tools, frameworks, etc, to my team. I also recognize that I cannot do the final evaluation of whether any of these new things is worthwhile; I need to rely on my team to evaluate what is right for them. Am I going to dive in and be the hero when the crisis hits? No, I lost that edge long ago. In those cases my role is largely limited to being a sounding board, buying coffee and pizza, and acting as a guard dog against the rest of the world. A technical manager must be knowledgeable about the technology being used in his organization, otherwise his sole function is to generate status reports. To be or remain proficient in any of the technologies, however, would require the manager to neglect his other duties.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Point 1 I wish was accepted. Point 2 To what purpose ?

Wayne M.
Wayne M.

Though I do not believe that this was the intent of pmtk724's post, I would caution (especially first level supervisors) people not to go into management to enforce "the way things ought to done." One must be careful as a manager to propose generally good parcatices and not personal preferences. I have seen too many first time managers get into trouble by try to force all reports to be a carbom copy close of the (idealized) manager. If one cannot convince one's teammates to follow a practice by persuasion, one should not attempt to force one's reports to follow the practice by mandate. Title often conveys little in the way of authority.

mmoran
mmoran

The idea that because someone does a particular job well, he or she will automatically do well managing others doing that job, is an unfortunately common assumption and a very mistaken one. Worse, it actually trivializes the very real and distinct set of skills and talents that a successful manager must possess. I've made two brief forays into management, separated by 20-some years, and in each case quickly concluded that it was a poor match. The mantle of authority sits very awkwardly on my shoulders, and while a good manager must be a leader, it is quite possible to be a leader without being a manager. (I'm sure we've all been in situations which demonstrated that the reverse is equally possible ;>) Salary and career advancement issues aside, I would rather have others follow my lead because they respect my demonstrated technical competence than because someone hung a title on me. That's just who I am, your mileage may vary.

minda
minda

My guess is you're possibly better off in the new company without the expectations that would have gone with your old role...sometimes hard to go from colleague to boss, and puts you in an awful position if something goes wrong and you need to deal with problem performance by any of your former peers... Good luck in your new role! Minda Zetlin The Geek Gap www.geekgap.com

CodeBubba
CodeBubba

Maybe to some - but there's also the "Peter Principle" which managers ought to read BEFORE they become managers. >> It is no accident that those that have more experience and practical knowledge of the job and the politics of the company are the most effective managers

sramveen
sramveen

Bottom-line is how well you can interact with people. That is true in personal and professional lives. Learn to understand people which is part of the growing process and trust your instinct when it comes down to the wire. There will be ups and downs and almost no one who are at the helm has escaped this process. It is your choice if you want to reach the top spot or not. No guarantee that you will get the top spot but not taking the management job will ensure that you WILL NOT get the top spot. Either you can live in the comfort zone forever or you can step out and face it. Life is too short not to take chances!!

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]Eventually you will need to accept some kind of management position if you want to advance.[/i] First, not enough employers provide for technical advancement except into management. Second, more than a few technicians lack the skills to succeed in management. Some of the worst managers I've seen or worked with (myself included) were highly qualified techs who took (or were forced to take) the management job to advance, only to realize they had neither the temperament nor the people skills to succeed in the position. In my experience, the most effective managers understand their people and are able to motivate them to complete the assigned tasks on time (if possible). Such managers also understand that if the project succeeds, the team gets the credit, but if the project fails, the manager takes the blame. Broad knowledge of the technology is required, but specific technical knowledge is not essential. Edit: formatting

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

salary progression. Companies that provide for a technical progression are few and far between. The idea that you advance your IT career by moving into management is twaddle, what you are actually doing is switching careers. Nothing wrong with that, I must add. But I'm not sure it's for me, though I have been tempted to give it a go once or twice.

vaidyashish
vaidyashish

No matter wht ppl say on that i would like to take the offer as it gives me opportunity to tourture ppl(just kidding).To manage the ppl is the most difficult task as every person is different in nature, and to do it successfully is a big challenge and wht we luk forward is a challenge.

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

Let me think about it. OK. I'll do it.References available opon request. :) Over the years I've seen a lot of people move into management. If they're unprepared for it they've generally provided me with a lot of entertainment. To me, the successful managers don't equate being a manager with being "the boss" but have more of an Elementary school teacher approach because all too often work is just like grade school for adults. It's been like that everyplace I've ever worked anyway. I think that getting a "good job" or an "attaboy" is the same as getting a Gold star for the day. Never say it unless you really mean it and as a manager don't ever expect to hear it.What other nuggets do I have here? It's my opinion that a good manager should pretty much lose the use of the words "never" and "always". Machines don't "always" and "never" do anything much less people. My experience has been that management is similar to running a machine or a group of machines only it's more dynamic and performance can vary with the weather. I can "tell" a machine exactly what to do and expect a certain outcome but if I "boss" a person I never really know what the end result is going to be. I might be able to guess pretty close but I've definitely been surprised at some results. I think that's it's important that a manager know their people specifically as individuals and actually like people in general to be effective.Don't put them down. Help them up and give credit where credit is due. Edited to add that if a person doesn't think that being a manager can be fun they shouldn't do it. Being in management can be a blast.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

make is to forget that people are part of a computer system. Other than I find little to argue with.

Tig2
Tig2

I find that because I have been in the trenches, I bring a different understanding to the technology table that other managers may not. My teams know that I can speak the technical side with them and then translate that to business effectively. They also know that I will respect their technical opinions while asking intelligent questions. Finally, because I have an awareness of how to write code, I don't go to my developers with insufficient requirements. I know what the minimum information they require is and we can work together to insure that we have gotten that from business. Another element potentially in play here though may the differences in how we manage between the US and UK. But I am guessing there.

$dunk$
$dunk$

[i]No guarantee that you will get the top spot but not taking the management job will ensure that you WILL NOT get the top spot. Either you can live in the comfort zone forever or you can step out and face it. Life is too short not to take chances!! [/i] Maybe it's just me, but your post has an air of arrogance to it. Your wording implies that the technical people are somehow *beneath* you. The way I read this, is that you are implying that the people who prefer to stay technical are only willing to live in their comfort zone and aren't willing to take chances. Thus, they aren't as good as those who choose the management path, because they are taking chances. You fail to realize that people choose careers for other reasons than to get to the *top spot*. Pushing paper, smoozing with other managers and sitting in meetings is not very rewarding to many people, no matter how successful they might be at it. I agree that there are many *technical* people who who live in a comfort zone of what they know (maybe that's what you've seen). However, I know of no [b]good[/b] technical people who live in a comfort zone and don't take chances. In fact, they usually take too many chances. These are the people who spend ungodly amounts of time learning new skills and taking the chances on finding ways to apply new skills on the job in order to improve the company products. On the other hand, I have seen 2 common types of people advance to management. The 1st and most common are those who find it too difficult to keep up the *technical* pace. Their salary reaches a point where it no longer matches their capabilities. Thus, moving into management is not *taking a chance*, it's mere survival. The 2nd are those that are forced into the management route because it is the only move that will allow the salary to keep advancing, even though their skills are deserving of higher salary. I'm quite certain that nearly all managers put themselves in the 2nd category, but I'm also quite certain that nearly all those same manager's peers put them in the 1st category. It continues to amaze me why this perception of manager = better exists. It's just a different job at the same company. Just my opinion, but there may be little *real* value provided by most managers. While good technical people provide significant value.

travisn000
travisn000

This post remind me of the fortune cookie I had with lunch yesterday.. "Why not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is?" (..and in case you are wondering, the lucky numbers are 3, 15, 46, 2, 11, 17) Good luck with your decision... I've been considering a move out of the people business, not becuase I can't do it (I have been succecfully for years), but becuase I just don't find it as rewarding at the end of the day.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Your first interaction with me, and you described me as a coward, an under achiever and a failure. 'nuff said eh?

Labrat636
Labrat636

There are very few rungs on the ladder for a "pure" technical advancement. I had to accept a management position to stay here. But it is really just a title. I'm more like a non-commisioned officer, I actually work. And, I'm still hourly and not salary.

Labrat636
Labrat636

It depends on what level of management. I've found that having a small team to lead, allows me to get much more done. I wouldn't want to run a whole department though. If one is already a Senior Technician, where else can they go besides management?

sysconp1
sysconp1

I agree with Tony's comments, it is a career change to move to management. The practical skills you have learnt help you to make more informed and accurate decisions as a manager. I would see a possible move to management as an opportunity to get things done the way you want them to be done rather than the way you were told to do them. But management isn't for everyone, some people thrive and others really just want to get their hands dirty in the IT soup. Sometimes the best way to see if you would like a management position is to be detached to a role that is away from your normal office as a temp manager and see how things go. If it works you could look at taking the role offered, if it doesn't you can fall back into your normal role with no loss of face or confidence.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

One of the few times Maxwell and I have agreed, when he came out with that. Works much better than hire based on academic success, and elevating the comfort of mediocrity.

drowningnotwaving
drowningnotwaving

In many people's minds and perhaps based on their experience, management means tell, order, rule - as you say, coerce and command. There are heaps of occassions where an employee will have a level of skill, a talent, degrees of training (or whatever measure you wish to apply in a given circumstance) that makes their ability to do a certain job significantly better than the manager could ever be. In IT it is everywhere. The same goes in the marketing, sales, accounting, manufacturing, warehousing depts etc etc etc. A good manager, in such cases, is the one that facilitates that expert to do their job as best they can. This could mean giving them an ear to shout at, "riding shotgun" against other managers or departments, providing temporary assistance on particular projects, helping the person to prioritise the myriad projects that such people tend to juggle, making sure they attend relevant industry events or training or whatever. Sometimes it is even to remind them just how good they are when they strike a problem. Sometimes it is managing their ego and team impact. {And that doesn't mean "smashing their ego into submission" or forcing them to be what they are not. There is nothing wrong with having a prima donna, as long as their performance lifts rather than hinders the other members of the team.} In such cases I'd suggest a manager needs to effective at management, not expert at the particular role. Two rules I love about being a manager: * ALWAYS hire someone who you think has the potential to do the job better than you; and * Hire for attitude and train the skill. Every time I broke those rules I've regretted it. I'd love to say I wont make those mistakes ever again but in all likelihood ... :)

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

but if you are staying up to date and stopping your skill set getting rusty, who's doing the managing? Generally that's the big failing of the tech who goes into management for the pay rise. I had a very good non technical manager who taught me to communicate 'business' fashion. He taught me as much about being a good developer as any tech guru I've paid attention to. Any manager who has to second guess his people on what they are employed for needs, to manage to not have to the need to do it. Otherwise they are failing their responsibilities. It can happen and as Tigger said they might have to get their hands dirty, but going in with that attitude is simply preparing to fail. Not addressing the real problem is actively achieving failure. I suppose it was a bit harsh, but when I saw point two I was almost expecting that response. You get that one far more often than 'so you can effectively communicate with your people'. After all it's only us tech types who fail at that. :(

stew
stew

That seemed a little harsh, Tony, but I agree with you. A manager need have no real idea what his (yes, or her) people do to manage effectively. The manager needs to understand the product sufficiently at a business level, not at a technical level, and then must find and trust competent people to work for him. I have worked for many managers over the years. Those that thought they were my technical equal weren't by far and were frequently wrong about technical matters and only served to annoy or belittle me. Those that relied on my experience and opinions, and/or those of other trustworthy team members, were terrific managers that led their teams to great productivity and results. That is, those that allowed the team to provide the technical details while managing the group and general direction fared far better. I don't mean to say that a highly technical manager, nearly or equally as skilled those being managed can't do well, but the manager has to facilitate the work of the managed and learn to trust them rather than coerce or command them. Those with too much technical skill can too easily fall into the latter.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

In fact you've contradicted yourself quite badly. You obviously have no respect for your people, why would you respect someone who you can't trust or rely on. Do you respect people who feel you are unreliable and or untrustworthy? If you do you are admitting that you are unworthy of such things. If you wouldn't do so, why should anyone else ? Do you follow people you don't respect?

Tig2
Tig2

I agree entirely with that viewpoint as well and was pretty sure that was your meaning. The other plus that you can bring to the table with a good, relevant technical skill set is the ability in crisis to DO the work. I've has it happen and would have failed in delivering the project if I couldn't jump in and sweat with the team.

zbatia
zbatia

Good answer. When you have the knowledge that your employees have, they respect you more; they don't fool around with you; you are aware what's going on from the technical point of view and don't rely on someone's words. Is that enough to prove my opinion? :-)

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Effectively a succession of job titles Principle Developer, architect, senior architect, Principle Architect .... Basically the further up the more abstract, but occasionally diving into the detail for proof of concepts etc. A lot of places this would be done by an ex tech promoted into management just to give them an increase in salary. But then you get some one shouting about how they manage 50 people and Archie the architect manages none. So I think it's a good distinction. Especially if it avoids 'promoting' a valued techie into management just to keep him, then lose his value because he's sorting out holiday rotas and doing assessments and such.

wbaltas
wbaltas

I recently made the jump to management, and it is a career change, but it doesn't have to be traumatizing. I'm fortunate that my company has an extensive management and supervisor training program, and this helps a lot. I also had a chance to negotiate a little with my director and this helped me tailor the job somewhat to my personality. I still get my hands on equipment and this gives me a great relationship with my staff. Other managers think this is strange, but I don't have problems that other managers have because they may have lost touch with technical duties. Don't get me wrong, I still have the performance reviews to conduct, the budgets to put together, the projects to fund, and I have to listen to and respond to other department managers, but if you get along with your staff, and they respect you (and you must respect them), it will work out well. In my old position as a Sr. Network Analyst, I worked a lot of overtime and got a lot of midnight calls. I love the fact that I don't get calls at 2:00 a.m. with our carrier has a circuit problem or when power goes out in an area, etc. Management can be very challenging and stressful, but it can be rewarding. If your company does not have an extensive management training program, see if a local college or university has a continuing education program to cover day-to-day management issues v.s. a degree which is more strategic oriented training. Also, do what I did and try to negotiate before you accept the position. Good Luck Bill Baltas