This distinction is especially critical when moving into leadership positions. Going from a non-managerial to a managerial role involves more than just a switch in title, salary (hopefully!), and maybe office location. A supervisor takes on specific responsibilities. And team members who aren’t ready for managerial duties might do themselves and their companies more harm than good.
A 2020 Society for Human Resource Management survey found that 84% of U.S. workers believed bad, poorly trained managers added unnecessary stress and work. What makes for a bad manager? From respondents’ viewpoints, the issue was inadequate training in how to manage people. In other words, those leaders were just not ready for their roles, whether because of their own or their employers’ lack of planning.
The point here is straightforward: If you want to move into management, you have to make sure you’re ready. Otherwise, you and your direct reports might face challenges beyond just those first few transitional weeks when you’re trying to figure everything out.
How can you tell if you are manager material? Answer the below questions—with total honesty.
1. Are you succeeding in your current position?
You might have heard of the Peter Principle. It suggests that, in many organizations, the hierarchical structure results in people being promoted to their level of incompetence, which leads them to a career plateau. Whether or not the Peter Principle is entirely accurate doesn’t matter. You’ve probably encountered colleagues in positions you felt were too advanced for their abilities. And you don’t want to follow suit.
One way you can avoid becoming an example of the Peter Principle is to show acumen in your current job. Bob Marsh, chief revenue officer at Bluewater, a design-forward technology firm that supports brands through sensory storytelling across digital and physical canvases, explains what this means: “Employees who don’t hit or exceed their goals aren’t prepared to move up,” he writes. “Let’s say you’re a salesperson who wants to move into sales management. You need to be 100% committed to doing what it takes to exceed your sales goals and build positive internal relationships over several years before you can seriously be considered for management.”
Conduct a quick review of your past performance record. Do you consistently and genuinely give your all and succeed? If not, identify your skill gaps and fill them appropriately. Ask for assistance, such as mentoring or advanced training.
2. Are you an agent of change?
Leaders should be able to successfully move their teams into and through change. Being a champion of change isn’t easy. You want to approach change by being open minded and easing into the process. You don't want to cause everyone to panic with any abrupt changes. You want a smooth, thoughtful and peaceful transition.
One technique for introducing change in a low-key but noticeable way is to speak up in one-on-one and group meetings. Present concepts that others haven’t considered, emphasizing the goals that you and your audience share. Backing up your proposals with verifiable evidence can help you influence decisions without turning away your teammates while showing that you’re ready for a role in management.
3. Can you measure your results?
When applying for a managerial role, you want to be able to back up your claims of readiness with numbers. These could be anything from statistics to annual performance “grades.” Having metrics on hand persuades stakeholders that you can be an asset in a new role, but it also gives you a way to determine for yourself whether you’re ready before you even apply for that new role.
Never thought about yourself in these terms before? You don’t have to go too far out of the box. Just remember that almost anything can be measured. For instance, you might mention that every year, you have earned a bonus commission for exceeding your sales goals. Or you might say that you’ve won the customer support employee of the year award three times in a row in response to high CSAT responses. Perhaps you were chosen as a project team leader 10 times in the past two years. These are all measurable—and memorable—stats.
What happens if you find it too hard to demonstrate your effectiveness in measurable ways? You might not be quite ready to apply for a managerial opening. In that case, try taking on more work and leadership tasks to showcase your mastery. And invest time in professional development. Leaders capitalize on their superpowers, but they learn new leadership skills as well.
Self-reflection may not always feel comfortable, but it can help you avoid diving into management too soon. Being self-aware is critical for building your personal brand as a people manager. It’s better to wait to take on the title of director, supervisor, or team leader than to stumble mightily after accept an offer that was out of your league.
Once you’re able to provide the right answers to these three questions, take that first step confidently.