Misguided Advice from Monster about Aspiring to a Leadership Role
We found some poor advice to young workers on Monster.com today. In a column title “5 Signs You’re Not Cut Out for Management,” the writer, Dominique Rodgers, cobbles together some interesting insights from HR industry veterans into a column that ends up less than its parts, and gives a false template for an aspiring employee to use when thinking about whether he or she is ready to pursue a supervisor’s role.
Given our decades of watching surprising leaders spring up out of nowhere in hundreds of organizations, we can safely say that leaders are not born, they are made by caring bosses. And “born leaders” who exhibit the standard outward behavior of leadership (confidence and competence in their assigned role) do not predictably pan out without similar support.
Let’s explore the writer’s five indicators of poor fit for management, and see where I disagree with her:
You are a pushover
Rodgers stipulates that a person who needs to please everyone won’t make the transition to management successfully. “If someone like this is promoted,” she writes, “they often have trouble prioritizing, making tough calls, and realizing they can’t please everyone.”
This statement applies to any position in any organization, and is not exclusive to management. These are also fixable problems, with coaching and encouragement. (We usually can fix such issues in 90 days or less, in fact.)
Certainly, leaders need to make hard decision on occasion. They need to be truthful with employees about performance, and hold them to their commitments. In our experience, these are teachable skills, so if you do not yet have them, you can acquire them.
You need constant feedback
Rodgers states that a manager’s job is giving feedback. That is a big part of a manager’s role, and learning how to give feedback constructively is a skill that needs to be learned. However, seeking feedback is also a key leadership success factor. You cannot fully engage with your subordinates without seeking feedback from them (and everyone else you work with) about how you can improve and be an even better boss. Turning off a desire to seek performance advice is poor advice for a new manager to take!
You are inflexible
I agree with this one, but once again point out that inflexibility in any job will lead to poor performance, so this behavior needs to be fixed pronto, even if the person is not seeking to move into a supervisorial role.
You don’t have a poker face
This section is downright destructive and must be ignored by aspiring managers. First, as a manager you have no right to hate anyone, and need to fix that attitude quickly. Your job is to improve the performance of every employee, so you attack those behaviors that might cause you to “hate” and put a program in place with that employee to improve performance.
Second, if you have to walk into a meeting with an employee and deliver unexpected news that they have been fired, you have failed as a leader. You should have been working with that person to correct the behaviors that have been causing poor performance and keeping on top of their progress. Any meeting to fire someone should have no drama and no surprises in it, because the result is expected.
You are a control freak
This fifth point is spot on, aside from the bit about pageant moms, whose reputation for being control freaks contradicts the point Rodgers is trying to make.
The biggest adjustment between working as a frontline employee and taking a manager’s role is switching your focus from doing tasks to leading people. You were probably the best at what you did, because you won the promotion. Now you have to step back and guide those still doing what you did, without stepping in to do it for them. You have to accept and correct failure, rather than fix the problem yourself.
Conversely, thousands of people make the transition from doing to leading successfully every year. So take the challenge, and demand support from your new boss in making the change work.
The Bottom Line on Fitness for Management
Too many organizations make the mistake of judging people on superficial behavior that is appropriate to the person’s current role and forecasting that as poor management material.
Leadership is an acquired skill that most people can obtain with training, coaching and on-the-job experience. If you as a leader are willing to provide that to your employees, you will uncover the diamonds-in-the-rough that will blossom unexpectedly into the leaders you need to drive your business forward. Everyone deserves the chance to prove their worth in seeking promotions. Never shut someone down prematurely.
Are you stepping up to provide such guidance to your employees? Are you looking for take spark of interest that can be nurtured into full aspiration with encouragement? How do you explore these areas of interest with your team? What methods of encouragement and on-the-job experimentation do you use to winkle out leadership potential?
BTW: A companion article on Monster that gives much more constructive, useful guidance can be found here, titled “Five Signs You’d Make a Great Boss.”