Management Positions: How to Get There and Excel
There are a variety of reasons otherwise-qualified individuals miss out on management positions. The problem is often simply a lack of planning and preparation. This month, we’ll look at ways to help you increase your chances of winning the job. But that’s only half the battle. Once you’ve been awarded the position, you want to excel at it, so we’ll also consider the qualities that distinguish a good manager from a great one.
First: Get the Job
Ask for it: If your supervisor is unaware of your career goals, he won’t be able to help you reach them. Let your boss know you want to work toward a role in management and present your qualifications and relevant experience, highlighting the steps you’ve taken to build your managerial skills. And don’t forget to report measurable results or the specific ways you’ve improved efficiency, accomplished key goals or saved the company money, as these are important qualities for any management candidate.
Go beyond your job requirements: Typically, employees who are promoted find ways to add value to the company by improving workflow, reducing expenses or bolstering the bottom line. For example, you could volunteer to lead a high-priority IT initiative that could save the company money. On a more modest scale, you might come up with ways to reduce response time when end users need technical assistance.
Develop your soft skills: Up-to-the-minute technical expertise is not the only qualification a good IT manager needs. It’s also critical to develop your soft skills, such as written and verbal communications, diplomacy, business acumen and leadership capabilities. In fact, you likely won’t be an effective manager unless you’ve developed these abilities since you’ll need to work with and motivate a variety of personality types. Your communication skills also will come into play when you’re interacting with people from other departments or executives in your company.
Find a mentor: More than 50 percent of the CIOs polled by Robert Half Technology said they benefited from having a mentor at some point in their careers. Choose someone you feel is an effective or inspiring leader, and ask for guidance and advice. Talk to your mentor about how she reached her current position and what strategies she found useful in advancing her career. If your mentor happens to be a colleague at work (she doesn’t have to be), she also can help you navigate office politics and broaden your network of key contacts within the company.
Next: Excel on the Job
Once you’ve landed a management position, it’s essential for you to hone your supervisory skills, establish credibility and win the support of your staff, beginning with communication.
Communicate effectively: You developed your soft skills on the road to becoming a manager, and this is where they’ll help you in your new role. Always keep your team informed of project goals, priorities and deadlines. Effective communication is essential in boosting your staff’s confidence in your leadership. Give clear directions and welcome questions and feedback from others. You’ll also want to maintain an open-door policy so your employees know that you are willing to listen and help provide solutions to problems.
Help employees see the “big picture”: Explain to your staff how their assignments and functions fit into the company’s overall goals. This helps them to understand how every task they complete impacts the company’s reputation, success and bottom line.
Offer positive feedback: If you haven’t thought much about how praise can affect staff satisfaction, consider the results of a survey by our company that revealed that lack of recognition is a leading reason people leave their jobs. By publicly recognizing employee efforts and achievements, you not only build confidence but also encourage future contributions. Get a sense of how each staff member prefers to be recognized. One person might appreciate a personal note, while someone else will prefer acknowledgement in a team meeting.
Be a mentor yourself: Make yourself available to staff members and show interest in their career development with the company. Try to offer each person projects in their areas of interest, if possible. Your staff will appreciate your commitment to their progress.
It’s not surprising that there are a lot of parallels between the skills required to win a job in management and those you need to be a first-rate supervisor. By demonstrating leadership abilities, building your soft skills and recognizing the importance of mentors, you’ll possess some of the essential qualities to help you become a manager and succeed in your new role.
Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology (www.roberthalftechnology.com), a leading provider of IT professionals for various initiatives, with more than 100 locations in North America and Europe.