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I found a nice quote about management:

Management as a career path is not right for everyone. You have to like responsibility. You have to enjoy working with people. You have to be able to deal with uncertainty and making decisions when you never seem to have all the facts in time.

If I feel I lack in all of these areas, yet I am compelled to pursue a management career, how do I go about starting?

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    How are you compelled to pursue a management career? If your employer is forcing you into that, ask them for training. If you feel compelled to pursue a management career only because you want make more money, have more power, or get more prestige, you may want to re-consider these goals and whether management is the best way to them.
    – GreenMatt
    Jul 3, 2013 at 14:31
  • Very related: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/77636/…
    – MackM
    Oct 12, 2016 at 17:19

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I hate to get all Zen and Yoda-like on you... but this one begins with soul searching.

Soul Searching

Quite honestly, if you don't like managing people... don't do it. Seriously.

That seems easy and obvious at first, but the pressures of most societies will push people towards management. In most cases, management has (or at least seems to have):

  • more prestige
  • more control over the state of the business
  • more money

But I've found that some elements of this assumption aren't true when you peel back the layers of the organization. For example - it's not uncommon to be able to find a high-talent individual contributor job for similar money to a low/mid level management job. Prestige & control comes in all forms - the manager may have the big office, but the very senior engineer may actually hold more power when it comes to important tool, process, and functionality decisions.

So.. if you honestly don't like these elements, reconsider why you are "compelled" to pursue a management career, and whether the compelling force is coming from your internal motivation or the pressures around you...

Important elements:

  • You have to actually like people. And not just happy, productive people - you may not have to love whining, ranting or in-eptitude (I don't know anyone who does!) but you have to be able to see the good in people and help them pull out the best parts of themselves for getting the job done.

  • You have to like uncertainty and risk and incomplete information

  • You have to like balancing the compromises of corporate culture while bringing out the best in your team

  • You have to like stepping away from day to day details to see and plan for a bigger picture.

A simple test - if you walk into the office every day thinking about how you can make your team better, and what you can do with and for your people - you actually want to do this job. If you walk into the office excited about a tool, product feature, or hard technical problem that you want to fix - you do not want to be a manager.

There's no brain transplant here - no forum in the world will help you figure out how to want something you don't want.

Why is wanting to be a manager so critical?

A person can do any number of tasks that they hate when the tasks don't involve people - the computer really doesn't care whether you like it or not when you're trying to fix it. If you have the competency, you have the competency.

People are different. Their motivation depends on your motivation. Their trust in the ability of the team to succeed is linked to your faith on whether the task is doable. How you frame the problem, give feedback and explain importance will determine how your team interprets your goals for them.

And people don't communicate in words alone. Body language, tone of voice, pausing between words, microfacial expressions - the way humans communicate is emotion-filled, even when it's a technical problem. Say one thing and mean another - and they will figure it out.

Some people can rise above a bad manager. But they shouldn't have to. If you really hate this, there's no way to build some skills that compensate for how much you dislike the job.

It's not Hate, it's Lack of Skill

OK, that's fair. If you honestly want to get better at communication and managing uncertainty, and any dislike is just coming from discomfort - then great, we'v got some areas we can work on.

  • Practice - no matter how inept you are, practice. It's easy in management to avoid doing things you are bad at. So weak skills stay weak. Force yourself. No matter how bad you are at a given area, trying, checking your work, and trying agin are better than ignoring the gap and hoping it fixes itself.

  • Repetition - not the same thing as practice. If you practice software development, for example, you would never just recompile the code hoping that this time the compiler would understand what you mean. The natural instinct of a good developer is try something new, learn from the mistake, and build a better model for the next step. This can work with people, but also realize that (unlike compilers) repetition adds importance. If I tell you do something in passing, it may not be important. If I tell you, remind you, and email you about it - you'll get that this important, even if my syntax was largely the same. This is a real key with deadlines - deadlines that are important get spoken about alot.

  • Ask Questions - they won't actually reduce uncertainty in a clear way. But they serve a very valuable purpose - they tell you how your team thinks, and they show your team that you care how they think. Also, for most knowledge work, it is not important that people do things exactly the same way, so long as they get similarly successful results. Asking questions lets each person find the path that is clearest to them, without forcing a given approach that they may not comprehend. Just stick to the big picture - how's it going? is it a big deal? how are you going to approach that problem? and not "did you do this minute detail?" and "why did you it THAT way?"

There's certainly areas in which a management or leadership course will offer some training. Feedback-giving, coaching, project management, organizational structures - there's all sorts of great courses out there (and not great) - books, audiobooks, articles, conferences, workshops - training managers to be better is a lucrative business. Watching for scenarios where you are particularly out of your element and honing in on a particular skill set can be useful. For example, the problem of team members not meeting your expectations in terms of productivity sounds like something that may be helped with performance management skills - coaching and feedback in particular. Some of this is simply learning the jargon of managers.

I love management courses, but I've found that 9 times out of 10, being a caring human with enough common sense to trust myself has served me far better than any patented course program. When I loose the insight that my own desire to be a caring manager, a good decision maker and a person with honor - then I really fail as a manager. The rest is just skills practice.

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  • The op asked how to develop the skills not should he become a manager. Even if he does not become a manager the skills will serve him in his career. Jul 3, 2013 at 14:43
  • Thanks bethlakshmi, Chad. I'll mark this as an answer as it seems to be the most constructive response. As Chad said I want to acquire these skills in general.
    – Raza Ali
    Jul 4, 2013 at 7:27
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Start by understanding team dynamics. Strive for balance in skill sets, personality and viewpoints, and don’t be afraid to shake things up occasionally. A little uncertainty can show you who can thrive in tough times.

Take at least one conflict management seminar. Anyone can manage when times are good. True managerial mettle gets tested when things sour. Usually, when that happens, it's because of a people issue. If you do nothing else and even if you have to pay for it out of pocket, take a conflict management seminar for your development. Why? Most of us aren't any good at it. We don't learn it in school. No one teaches that techniques exist that can guide you through these potential landmines. Yet mishandling these situations, which usually occur unexpectedly, can derail the most promising managerial career.

Delegate and motivate. Trusting vital functions to those key employees helps them develop and frees you up for more important tasks. And share credit too.

Make informed decisions. If you’ve done a good job developing your team, they’ll be there when you need input on major decisions, and you should have developed the kind of relationships so they’ll tell you the truth.

Practice Listening. When you're in management, everyone talks to you. Your employees come to you with ideas and gripes. Your boss tells you what he wants. And your peers talk about their issues. The biggest gift you can give them, especially your employees, is the gift of being there. You need to listen in the moment.

Manage by walking around. This means get out of your cage and visit, glad-hand, ask questions, say happy birthday, eat the goodies out there, check the work, etc. It may be tough because the office can be an embracing cocoon. However, if you're visible to your people they will recognize you as part of the group. But the best thing is that you'll develop a feel for what's going on and be able to respond on the spot, if necessary. This sharpens your skills, defines your style and provides cutting edge material for your decisions.

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    That seems like alot of work couldnt the OP just wing it? he is god gifted after all. Jul 3, 2013 at 14:30
  • I wrote this hoping I might humour the almighty. Jul 3, 2013 at 15:13

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