Whilst many rewards accompany a management role, there are things people should consider before chasing the promotion. Management comes with certain Obligations, Responsibilities, and Challenges. And it is based on ultimate Accountability which isn’t always as attractive as it might seem.
Management isn't for everybody, and it's easy to see why so many managers make such a poor job of it. It is accompanied by so many demands and expectations that it can seem impossible at times. Yet, despite this, it attracts so much focus from workers who are eager to climb the corporate ladder.
Do they know what they are letting themselves in for? Perhaps they should look first at four elements of the role: Obligations, Responsibilities, Challenges, and Accountabilities before throwing their hat into the ring.
As a manager you are obligated to protect your organisation, resolve any issues that are interfering with your capacity to deliver your team’s goals, and find ways to keep improving how your team performs. These obligations come with the territory and cannot be sloughed off. In practice it means that you must:
Protect the flow of information throughout the organisation
Be a conduit for messages between staff and senior leadership
Bring issues that risk reputational or operational damage to the attention of senior management
Be an ambassador for change and wholeheartedly (publicly) support organisation changes
Deliver projects and maximise the outcome
Managers have responsibility for People, Processes, Projects, Plans, and Partnerships. It’s a big list and requires you to:
Keep the delivery machine well oiled
Oversee the work of direct reports or project team
Provide reports to staff and senior management
Create work plans and objectives
secure and Manage budgets
Build a network
Develop the team and individuals
Whilst you can work with other staff on fulfilling these responsibilities, these are essentially YOUR tasks to carry out.
No job is plain sailing, and management can be particularly challenging at times. The job requires you to balance multiple and competing demands, often while existing in a state of ignorance about what’s going on and having to deliver tough messages without really understanding what’s behind them. It’s a recipe for stress in the wrong hands.
Some of the management challenges you can reasonably expect include:
Trying to keep everyone happy
Recognising that there are some things you won’t know and won’t be told
Maintaining trust and motivation whilst being unable to share information staff are asking for
Having to deliver unpopular messages
Dealing with underperformance…for whatever reason
Operating without the right resource
Balancing own tasks with management duties
And there will be more unreasonable challenges that come your way when you least expect them. Think of Covid.
But the biggest bummer of them all is the issue of Accountability. You see, no matter how well your team performs under your leadership, you can’t take the credit. And if the team screws up, you carry the can. That’s what accountability means in a nutshell, and it’s a tough nut to swallow. Even if you gave responsibility to someone else for carrying out a task, it is ultimately up to you to make sure it gets done. It doesn’t mean that shirkers are blameless and let off the hook, but if you give a responsibility to someone who isn’t responsible, you will have to account for that!
So, with all that in mind, why would anyone want a management career?
The rewards of management can be many and diverse, but they will be determined by your own goals, needs, and aspirations. Examples might be:
Increased influence at senior levels
Ability to make higher level decisions
Opportunity for skills and career development
Able to support the learning and development of colleagues
Seeing team goals and objectives delivered
Able to create a strong team around you
Able to influence the team culture
But something you find rewarding might be of marginal value to me. That’s why you should never chase the role because of what you see other people getting…unless those are the things you also prize highly and desire.
A management career can be incredible, but industry has suffered for years because we’ve appointed the wrong people into those positions. So, don’t be too eager to jump up into a management role without doing your homework first. The obligations, responsibilities, challenges, and ultimate accountability might be the last thing you need or want.