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How To Become a Manager

"Why was I the last one to get the email brief?" shouted Frank's TL. Frank has told his manager to switch from POP3 to IMAP for multi-device usage for the millionth time. But his advice has always fallen on deaf ears.

"I will do things better," thought Frank to himself. "Unlike her, I am going to let my members finish their sentences. I will not be rude to them and will NEVER push urgent work at the last hour. And maybe free food?"

"But wait, how do I become a manager? And will I have to do more work than what I do now?"

At least once in your professional career, you must have Googled how to become a manager to fast-track your road to success. While a manager's position seems lucrative and comes with a pay raise, what does the role entail? 

Ready to find out? Let's go ahead then.

What are the responsibilities of a manager?

"A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way." – John C. Maxwell.

There's so much more to being a manager than just meeting deadlines and scolding employees; it just isn't visible to the naked eye. A manager has the dual responsibilities of a supervisor and a leader, which can be difficult while developing everybody's growth opportunities.

A supervisor creates structures and keeps track of the day-to-day progress of the tasks and projects. Meanwhile, a leader makes objectives and inspires his/her team members to reach their professional expectations.

Managers have to be role models, build staff capacity – in numbers and intellect – and oversee various company projects and everyday tasks.

So, what exactly does a manager do?

Often, and it's true for many companies, a company will choose a manager because he/she was able to demonstrate leadership qualities and show his/her worth to the authorities. But why is that so?

Promotion to the role of a team leader or manager means a seismic shift in the job description. You will be exploring unique opportunities, supervising team members, mentoring younger talent, and developing new skills at the same time.

Feels exhilarating. 

But how to become a manager? Let's find out!

Steps to becoming a manager

Rome wasn't built in a day!

There isn't a holy grail that you can read and follow to become a manager instantly. Instead, you will have to gradually settle into the role while taking on new challenges every day. So, here are some steps to help you along the way.

Demonstrate your value

As stated earlier, it is crucial to demonstrate your value to your superiors if you want the chance to progress in your career. It would be best to show your bosses that you are ready to take on leadership qualities and manage a team. That being said, we aren't asking you to be flashy with everything you do in your current role. 

Instead, take on challenging tasks, help solve impossible hurdles, make your position known in a team. In meetings or presentations, provide fact-backed numbers about your contribution to make your claims unquestionable.

Research, research, research

Before applying for a promotion or a new job, study the managerial role's formal job description. Read professional blogs and articles, browse through career advice portals, or discuss with a counselor how to become a manager and what to expect in the new role.

Learn about the added responsibilities, crucial skills that employers will be looking for, and salary hikes. Observe the managers on your floor and ask them specific questions about their day's responsibilities. If the situation permits, shadow them for a couple of hours and observe your areas of interest.

For e.g., ask your manager how he/she makes sure that the team delivers the entire project on time.

Assert your aspirations and work on it

Thinking "I want to become a manager" is no use to anybody. Don't think to yourself, but let your ambitions be known. While you do not want to come off as obnoxious about it, let your superiors know that you are ready for the next step in your career.

If your company holds an internal examination for promotion, apply for it. Ask your superiors for tips on acing the exam and work on the interview's necessary skills. This will help you develop the expertise you will eventually require for the promotion.

Consider mentorship

Mentoring is one of the most vital skills that you need to learn on the road to becoming a manager. As a mentor for an employee, you are their advocate, not only for the protégé's job roles but for his/her personal and professional growth as well. Thus, you have an opportunity to show your team management skills and the ability to develop interpersonal relationships while in a team.

Ask your upper management if there are any mentoring positions open for you to take part in. Else, sign up to a professional organization in your field that will set you up with a protégé. Additionally, you can take a mentor yourself and prepare for the management roles from an industry expert.

Self-assess and strengthen your skills.

"You're either green and growing, or you're ripe and rotting." —John Addison.

Next, assess your skills and gauge your strengths and weaknesses concerning your current description and the target position. Sharpen your strengths and work on your weaknesses, which will help you gear up for the transition.

You can start by reviewing your past performances and asking a colleague or a friend for honest feedback. Next, you can note the top managerial skills mentioned below and master them one by one.

For e.g., you can create a spreadsheet or a pie chart to track your progress in each skill mentioned below.

Request regular feedback from your manager

Since your manager is your direct supervisor, he/she is probably the best person if you want honest feedback (except for some self-centered people, in which case you are doomed). Engage with your manager and share your aspirations and ask him/her to give you honest feedback on where you lack as a leader.

Track the feedback that you receive and work on your weaknesses. Once your superiors notice that you are actively working to progress in the workplace, the transition to a managerial role is imminent.

What are the skills you need to master before you become a manager?

Now that you have some idea about how to become a manager, let's take a look at some management skills that you need to master on this epic journey.

Understand financial jargon

Managers, especially those in upper-levels, are often expected to analyze targets, set the project budget, manage and coordinate monthly reporting and budgeting, and monitor cash flow. Thus, a thorough understanding of financial resources and budget planning is a crucial skill you need to master.

Take a rain check on that free food thing, maybe?

Pro tip: Consult your manager or time office for help on financial proceedings in your organization.

Delegate

"Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do." – Jessica Jackley.

Managers have to not only build themselves but strengthen their team members as well. To successfully build team capacity, you need to learn what tasks you must complete and delegate to your team members based on their skills and strengths. Set goals for each team member and make sure that your employees deliver their tasks within deadlines.

Pro tip: Observe how your direct supervisors manage deadlines and delegate tasks accordingly.

Prioritization and project management

Managers are expected to plan, execute, monitor, and close projects handled by the team or organization. They are accountable for the team, the resources used, and the success of the project. It would help if you learned how to prioritize tasks, distribute resources (including time), which team member does what, and closely control the direction in which the project moves.

Pro tip: Begin by prioritizing your day to day tasks to get an idea of how project management works. Ask your manager if you are stuck somewhere.

Administrative skills

Managers have to convey information such as job expectations, results, and discipline in formal reports to the administrative personnel. Their administrative duties involve recruiting employees to a project, orienting them to client expectations, and training them as well. 

It would be best if you learned how to draft data-oriented, fact-backed reports for any active projects.

Pro tip: Browse the report archive or ask somebody on the management team to provide you access to the same and check the format and data.

Communication and interpersonal relationship-building skills

Managers have to communicate effectively in times of emotional complexity, which requires decent interpersonal interaction skills. How managers convey good and bad news to their employees has a severe effect on team morale, so communication is an essential skill you need to master if you are wondering how to become a manager.

Pro tip: Exhibit a sense of humor and share emotion with your teammates to make them feel connected to you. People are more likely to trust you if you come off as vulnerable.

Forward-planning and strategy

Managers have to make effective decisions regarding project allocations based on the organization's workforce capacity and resources. They need to have a clear focus on the objectives and plan several steps forward, ensuring on-time delivery. After all, smart work is more effective than hard work alone.

Pro tip: Observe how plans are being made in your current project and create a new one by incorporating new ideas based on realistic capacities and deadlines. Contemplate about possible risks in your plan and how to overcome them. 

Problem-solving attitude

Managers have to be prepared for unanticipated workplace challenges and situations that can derail routine submissions. While everyone can point out mistakes, only a leader can find and implement solutions while remaining calm under pressure. Thus, managers have to stay calm and develop a plan in case such surprises occur.

Pro tip: Stay calm and exhibit confidence in such situations. Try to foresee hurdles and plan how to handle them effectively. 

Leadership

Managers have to lead by example, persuading others to follow your orders willingly. As a manager, you will have to exhibit confidence over your professional skills, show respect towards your responsibilities, and demonstrate integrity in the workplace. Have reasonable expectations from your employees and show your passion for translating visions into reality.

Pro tip: Motivate your team members to achieve great things instead of telling them what to do. That being said, recognize if and when you are becoming obnoxious and insolent. 

Focus on these traits if you plan to be a manager!

Develop listening skills

"Listening is often the only thing you need to do to help someone."

Listening is quite different from hearing. Unlike hearing, listening is much more interactive. A good listener needs to pay attention to the speaker's body language, facial expressions, and vocal tone while he/she speaks. Focus and improve your listening skills, pick up key points as you hear them, and mention these points after they are done speaking.

Endure anxiety

As a manager, when you delegate work to your subordinates, you will be waiting in anticipation as you do not know each task's status. Expect to find yourself in situations where you will be tackling challenges head-on without any prior input. 

If you have trained them well and allocated proper resources, expect the task to go smoothly even if you are left out of the loop. In such situations, maintain your calm and trust your delegates, and stay on standby to help whenever required.

Appreciate criticism

Positive criticism is better than false praise. In a workplace, disputes can stem from various sources, such as your colleagues and bosses all waiting for better results. Build a culture of positive criticism in your team and promote harmony. If you appreciate criticism from your team, they will be willing to trust you with the issues they face at work. 

Share the fame

Managing often means less time in the limelight. DO NOT claim ownership of ideas that did not originate from your mind. Instead, acknowledge your subordinates/colleagues when they come up with unique solutions, and they will give their best if the project comes across a hurdle.

Improve work ethics

Developing interpersonal communication skills is one of the most critical skills you need to focus on if you are wondering how to be a manager. But what exactly comprises work ethics? All the nice things you have been taught since preschool. Encourage regular feedback, resolve conflicts among your teammates, arrange team orientation sessions, and acknowledge creativity and problem-solving.

Accept interpersonal and intercultural diversity

In your role as a manager, you will be working alongside and over employees from different social and economic backgrounds. It is your duty to promote harmony in the workplace, bring everybody together, and to make sure every voice is heard. Instead of faking emotions and tolerating people, build everybody up and show genuine affection for everybody.

Protect your own

Think about a pack of wolves. 

The alpha teaches, scolds, and disciplines each wolf in the pack, but he is also in charge of protecting the pack in times of danger. Similarly, as a manager, you are in charge of keeping your team safe - from negative feedback, cruel management, untimely cuts, etc. However, do not refrain from whacking them into shape once in a while.

Embrace office politics

As stated earlier, disputes in the workplace are a common occurrence daily. If you cannot smoothen your employees' lives during such conflicts, your team will not trust you, and you may very well not remain a manager much longer. Instead, steer yourself and your teammates to success in this corporate jungle by embracing office politics dearly.

Trivia

How to deal with office politics?

  • Unlike the popular misconception, don't avoid office politics. While it sounds good in theory, it's challenging to do so in reality.
  • Read the room and the underlying political dynamics. Use the political dynamics to your advantage without bringing harm to others.
  • Observe the victors. Build a reputation of your own based on your qualities and how you see the world.
  • Work on your communication skills. Steer clear from misconceptions that fuel office politics.

With personality traits out of the way, let's discuss tips on how to become a manager and excel at your job.

Best tips to becoming a successful manager: How to become an IT manager?

Build strong relationships with your employees

Create team-building exercises that boost your team members' interpersonal interaction, as communication is one of the critical facets of a successful manager. Show your humility and make your teammates believe in your but be stern wherever required.

Preparation is key

Create comprehensive plans with clear objectives and strategies, mention deadlines, and stick to the program. Once you have prepared a plan, you can incorporate creative ideas as they come up while you pursue the objectives with a clear focus on the company's goals. 

Understand how your employees think

Now, setting high standards during your project is a lucrative idea. But if you are searching how to become a manager, you will need to understand how your colleagues think. Take some time and analyze how your teammates think; delegate tasks, and set realistic timelines accordingly.

Motivate

A successful manager knows the art of motivating without bullying. Encourage your colleagues to achieve better results not only professionally but also help them be a better version of themselves outside of work. 

Lead with example

"If he/she can do it, so can I."

If you expect your team to achieve professional greatness, you, as a manager, must lead the way. When the leader accomplishes the goals and toils hard and smart, he/she inspires the team members to follow in his/her footsteps and complete their objectives. Leading with an example makes it easier to follow YOU.

Don't micromanage

We know how hard it can be to watch someone make mistakes, especially when you know how to avoid them. 

However, micromanaging is not an ideal solution in any situation (barring a few small-scale projects, maybe!) Micromanaging a team member throws off the team morale, damages trust, and makes your team members overly dependent on you. Since Micromanaging is un scalable, both the manager and employee are at a higher risk of error.

Make time to appreciate your team's work

Instead of focusing on what a member lacks or the team isn't doing right, look at the positives. Acknowledge hard work and success whenever due. Not only does this boost morale, but it also encourages your team members to trust and follow you.

Help your team be autonomous

Nurture a strategic mentality. It can be scary throwing away the Lego instruction manual and building a spaceship yourself, especially if you fear the team will go off in different directions. But on the days when you cannot be physically present to take care of your team, address your fear of chaos, and develop the logic of a business model in your team members.

The hard part of becoming a manager 

Life isn't all sunshine and rainbows for a manager. As you might have noticed by now, managing is a lot like parenting, which has often been dubbed the 'best toughest job.' That you have some idea on how to become a manager, let's take a look at some gloomy parts that people rarely talk about in this context.

Regularly making tough calls

Many of the advice mentioned above, such as brainstorming sessions, conflict management, criticism, feedback, etc. can make you a nervous wreck in practice. You will have to make tough calls daily and convey the news to your team members as well.

The actual worse part of this is that sometimes, you will be making calls that you do not personally agree with at all. For example, you may have to announce resource reallocation following a budget cut and decide where you can cut corners.

It seems stressful, isn't it?

It can get lonely managing people

When you contribute to a team, you usually have other team members as a professional and emotional support system. However, when you transition into a managerial role, you do not readily have somebody to turn to when you are confused or frustrated. 

Professional boundaries change with a promotion, meaning you might also be giving up some workplace friendships in the process. To combat this loneliness, you can (and probably will have to) actively seek out a support network, such as fellow leaders in your company.

Management is laborious and time-consuming

You will probably be looking for and get a managerial role in a field in which you are naturally amazing. Once you become a manager, you will be helping others develop their skills in this field. You are essentially the enabler in your team, guiding the team to achieve their objectives successfully.

But that also means that you will have less time honing your skills. A lot of what you do will be laborious and time-consuming, leaving less time for you to practice your craft. Management is often not just a promotion; it's an entirely new job.

The fear of quality can steer the focus away

As a manager, you will be constantly scrutinized for the decisions you take in the workplace. More often than not, your team members will judge the quality of a project based on your expressions and enthusiasm for an idea.

Additionally, your bosses will expect better results and judge your competence based on your team's performance. This constant fear of quality can drift focus away from the task at hand, and you might find yourself messing up functions that you are good at naturally.

Everybody isn't a natural leader

And that's fine. If you look around yourself, you will find two kinds of people. In one bunch are born leaders, they can take on managerial roles without putting in much effort, and people naturally want to follow in their footsteps.

The second bunch is where the vast majority of us lie. Many have the potential to be great leaders and need a push in the right direction.

But it's not easy by any means, as you will have to follow a grueling regimen of learning, practicing, observing, and mentoring your team before people take you seriously and follow you in the workplace.

Remember, you are only a great leader if your actions inspire others to dream more and achieve more every day.

You have already taken the first step by showing the desire to learn how to become a manager. All that's left is to embark on this fantastic journey and be the best version of the professional you.