“What can I do to prepare for the next step in my career as a manager?” is a seemingly simple question I have asked myself numerous times.
However, by posing this question to your manager, you will make your intentions for your growth known to your organization. If you’re at the right company, your manager–along with the HR team–should help guide you on the path to management over time. Quantcast encourages quarterly formal development conversations focused on your action plan, and details the requirements and job description for each manager role for anyone to review.
I began my Quantcast career as an account executive in 2014, and I quickly realized that my most engaging career path would be in management. Leveraging the steps below helped me prepare for a managerial role in 2017 and then a director-level position in 2019. Today, I oversee roughly 50 individual contributors and managers across multiple functions and offices, and a key part of my role is expanding the professional toolbelt for each person on the team.
If you want to take further action to prepare yourself for the (often complex) transition to management, here are 5 ways to get started, which I have found helpful:
- Find or become a mentor. Your company might offer a formal mentorship program, but even if it doesn’t, informal mentorship opportunities are easy to find. You can engage with your manager to find a colleague to work closely with or, conversely, be proactive and become a willing ear and source of support for a younger colleague. Mentorship provides a firsthand look into some of the tasks a manager focuses on as well as a glimpse into the rewards of helping someone grow.
- Share your passion. Do you have a topic you are passionate about or a skill you perform exceptionally well? Try your hand at sharpening that tool in others. Coaching and teaching are important aspects of the manager role, and by starting small in groups of peers you are comfortable with, you can begin to pick up best practices for conveying complex topics and getting your messaging to stick.
- Provide feedback to the organization. Companies rely on managers to filter up feedback on what is and is not working at the ground level. You may presume that a frontline management position, sometimes several levels away from the CEO, would not have that powerful of a voice, but they are the only ones with a daily view of the individual contributors and how they are getting the job done. Providing effective and actionable organizational feedback (and solutions if you have them) to your manager is a surefire way to set yourself apart as a potential manager.
- Share your secrets. If you are considering a manager role, chances are you are doing well in your current role. Your peers might not say it, but they want to hear about the things driving your success. Learning how to disseminate best practices is another key skill for a manager, who needs to decide: should this be a Slack message? An email? A team meeting topic? Do other teams need this? Finding the right avenue and helping others uplevel themselves builds your managerial effectiveness and also positions you amongst your peers as a potential leader before the transition.
- Take something off your manager’s plate. Some managers are good about proactively delegating, and you may already be working closely with yours. If you feel like there is more you could be doing, ask your manager: what is on your plate that I can contribute to or own? Testing out some of your tools ahead of time will give you a glimpse into the managerial role, provide exposure for your efforts, and help involve you at a higher level at the company.
In addition to the above activities, there are also certain responsibilities that are challenging to prepare for which require deeper conversations with your manager. These include managerial decision-making, career pathing and development, building working relationships across teams, working with struggling team members, and potential exits. While you may not directly have these responsibilities, you can start a dialogue with your manager now on at least some of these:
- Decision-making. Follow up with your manager after a decision is announced to your team or company. Can they provide insight into what process they went through to make that change? Do they have perspective on what the CEO or VP thought about in their decision-making process? The manager role is a series of decisions–big and small–and being able to understand how other managers work through them will give you a leg up on your development.
- Career pathing and development. Guiding your own team through their development journey is both a rewarding and difficult process. While you can’t be in the room for your manager’s conversations with other teammates, try focusing on your own journey and the things that have been most impactful on helping you grow. Be mindful that everyone has different learning styles and personal motivations that you will need to learn.
- Cross-functional work. Another large component of the manager role is working cross-functionally. You’ll need to clear hurdles for your individual contributors, help them access information and resources, and work jointly on projects. You should start at the ground floor of this process by becoming as strong of a cross-functional peer as possible: figure out who owns what and start to build a relationship based on mutual support and communication. Knowing how to navigate these partnerships for your team is crucial, and your current peers will be future managers themselves!
The above steps can help you make that manager leap, but no amount of preparation will fill the toolbelt with everything you need–the rest of the tools come on the job. Be confident in the fact that you have brought as many as possible to your transition and that more will come in time as you learn from fresh challenges in your new role.
Interested in Learning More?
For more managerial tips, check out our recent blog posts on Leading Through Adversity and Building Resilience and Channeling Self-Belief into Great Leadership.