Preparing Yourself to Move into a Management Role
We hear it frequently… "I'm not sure how to get to the next step" or "How do I make the move into a Team Lead or Management capacity?" As many of us envision our future, it often involves moving up the corporate ladder, but often times we're unsure how to achieve that goal. How do you take the next step into more of a leadership or managerial role?
Here are our top suggestions if you're looking to pursue a move into management.
Understand major components of management and leadership
A first step in most major goals and decisions is "seeking to understand" the key aspects. If you're looking to move into a Team Lead, Project Manager, or Technical Manager role, understand the responsibilities and skills that come along with being in that capacity. Some of those skills and responsibilities include: communication, leadership, building and managing teams, resource management, budgeting, motivating and holding others accountable, delegation, dealing with difficult people, interviewing, hiring and firing, performance reviews, and having difficult conversations. Once you have a clearer picture of the key components required to be successful, you'll have a much better idea of whether you're prepared for the role and if it's the right career move.
Invest personal time to develop both your leadership and management skills
Once you have a list of the key skills you want to develop, generate a list of all the training resources you want to leverage to learn those skills. Create an official Learning Development Plan for yourself and invest time in actually building those skills. Prioritize your learning, perhaps blocking off an hour a week on your calendar. Utilize free resources like YouTube, Ted Talks, etc… If you're busy, find ways to multi-task. For example, I watch one Ted Talk or You Tube video and read one LinkedIn or Harvard Business Review article around management a week while I'm on the treadmill, elliptical or bike at the gym. I've also streamed Ted Talks and management audios through my car on longer car rides. My personal rule of thumb is to invest 25% of my driving time towards development.
Communication of your goals and interests to the right people is often the key towards a promotion/career progress. You can't assume your Manager knows your target career path. Therefore, be clear in vocalizing your interest and working with your Manager on a development plan to help you move in the direction you want to go. One of the Founders of our company always says "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take!" Think of this quote when you share your interests with your boss and ask for additional responsibilities.
Inquire about internal Leadership Development Programs
Most companies have several training programs. Our organization has formal Emerging Leaders and Women's Leadership Programs, and several informal groups amongst management peers that talk regularly about leadership development topics. Understand what programs your company offers, and figure out what's needed to get involved.
If nothing else, shadowing an employee who does the job you're interested in will help you better understand expectations and provide more insight into the skills you'd need to develop in order to achieve success in that type of role. Make the most of your time shadowing and learn about the path they took to get there, what skills are needed, training they'd recommend to learn those skills, any networking/user groups which might be helpful, and ask open-ended questions around "What other suggestions do you have for me if I want to set myself up to break into this role?"
Start to take on some of the responsibilities of the job you want
One of the best ways to get ahead is to find a way to start doing the responsibilities found within the job you want. Write a list of the responsibilities that can be found in your target role, and schedule a sit down with your boss to discuss. Offer to help out with some of those tasks. For example, if you're trying to become a Team Lead, some additional responsibilities could include: interviewing candidates, code reviews of junior Developers, leading meetings, and training. Inquire if there's an opportunity for you to take on some of those tasks, which will not only help you gain those skills, but help out your Manager and potentially increase your internal visibility.
Start the process of networking, and leverage your network
Your network is one of the greatest competitive advantages you can have when looking for a promotion or to move into a management or leadership role. Good networking leads to increased opportunity and, if possible, it's a good idea to build strong working relationships with the individuals that can assist in helping you achieve your next career move. If you don't know where to start, I'd recommend LinkedIn. Are there common connections you share with an individual or company that has a role / position you're after? Think of the user groups, technical communities, and volunteer organizations that you're a part of. Are there any members that have a role you admire or someone that you could ask to be your mentor? Most people are more than willing to assist, but often times we are afraid to ask for help. Leverage your network to get you started on the best possible track.
Consider advanced degrees or certifications
If you have a Computer Science degree and are looking to get into a management capacity, it'd be helpful to evaluate MBA programs in your area. If you're interested in project management, a PMP or other PMI certification would be a good step in the right direction. While not all companies require advanced degrees and/or certifications, it helps display your commitment level to your personal and professional growth.
Identify opportunities to gain skills on personal time
It's amazing the leadership skills you can develop from joining a Board of a local nonprofit, becoming a leader at a local User Group, or managing a committee through another initiative.
Flush out a plan
Take all of the above into account and outline an official plan. Create a project plan for yourself that includes specific actions and timeframes. It's important to hold yourself accountable and be realistic as to how long it'll take to achieve your goal. Setting short-term goals often helps keep you on track and make the overall goal seem less daunting.
Moving towards a management role will be an investment. It'll take strategy, work, collaboration, communication and patience. Remember to hold yourself accountable and invest 2-4+ hours a month in activities that will help you progress in the right direction!
- Identify your career path. Do you want to get into Project Management? Technical Lead? Architect with leadership and mentorship responsibilities? Technical Manager? Take some time to reflect on the responsibilities you want to have, in an effort to determine the type of role you really want!
- Outline the key responsibilities associated with your target role.
- Determine training and learning channels (internal and external), user groups or other technical associations, and other avenues to help learn the right skills and network with the right people. Start to attend meetings at least quarterly. Remember, you don't need to be a member of associations like PMI or IIBA to attend meetings/events.
- Invest 2 hours a week taking online training around management and leadership topics, such as ones that are listed in #1 solution above.
- Shadow several Leads and Managers. Develop a line of questioning in advance to make the most of your time with them.
- Identify and develop a relationship with a formal or an informal mentor, and establish goals, mentorship activities, and timeframes to capitalize on that relationship.
- Identify and pursue a certification or degree that would be helpful to your target career.
- Schedule a sit down with your Manager and communicate and inquire on the
a. I would really like the opportunity to expand on my leadership and management skills, as that's a career path I'm interested in. Is there a potential for me to take on more of a leadership role? What suggestions do you have for me?
b. Are there any internal training/s you recommend I take advantage of?
c. Are there any additional leadership responsibilities I could take ownership of?
About the author
Erica Woods has nearly a decade in the IT staffing world, an MBA, and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.
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