You like your job. You like your company. You’re a great performer. The next step is a management job. Right? Not so fast. Before you post or apply for a management job, you need to think about if a management job is right for you. That fact that you’re a great salesperson, engineer, or financial analyst doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be a great manager. In fact, your ability to succeed in an individual contributor role may actually work against you as a manager. Let me explain.
Related: The Secret To Being A Great Manager
Way back in the 1960’s, David McClelland, a social psychologist at Harvard, suggested that human beings have three essential needs: achievement, affiliation, and influence. His research indicated that most of us have all three of these needs, but that we differ in how important each need it to us.
Why am I telling you this? Simple. Great individual performers often have a high need for achievement. Successful salespeople have a need to close sales and beat quota. Successful engineers have a high need to bring projects in on time and under budget. Successful financial analysts have a high need to produce useful and usable reports that will help leaders make better decisions.
On the other hand, successful leaders have a high need for influence. They enjoy getting work done through other people. They enjoy helping others perform at their best. They enjoy influencing key decisions.
That’s why it’s a cliché that the best salespeople often make the worst sales managers. Individual contributor positions require technical skills. Managerial positions require relationship skills.
I have coached over 1,000 leaders in my career. One of the biggest complaints I hear from them is, “I don’t understand why he (or she) doesn’t see what has to be done. When I was a salesperson/engineer/financial analyst, I always knew exactly what to do without being told. I just did it. Why don’t they?”
What we’re seeing here is a person with a high need for achievement holding other people to his or her standards. Employees differ in what they need in order to succeed. Some need training, some need hand-holding, some need a confidence boost. Managers with a high need for achievement often have a hard time understanding this. Managers with a high need to influence welcome the challenge of helping different employees with different needs succeed in their jobs.
I’m not saying that you can’t succeed as a manager if you have a high need for achievement. In fact, that need may drive you to figure out how to be influential with each of your employees. However, you will have to work harder at your managerial job – at least at first – then someone with a high need for influence.
Then there are people with a high need for affiliation. These folks can have a difficult time transitioning into leadership roles, too. People with a high need for affiliation often are conflict adverse. They like harmony. They want everybody to get along.
However, a big part of a leader’s job is to provide feedback to the people he or she leads. Sometimes the feedback will be negative. People with a high need for affiliation tend to have a difficult time doing this. They worry about upsetting people when they give them negative feedback. This is especially true for leaders who must manage people with whom they have previously been peers.
The point here is simple. If you’re considering moving into management, or have been recently promoted, think about what drives you. If you have a high need for achievement or affiliation often you will have to go against your natural instincts to succeed as a manager. This doesn’t mean that people with high achievement or affiliation needs can’t be great managers. It does mean that they’ll have to be willing to modify their predominant style to succeed in a managerial role.
This post was originally published on an earlier date.
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