5 reasons why you’re not management material

By in Leadership and Talent Management
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You got to work this morning to find the office all abuzz. Jessica, the manager of another team in your department, has given her two-week notice, and everyone’s talking about who’s going to fill her role. Your company typically fills open management slots from the inside, and you’ve been working there for a while, building relationships with colleagues and leaders, and demonstrating your skills. So—since the boss needs to find Jessica’s replacement—why couldn’t it, and shouldn’t it, be you?

Of course, you feel you’re qualified for a promotion. In fact, you’re pretty sure you’re ready to start managing a team. After all, you have the knowledge, you’re an active collaborator, and you contribute great ideas. But for some reason, come promotion time, you always seem to get passed up. Apparently, your leaders lack the confidence in you that you have in yourself. What’s going on? Why don’t they see you as management material—and how can you get them to? Some of the most common reasons we’ve seen are listed below, as well as some tips on how to reverse the traits that might make not-quite-management-material.

You don’t follow through.

There’s nothing worse than an unreliable manager. Employees want a manager who follows through on commitments, because that builds respect and trust within the team. Unfortunately, a Harvard study shows that the majority of American employees trust a stranger more than their boss. When a manager doesn’t keep her word, trust plummets. The manager isn’t well liked, because she fails to deliver on promises, and it’s hard for the team to feel stable and secure. So if you want to show you’re ready for a management position, start by acting like a good manager. Demonstrate reliability by respecting commitments even when the going gets rough.

You’re overly confident.

If you think you know better than everyone else and aren’t afraid to show it, you’re not demonstrating expertise—actually, quite the opposite. Overconfidence can signal that you’re not empathetic or mature enough to lead a team. And even if you’re not openly boastful, this attribute may apply if you don’t like sharing work responsibilities, aren’t a strong team player, or stubbornly resist change. You might be overcompensating because you feel you’re being unfairly passed up for a new position, but sticking to your guns with no respect for other viewpoints is not the way to show you’re management material. True, managers need to be assertive—but they also need a dose of humility. A recent study by Catalyst describes humility as one of four critical leadership factors, and finds that employees are more innovative and more likely to go above and beyond for the team when they perceive their manager is altruistic. So reframe your mindset—no one likes a know-it-all, especially as the boss.

You’re not a good listener.

The best way to manage people is to understand their worries, goals, and motivations. If you’re constantly talking and don’t stop to listen to others, not only do you miss opportunities to gain knowledge and insight, but you also fail to hear feedback that could make you a better collaborator. In advising employees on how to be management material, Katina Sawyer, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Human Resource Development at Villanova University, says, “Listening for true understanding is important; it will save you a lot of trouble.” So if you’re a bad listener, you’re undermining your chances to get promoted. Focus on listening first and talking second.

You’re lacking some subject knowledge.

A key way that managers lead teams to greatness is by being experts in their field, because knowledge inspires trust in a leader. If you’re lacking the level of knowledge expected of management, make an extra effort to get certified, listen to a relevant podcast, read up on the latest research, or attend an online webinar or offsite training. Become a stronger professional and colleague, and you’ll be a more trust-inspiring management candidate. Mindy Mackenzie, author of The Courage Solution: The Power of Truth Telling with Your Boss, Peers, and Team, shares, “You need to have demonstrated a specialist skill set or expertise in a given area” in order to be a good manager.

You focus on the negative.

If your default setting is perfectionism, nit-picking, or pointing out flaws, you may not be ready to be a manager. Focusing solely on the negative is not a strong management trait. In fact, Gallup research shows that strengths-focused managers (those who highlight the positive aspects of a situation or colleague) are 86% more likely to inspire higher than average performance from their teams. So start looking for and recognizing positive situations, solutions, and skills at work—and speak up! Give peers and leaders sincere, personal recognition when they do something great at work. Both effort and results deserve to be applauded. Appreciating others will single you out as a great management candidate who knows how to share credit and motivate and inspire a team.

Of course, it may be too late to apply all these insights and become the ideal candidate to fill Jessica’s shoes when she goes. After all, two weeks isn’t quite long enough to prove yourself. But start working on them now, and the next time a management position opens up, it may very well be yours for the taking.

This post was originally published on Forbes.

By david sturt and todd nordstrom
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