Ready to Step Up in Managerial Role?

Three criteria to assess before taking the plunge into a manager role.

As a passionate experience designer, working in top companies like IBM, Michelin and HSBC, I often asked a lot of my fellow designers about their next career move. Some would say they would like to take up managerial roles and some say they enjoy what they do and would probably be designing for the rest of their life. 

As designers fall into the creative realm where they enjoy long hours of deep work, uninterrupted focus and mindfulness, stepping up towards a leadership role like manager can be quite cumbersome. It requires a complete mindshift that even the experienced ones find it difficult to manage.

So, how does a designer grow?

This made me curious as to whether becoming a manager is the only next step in a designer’s career. So, I set out to investigate and collect other’s views, and combine it with my own experience. I often spend time reading articles and books. I stumbled upon Julie Zhuo’s book — “The Making of the Manager” — and immediately it struck a chord with me. It just focused on the same thing I faced while I was working in a startup managing a team of designers. 

Having managed a team of designers earlier in my career, I felt a few things that I would like to share in this article. Why do people set out to take up a manager’s role? What does a manager do? What are some criteria to assess if you are a right fit for a manager’s role?

Why Do People Set Out to Take Up a Manager’s Role?

Before we deliberate on whether you are fit to take up a manager’s role, let’s see why people set out for a managerial role in the first place. 

I Like the Freedom to Make My Own Decisions

Most of us feel like becoming a manager and leading a team gives a sense of freedom and control. The amount of influence a manager has on people is something to feel proud of. 

While managers do get to make most of the decisions, it comes at the cost of the team. If the decisions are not in the interest of the team, a manager may lose trust and accountability. This would be  a dig in a manager’s effectiveness.

It’s far wiser to inspire people to take some action rather than tell them what to do. 

Related Article: Most Prominent Psychological Principles That Govern Product Design

I Feel Becoming a Manager Is the Next Thing in My Career Growth

Getting promoted to being a manager means different things to different people. Some see it in the light of getting a “promotion,” some see it as having more influence in others, some see it as a climb to corporate ladder that would reward them with more power, compensation and recognition, while some see it as an opportunity to take on challenging task and pushing oneself to get the most. 

While all these are true, what we must also bear in mind is the fact that things are changing now. Today companies reward people for their ability to produce value which can be greater than what managers get. As Cal Newport writes in his book “Deep Work — Two Core Abilities for Thriving in the New Economy”:

  1. The ability to quickly master hard things.
  2. The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.

These two things have more rewards than being in a managerial role. Not to mention, in Silicon Valley there are “10X Engineers” who command more compensation than being a director or VP. 

The Managerial Role Was Entrusted to Me

Of all the reasons one wants to become a manager, this one is different. Once a team is growing, you might be asked to share some part of the responsibility to manage a few people. Don’t feel obligated to say “yes” every time. If you really enjoy managing people then go for it. Otherwise, have a talk with your manager and ask him to help. 

A good start to get a feel of being a manager is to talk to other managers who recently transitioned to a manager’s role and find out what the experience is like. Mentor other members in your team most likely juniors who are curious or hire an intern and coach to set him up for success as a pilot project.

Related Article: My Top 3 Lessons Learned as a CX Leader

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