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Is Management Right for You? Some Questions to Consider Before Becoming a Manager

More often than not, switching from being an individual contributor to being a manager is considered the next step in knowledge workers’ careers. Becoming a manager shouldn’t be only about adding two extra lines in your CV, or getting more money (even though you should celebrate both).

You should become a manager if:

  • You like people and the challenges they come with.

  • You want to try something new and expand your skillset.

  • You care about the company and its people, a lot.

Julie Zhuo mentions a simple litmus test that can help you figure out if you should switch:

Imagine you spend a full day in back-to-back 1:1s talking to people. Does that sound awful or awesome?

Understand that this is going to be your new reality: dealing with messy emotions, imperfect communication and general awkwardness. Gone will be the days of you spending the day immersed in music for hours on end, smashing your keyboard until something functional or pretty appears on the screen.

This is not to prevent you from making the jump! I’m just here to set things straight for you.

OK, I'm ready for this. Now what?

If the above sounds enticing to you, good news! We have some work to do, now.

These are some ways you can prepare yourself and expand your skillset before making the jump:

Set your priorities straight

As a manager, your company comes first, team second, team members third. You can’t go on pave your manager path while the rest of the company operates in a completely different way. Make sure you internalise the fact that your value as a manager directly depends on the context of the company you’re working for.

Questions to think about:

  • What does success mean for the company I work for?

  • How much do I care about the success of my company (and of my team’s success)?

  • Could I defend an unpleasant executive decision to the rest of the team?

Build trust, in all directions

You have to trust your team enough to delegate your work to them, you have to trust the rest of the management team to work together towards a singular goal, and you have to trust your manager that she has your back and makes good decisions.

Questions to think about:

  • Do I trust my manager enough to be completely honest with them?

  • Am I willing to work with these people towards improvement?

  • Can I delegate parts of my work without feeling the need to micromanage people?

Take initiative and be proactive

As a manager, you’re going to have to own at least a part of the company vision and actively lead the effort towards executing it. Don’t expect to be told what to do, find what to do to better serve the company and your team.

Questions to think about:

  • Can I find solutions to common problems I see?

  • Can I come up with new solutions to old problems?

Work on your communication skills (verbal and written)

As a manager, most of your day will be communicating: writing team updates, talking about career development, resolving conflict, presenting results. Don’t hesitate to ask for help (remember initiative, from above?) from your manager.

Questions to think about:

  • Can I provide clear, actionable feedback?

  • Can I make a presentation that will get my message across?

  • Do I find myself in need of follow-ups or ad hoc meetings often?


Even if you’re just dipping your toe in the idea of becoming a manager, this doesn’t mean that you can’t start working on your leadership skills right away. Tom Bartel puts it concisely:

Leadership is not tied to a position. Leadership is a mindset.


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