4 ways to move up without moving into (gasp) management
We’ve all heard of the “corporate ladder” and what it means to climb it. But, too often, this means moving into management — and away from the work that led us to success in the first place. Here's how to determine whether managing people is right for you — and how to succeed if it isn’t.
1. Evaluate your personal style.
“You can still be successful in your career and a decision maker without actually having to lead people,” says Candice Shehorn, MBA. Shehorn is a certified professional with more than 20 years of experience in executive, career and leadership coaching. Shehorn runs a coaching business, and also teaches business management and critical-thinking courses for the School of Business at University of Phoenix. She stresses that people who are more task-oriented and solitary in their personal work styles often do not make good leaders of people. “It’s very important to know your own behavioral and personal work style,” she explains. “Are you people-oriented or process-oriented? Learn to take a broader role within your job, and own it. Be an active crafter and sculptor of your job, and become indispensible. That alone can lead you to advance.
2. Find a position that plays to your strengths.
If you choose not to go into management, you may find that you prefer to manage systems. There are many types of task- and process-oriented management positions in today’s job marketplace, according to Shehorn. “You can find social media management positions, you can find budget management positions, you can find business continuity management positions,” she says. “In all of these cases you’re managing processes, and not people. A lot of people really like interacting with others, but don’t want to manage them. It’s important to know what you’re good at, and choose your job accordingly.”
3. Look for a company that will foster your growth.
The top-down, hierarchical corporate structures of old, with their clearly defined ladders and rungs are disappearing today, according to Shehorn. “Companies are becoming flatter in structure and more collaborative instead of top-down and autocratic,” she explains. “If you can align yourself with a company culture which focuses more on personal growth, creativity and development among its employees rather than structure, that is a company where you can advance without climbing rungs on a management ladder. Highly successful companies like Facebook, Google and Apple all do this."
4. Clearly explain your needs to your manager.
If managing people is not your interest or preference, it’s very important to communicate that to your employer. “Be upfront,” Shehorn says. “Fit is important to any job. Some people feel that the only way to advance and get salary increases is to take a management job when offered to them. This approach just sets them and their employers up for failure. Companies really do themselves and their employees a disservice when they only promote those who manage others.”
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