Can you give some advice for directs seeking to "break" into a manager position? I've been listening to the podcast for a while now and am loving all of the practical (yet amazing) advice given there. I'm convinced it will change my world, but I'm not a manager. Even still, I try to implement as much as I can. What specifically would you suggest myself (and those like me) do to show that we are ready to step into some level of management?

basking2's picture

Following up on BNCCNA2's post,

I would love people's opinion of people who have spent time in start-ups. They offer fast career progress but do they cheapen the value of the title and the work you did? Are they respected as bing a trial-by-fire environment where there is little dead-weight?



douglase's picture

How I did it.


I was a tech in a large government IT help desk.  I acted responsibly and was willing to take ownership of issues.  This is not as common an attribute as you might thing.  I also made sure that any task I did that wasn't documented, I documented so that others could learn from me.  I wasn't the best tech, but I made sure I made relationships, and I know who knew how to solve a problem, and then I would document it.

What this meant is that management saw me as somebody they could rely on.  In time this mean that I took up roles with more responsibility, and was promoted into a team leadership role with 3 people reporting to me. 

Through success, I started looking after larger teams, and have managed up to 60 people (with team leaders as my directs).




ashdenver's picture

Within reason, start doing the job you want.  In order to prove to the higher-up's that you're ready to be promoted, your best bet is to start taking leadership roles.  When you come across information worth sharing with the team, send it out to folks and cc: your boss.  Get really good at your job and reach out to others who are struggling.  Take the time to mentor and coach them. 

Don't ever let your boss chase you for anything.  Be proactive at every opportunity. 

If you must criticize something (in a professional way) be sure to have at least one alternate approach included with the critique.  "Doing things the ABC way is wasting about 3 hrs a week but if we did things XYZ way, we could cut that in half."  

Go get the book "The First 90 Days" and read it, work it, live it. 

If you want something from your boss, do all the leg-work before presenting it for approval.  It's much easier for the boss to rubber-stamp a completed business case (maybe after a few tweaks) than it is for the boss to get the question of "Can I have a raise / promotion?" and be facing the long, boring, drawn-out, exhausting, tedious work of building the business case.  (It's really not that bad but the boss likely has a boat-load of other things to get done. If you want it, you do the work!)

Be positive.  Have a can-do attitude. Dress professionally. Be thorough.  Be proactive.  Build your network within the company. Go the extra mile. Be proactive.  Give feedback.  Be professional.  Be ethical.  Continue personal and professional development - formal education, internal trainings, business reading, etc. Share credit appropriately.

Have I mentioned being proactive? 

Good luck!

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Glad you have the aspiration to manage!  We hope you earn the right to do so, and become an effective one.

My recommendations:

1. Produce Results.  The way to get promoted is to NOT focus on the job you want, but rather on the job you HAVE.  Do the job you have better than anyone else.  Be the best at it.  In most organizations, this is enough.

2. Behave Effectively With Relationships.  Without managerial responsibilities, I recommend you show those who will decide on your promotion how effective you can be working with others (that's what professional relationships are about - working well with others).  For all of your peers, and boss and key others in the org, be respectful, helpful, and approachable.  Help others.  And, when you can, get smaller leadership and management experience by heading up ad-hoc teams, voluteering to husband a group to an effective outcome, etc.   Even if you don't do it well every time, showing willingness and improvement helps.


a.  Beware of wanting it too much.  I know a lot of folks who get to hating their present job (see reco. #1 above) when they don't get promoted when they want to, and then that turns into reduced performance.

b. Don't leave your company.  This is more complicated than I have time for here, but basically it's MUCH harder to get promoted when you're changing companies than doing so in one company.  And don't be Dangled (see Podcast by that name).

Key Point:

Results, results, results, relationships.


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


Start ups (or perhaps more generously small companies) can be great.  Their jobs tend to be a little broader, and that's good.  You learn more faster there about more stuff, and learn a certain hardiness that is helpful.

That said, I disagree in general that they offer faster career progress.

The title inflation stuff only tends to happen with higher titles. We wash that out by comparing number of directs, budgets, scopes, etc head to head.  All the title in the world won't help you if you have no directs and no budget and no profits.  Being the first hire and therefore being a VP is silly.  It only becomes a killer if a start up "VP", for example, won't listen to the larger company's analysis of the comparable job, and essentially wants to match themselves to a role based on title.  In bigger companies, one CAN do that because there is some semblance of inter-corporate title parity.  Start ups don't do that, so asking for a title-equivalent transition isn't just over-reaching, but also indicative of a political naivete or lack of research.

I find it interesting that you would use such a caustic phrase as dead weight about non-start ups.  It suggests a bias that would likely be a significant career limiter in a larger organization.  I know lots of start ups with dead weight.  Sometimes the best place to look for them is in higher level titles assigned to folks with last names the same as the founder.


Bnccna2's picture

Thank you for all of the great advice.

I will focus on getting better results and relationships in my current position. I am glad you clarified about not leaving the company - i didn't want to(I love where i work!). I've only been a MT for about 2 months, but I can't get enough. My wife jokes about me being married to my ipod now.

Thanks again. 

Oh, one last question. Should I be telling my manager or any else that I want to move into management? Would that be to aggressive or threatening to my manager? (I know your not supposed to ask for more in a thank you note even if it is electronic, but I need to know.) :-)

jhack's picture

Yes, you should share your aspirations with your manager...when the time is right.  That will depend on your relationship with your manager, the promotion process at your firm, and the review cycle. 

So if you've done well, and your manager asks you about your career goals, that's a good time to discuss it.  If your boss never meets with you, doesn't ask about your career, and doesn't review your are going to have a challenge advancing.  

Some firms require that the annual review process include discussions of short and long term career growth.  That's a great time for bringing up the topic.  

Anyone else?  Generally it's not a topic you discuss with others in the workplace (although cultures vary greatly), and certainly not if you haven't told your manager. 


ashdenver's picture

Within the right context, I think it's absolutely appropriate to mention to higher-ups that you'd like to move into management.  After all, they should be mentoring you and helping you get to the next level.  There should be (IMO) a development plan that you and the manager are working on reaching those goals for your professional development.  If the manager doesn't know where you want to go, how will s/he know when you get there?

It's not something you'd want to mention in passing in the hallway - "Hey, how's it going?" "Great, I want to move into management!"  But in the right context, it's perfectly okay and, in my book, advisable to bring it up. 

To be fair, though, some managers are very protective and get a little weirded out - as you alluded to in your post.  They freak out - "Omigod, BNC is after my job, I have to do everything in my power to squelch his opportunities so there's no shot he'll get promoted / get me fired & take my job."  Perhaps I've been fortunate enough to work in good places with good people or perhaps I've been too naive and/or clueless to notice people like that within my direct sphere of influence but more often than not, GOOD managers recognize the importance of grooming the next generation and having a built-in exit strategy, for lack of a better term. 

If I'm the only thing holding the team together and there's no one on my team who could step up to the plate, how would my boss and his boss look at moving me out of my current manager gig?  They'd be worried that the whole team would crumble and things would be worse off without me holding things together so they'd be more inclined to promote someone else whose departure from their current role wouldn't be so upsetting to the apple cart.

If you mention your goal of management to your boss and sense any negativitiy or apprehension or fear from the boss, you might consider shifting the focus onto how it would help your boss.  "Hey, if I learn more things and gett better at stuff and take leadership roles within the current team, it will only serve to make YOU look good that your team is running so well, out-producing other teams, etc. which in turn will increase the chances that YOU will get promoted too!"  Make it clear that you want to become a PEER rather than a replacement, that you're still in your current role to help the boss look good, do your best, etc.

Bnccna2's picture

 I appreciate all the advice. I'll write back in a few months on any updates.