I'm sure that I'm not alone among your listeners in my situation: I've been an avid listener of both Manager Tools and Career Tools, but have yet to make the leap from individual contributor to manager.

I wonder if you guys could do a podcast which addresses some of the questions that I (and probably many others) have as I work to make the "leap":

1. What's it like being a manager at the various levels? What are some of the joys? What are some of the hardships of becoming a manager?

2. What are some of the big-win ways in which I can prepare to be a manager (beyond formal education)? What is a good measure of my readiness? I think that I'd really like to get into management, but that first drop is a doozy! How do I get past that?

3. What are some strategies for finding opportunities to become a manager?


Thanks again for all of your hard work, guys!

Jason Powell

Cincinnati, OH

Sean McGinnis's picture


Interesting topic and request.  While I cannot comment whether such a cast is in the future, I can share with you the results of some similar work we did at my former company a while back that might relate to question #2 above..

While assessing the talent of our front line managers, we brainstormed to identify the characteristics of a successful manager.  Not surprisingly, many of these characteristics are encouraged in existing casts, but I repeat them below nevertheless....

1. Develop people and manage performance.  An avid MT'er would likely suggest this is the very point of the management trinity.

2.  A willingness to provide open and honest feedback.  A sub-discipline within #1 above in many respects.

3.  A passion for learning and development, especially developing ones self.  Encompassed in this trait is the notion that managing people is different from success as an individual contributor, and that it is important to have a thirst for knowledge that will make you a better manager.  Obviously, the fact that you are here at MT displays in some regards this very thing.  And yet, I sense that the crux of your questions above is HOW does one display that while not yet in the ranks of management.

4. Ability to prioritize and delegate.  Again, delegation is a part of the trinity.


I believe these to be highly inter-related and many ways the most important characteristics.  many of these floated to the top as we discussed them as a group.  The next grouping that also received some discussoin, will, I hope, ber more informative, as many of them are easily displayed while in an individual contributor role.


5. Passionate about their job.

6. Able to communicate at varying levels.

7. Represent their functional area and gain respect.

8. Collaborate.  Abilit to play well with others is always important.


Again, remember that we were assessing the talent levels of existing managers, and highlighting what it took to be successful in that front line management role.

In any event., this many not directly answer your question - and I'm certain it is not the same as Mark's clean, crisp writing style, but I hope it helps in some small way.

I'll sign off by sharing some good advice I once received form a mentor about what it takes to be promoted....

1. Do the job they assigned you to co currently.  You must adequately and completely fulfill the current responsibilitiies, usually for a period of time.

2. Be an informal leader.  An informal leader is never appointed and standing up and taking on more responsibility, or successfully leading your peers or colleagues is usually a sure sign of greater potential.

3.  be in the right place at the right time.  Luck and timing is nearly always a factor.

I would add to that the need to influence a level above your current boss.  In most instances your current boss will NOT be making promotional decisions that would affect the next step in your career.  Don't kiss up, but make sure that person views you favorably, and knows how capable you are.

Best of luck.

ManagerDave's picture

Hi Jason,

More specific information about your current situation may be helpful. What's your current role, your track record, the size and industry of your company, etc.

I struggled with this question a few years ago and here's how I ended up in management:

I worked in a few colossal organizations as an engineer and learned very quickly that the path to management would take many years if I didn't change my course. To correct the situation, I moved to a smaller company where I knew I'd have opportunities to work on broader scope projects, interface with various departments within the company, and quickly build up the qualifications needed to transition into management.

These are some of the general principles I follow(ed):

Look up the job description you want and develop yourself to meet its requirements. This includes by whatever means possible as an individual contributor, working on relevant projects, increasing your knowledge, and gaining credentials such as certifications and degrees.

Demonstrate leadership characteristics. Empathy, Self-awareness, Motivation... Learn the DISC model (MT Podcasts), read up on leadership (Harvard Business publishes a lot about this topic).

Make your boss look good. Ask to do some of his less valuable work so he has more time to work on something better i.e. facilitate his delegation. Do a great job on your contribution to some important project he's responsible for.

Find ways to make your job easier. For example, if there's some repetitive task you're responsible for that could be outsourced, automated, delegated, or improved, free yourself of the time so you can work on something more valuable to the organization.

Take initiative. In addition to your normal responsibilities, take extra time fix a broken process, help people in different parts of the organization, or do something you weren't expected to.

Build and maintain your network (CT Podcast).

Communicate ambitions to your manager such that he can coach you accordingly. If he doesn't coach you, coach yourself... read books, go to school, listen to MT and CT, etc. This website has a powerful arsenal of books. Also note that Peter Drucker is the father of management: Read his books now.

Depending on how flexible the organization is, assume a leadership role on a project where you could demonstrate leading others, managing a budget, and project management skills.

Capture all of this information in your career management document in a quantitative manner such that you can demonstrate how you affected the bottom line. If your current company won't provide an opportunity and you've followed the MT/CT way (you have a solid resume, built a large network, and actively communicate with a few recruiters) another one will probably give you a shot.

I'm not sure how to answer your questions about "what it's like" to be a manager. It's hard work, it forces you to think a lot, there's pressure at times, but it's not sexy and cool. So be prepared to sweat.

Good Luck!


Todd G's picture


Great topic.

Q1 -

First and foremost, it ultimately depends on the environment you are working in. You should (I know you guys "should" is not a well liked word), enjoy the environment you currently work in. I work in an acute care setting for a small health system in Colorado. My position is rewarding and challenging on a daily basis. Dealing with patient complaints, staffing issues, insurance issues (no pay and minimal healthcare coverage). Stress has a tendency to ramp up occasionally.

Some of the joys.. Seeing a great employee succeed or recognized by a patient and their family. Recently, I had seven employee's who were recognized by a grateful patient, he gave them all a thank you card with money in them. $250 collectively. However, per our corporate policy, staff cannot accept monetary gifts, and this was explained to the patient. Ultimately, I collected the money and donated it to the hospital foundation along with a program we call the Guardian Angel award. Each of these staff members will be recognized with a Guardian Angel pin. That is one of the best parts of my job!

Q2 -

I would have to agree with both Sean and Dave above. Both MT and CT are by far one of the best venues for Manager resources. Formal education is good. So is informal.. Mentors, Resources, non-credit classes on Leadership, Teams. One thing I am beginning to work on is working toward a Green Belt in Lean Methodology and then continuing to pursue higher degree belts.

You have to be ready or at least ready to learn in a management role. If there is something that truly grabs you and you believe in yourself, you can accomplish that first "drop" as you call it. Believe me, you're not alone! I personally believe that if we had all the answers, not of us would be here learning new things from one another.

Q3 -

I think I said more in my response to Q2. However, as Sean mentioned above, download those pod-casts that interest you in both CT and MT. I would encourage all of them but take your time. Follow the forums and discussions. Something that I need to do more religiously. Take a look at the book reviews posted on the site. Ask questions.... Ask lots of questions.




Todd M. Grivetti, MSN, RN, CCRN, CNML