The commonest reason for promotion to manager is: technical excellence and hard work.
But if you want to lead people, those excellent technical skills won’t be anything like enough.
Even worse, if you work in a business where it’s every-man-for-himself, and individual performance is king, there may be trouble ahead.
It may seem unlikely, but you can actually get an awful long way up the promotion ladder with relatively few interpersonal skills, particularly in the professions, such as accountancy and medicine.
In my experience leaders often strive to get to the top and find that they hate it once they get there. Some are naturally very good at it on the other hand. So what makes the difference?
So if you find yourself to be a reluctant leader, hiding away in your room and avoiding people, now is the time to start doing something about it.
It helps to look at what it’s like to be lead by a poor or a good leader:
Does she know my name?
Does he know what I am doing? I mean not to micro manage, but does the leader know what the challenges I face are? The best way to find out is to be out there a good proportion of the time, engaging.
If you have a big work force you won’t necessarily be able to get round everyone, but what it does mean is realising people value real engagement with them, even if it’s very brief.
I knew an MD who blanked people in the lift. It was unconscious but actually really rude. You may be preoccupied, but that’s the price of leadership.
Another boss I knew, had very good recall of detail. He could remember your kids’ names and would ask about them. It’s powerful.
Some of the qualities you need to get ahead: single-mindedness, focus on the task, shutting yourself away and working without distraction, are good but tend to work against effective leadership.
Some of us actually prefer working like this. I once worked with a senior partner who liked to do small sole trader accounts jobs. He said it kept his “hand in”, but the job changes when you go up the ranks.
You cannot be an effective leader without being good with people. So how will we know how competent we are with people? Will they tell me?
The worse we are at the people stuff, the less likely our “reports” are going to tell us.
A good way of gauging our people skills is to examine the relationships we have within our own families. They know us best, don’t they.
Sometimes the first we know of, shall we say, a “deficit” in our people skills is when the door slams or the resignation hits our desk.
“No everything was fine, I just need to progress my career.”
They are not going to tell us.
So instead let’s look at our track record at home. What do they say about us?
If we struggle to get on with people, what’s stopping us learning how to improve?