There are five reasons you became a manager.
The first reason is that you’d rather be a boss than have a boss. More power!
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Exactly seven minutes after your promotion, you get a call from the person who hired you for the new job. The one who wooed you. This person, you realize, is your new boss. Part of your job is to keep this person happy. That will take real effort.
There is an exception: when your new boss is the same as your old boss. Whatever you did before to keep her happy, you can keep doing. Easy peasy.
Alas, either way, you don’t get what you wanted: freedom from a boss.
The second reason you became a manager was to get a bigger office. Bigger offices are nice because they create more distance between you and your boss—either your new boss or your old boss with the new title. Space is freedom, so it feels great.
Exactly seven minutes after you move into your new office, you realize that the room is full of people who want things from you. It’s a bigger office, so there are more people.
So you bring in bookcases (even though you don’t have time to read) and file cabinets (even though all your files are electronic). These protect you from people who want things from you.
Unfortunately, when people who want things from you can’t find you—or need to lift heavy bookcases and file cabinets to see you—they become unhappy. Your engagement scores plummet. This makes your boss—either your new boss or the old boss with the new title—very anxious.
The third reason you became a manager was to increase your influence. Instead of looking up at other managers, you get to call many of them your peers. And by persuading them, you indirectly impact all of the people who report to them. The other good news: directors and vice presidents now want to talk with you.
Exactly seven minutes after feeling excited about this, you realize that your calendar is now filled with back-to-back meetings. These may be great opportunities to influence people, but you won’t have time to prepare for them. So it dawns on you that the purpose of these meetings is actually for other people to influence you.
The fourth reason you became a manager was to impress your friends, family, and the three high school classmates you bump into over the holidays.
Exactly seven minutes after telling them about your promotion, they ask you what you do as a manager, and you realize that you don’t know how to answer. You’ve spent all of your time so far figuring out how to make your new boss happy, filling your bigger office with furniture, and going to meetings that you haven’t had time to manage.
So you tell them that your new job positions you really well for the promotion to director.
The fifth and least conscious reason you became a manager was to get things done through others rather than yourself. You hear about this strange explanation 18 months after your promotion during your second performance review with your boss—either the new boss, the old boss with the new title, or the brand new boss who replaced the first new boss because the first new boss was trying to get everything done herself.
By the end of the performance review, you finally get it. Getting things done through others rather than yourself is what managing is all about. Of course!
You are so excited to figure this out that you give your boss a big warm hug and announce that you are now ready to give yourself fully to the organization, just as soon as you switch back to being an individual contributor.
If you know anyone who is a manager, was a manager, or would like to become a manager, think hard for 10 seconds before forwarding this to them.