So, You Want To Be A Manager? A Coaching Conversation


Ever been approached by someone looking but not ready for a promotion into management? Here’s a five step process on how to facilitate this conversation to ensure people distinguish fact from fiction and know exactly what they’re signing up for.

Have you ever had one of your direct reports, often the ones that were closest to graduating college come to you and say, “Boss, I want a promotion. I’ve been selling for a year now and would like to take the next step into management.”

What’s your typical reaction. Call me clairvoyant – I’m going to suggest that when you hear this, you take on more of a defensive posture. You climb onto your soapbox and explain to your rep why that is not an option right now. And after the conversation, if it goes at all well, you may appease that person – but for how long? It’s only a matter of time until they’re calling you or walking into your office wanting to revisit the same conversation again.

The Costly Assumption

It’s safe to say this approach isn’t effective. So then, take a moment to reflect upon these prior conversations. Did you seek deeper to understand their point of view, and the whyin order to get to a root cause? Did you take the time to uncover why this person wants to be a manager in the first place? And if there was a fit, did you take the time to map out in some written format, a career path, and trajectory co-created by the both of you so that the direct can clearly see the path, skills, knowledge, responsibilities, change in workflow, work hours and disposition that need to be embraced in order to be an effective manager? Not to mention ensuring that you came up with a realistic timeline when it would be feasible for this person to move into a management position, as well as the steps and milestones that need to be achieved and by when in order to do so.

If you’re finding yourself having repetitive conversations, chances are you missed many of the items I mentioned about, the gap or root cause and instead, wound up treating symptoms. The root of this evil? Assumptions made by both the manager and direct. And if you’re making assumptions, you’re not being curious enough to ask the right questions.

The dangerous and most costly of all assumptions?  The manager and direct both assumed that each of their definitions and perceptions of “management” and the role of a manager are, in fact, the same.

Just Another Coaching Moment

This is a conversation managers struggle to handle. So, here is a proven, step-by-step approach that I’ve coached managers around as it relates to working through this type of scenario. There’s a certain order of events or a conversation talk track to use when approached by a direct report looking for a promotion that they may not be ready for or even if they are ready, there may not be a current opening for a management position.

 Five Steps to Coaching Someone Around a Self-Requested Promotion

Step 1: Going back to my book, Coaching Salespeople Into Sales Champions, enroll this person in having an in-depth authentic conversation so that you can set and re-set clear expectations, your intentions and the alignment and understanding around the expected results required prior to a promotion, as well as the professional development, and internal organizational changes that need to happen in order to get promoted into a management position or any senior position they’re striving for. Positioning this conversation and setting expectations would include: what a promotion would entail, what results would need to be achieved prior to a promotion, the skills that would need to be developed as a manager, what the expectations would be as a manager, as well as a realistic timeline for a promotion. Here’s what that could sound like.

“John, I appreciate your interest and desire to advance in your career and making me aware of your career goals and expectations. I want to support you the best way I can. That includes making sure I’m effective at helping you advance in your career while managing your expectations around your career path, ensuring you’re clear around what the role of a manager truly entails. This way, you can assess if it is aligned with your timeline, lifestyle, passion and expectations. Are you open to discussing this?”

Step 2: This is a coaching moment! After you set the intentions of the conversation, here are some great questions to use to facilitate the conversation based on the objectives you have shared in the enrollment statement.

  1. Why do you want to be a manager?
  2. What are the benefits of becoming a manager as opposed to staying in the role of an independent contributor?
  3. Can you please share your view around the role and responsibilities of a manager?
  4. What would you envision wanting to do less of as a manager? Why?
  5. What would you envision wanting to do more of as a manager? Why?
  6.  As a manager, what are the priorities that you would focus on most? Why?
  7. How many hours do you think are in a typical workday?
  8. Describe your perception of what a typical day would look like as a manager?
  9. What challenges do you believe you may be faced with in a management position?
  10. What assumptions might you be making about a management role?
  11. How many hours each day do you think you would need to spend on the metrics, analytics and numbers?
  12. How would you go about identifying, developing and refining  the skills you need to be an effective manager?
  13. How does becoming a manager align with your personal and professional goals?
  14. What are the characteristics of an effective, inspirational and extraordinary leader?
  15. What legacy would you want to leave? How do you want to be known?
  16. What might you have to sacrifice or give up personally and professionally if you become a manager as opposed to an independent contributor?
  17. How do you think becoming a manager would impact your career and your personal brand?
  18. How does becoming a manager align with your long term career goals? What about being an IC?
  19. What is your timeline and expectation around being promoted into a management role?
  20. How would this all impact your personal life?
  21. Who else would you be interacting with more frequently for internal meetings and projects?
  22. What if having to relocate was required to fill an open position in management?

Step 3: Fill in The Gaps and Shatter the Assumptions. Once you have an idea of where they are coming from and how accurate their perceptions of as to what it takes to be a great leader, it’s time for the reality check. While some people may be fairly tuned into what the role would entail, there will be others that well, quite frankly, have no clue around what it takes to be a successful leader and manager. For example, some people are inspired to build, develop and lead a team, realizing that the spotlight and priority is no longer them but their team.

Then there are others are seduced by the potential allure of management. They envision a skewed management role a position of power, success and the opportunity to delegate the things they don’t want to be doing, solve all the problems of their team, and make more money. They assume they know what it means to be a great manager. For many organizations, this is the farthest thing from the truth! For example, after talking with a manager who was recently in a similar situation with one of his direct reports. After the direct report shadowed their manager and observed what their manager’s day looked like, how hard they worked and what they were responsible for, they told their manager, “I thought I’d want to be a manager but after watching you for the last day, there’s no way I want your job!”

 Step 4:  Share or Create the job description for a manager in your organization and what’s expected. This builds off step two. Now the individual can see exactly what their responsibilities would be in this role. At this point, they can identify how much of that role aligns with their vision of what it means to be a transformational, elite manager and coach.

Step 5: Map Out Their Career Trajectory. If they still want to become a manager, then it’s essential they see a chronological path and timeline regarding what they would need to achieve in their current role before getting a promotion and what a realistic timeline would be as it relates to moving into a management role. Are they achieving their current business plan and objectives? Do they have a vision once they become a manager? Are they a good model for their team and possess or realize the skills, attitude and behavior that would make them thrive? This avoids having your direct reports repeatedly coming to you each week asking the same question. “So, when do you think I can get a promotion?”

The fact is, after going through this exercise, you’ll find that many of those who are pushing to become a manager will stop pushing because they no longer want that role. They want to stay in their role, since they’ve realized how good they actually have it. Of course, there are others, even the mass, who would make great managers. Now, you can leverage this conversation  to best asses the future leaders of your organization and those that may be a better fit elsewhere.