Before you step up the corporate ladder, make sure you’re on solid footing with the right skills, training and personality to move up and stay there.
So you want to be the boss? First things first: take a critical look at your strengths and weaknesses as a leader, says Richard J. Long, a professor of industrial relations and organizational behaviour at University of Saskatchewan’s Edwards School of Business. Being aware of your abilities – what you do well and what you’re less good at – is the first requirement for the job.
Next, Long explains, effective managers must be resourceful and have the ability to make decisions, strong communication skills and excellent people skills – the ability to work effectively with other people in teams and in groups.
“You might come up with the best ideas in the world or the best plans, but if you can’t communicate them effectively and in a way that’s going to get people excited about them, that’s going to be a real problem.”
Testing, testing, testing
Companies often turn to psychological assessments like the Myers-Briggs and Birkman Method tests, which identify personality traits and behavioural tendencies in individuals.
If your company doesn’t offer these kinds of tests, you can turn to career counselling agencies, career coaches and even professional psychologists to find out more about your skills and shortcomings.
Once you’ve got the assessment results, keep the information in perspective and remember that the tests are meant to help you gain insights into your aptitudes, not define them, advises Ada Ip, a human resources manager for Teligence, a Vancouver company that provides custom social-networking software. After all, Ip explains, the results often reflect how individuals perceive themselves, which is not necessarily how they come across to others. For example, you may consider yourself very outgoing, but your coworkers may see you as more introverted.
Hit the books
If you think you need to make some improvements after considering your strengths and weaknesses, heading back to the classroom might be a good way to improve your chances of becoming the boss.
“I always find it helpful if people have taken some type of further education, workshop or training that helps them identify the different communication styles,” says Charmin Rockwell of Career Employment and Counselling Services in Morinville, Alberta. Like other career agencies, Rockwell’s company hosts a variety of career development workshops that teach interview skills and how to network within a company. Universities and colleges also offer management courses focused on team-building, communication skills, project management and conflict-resolution.
But pursuing post-secondary education isn’t always the right course, says Professor Ron Burke of York University’s School of Human Resources Management. While business schools offer the necessary basics, Burke believes finding a good mentor and observing good managers is equally valuable.
Actions speak louder than words
Ultimately, proving you’re management material is demonstrated best on the job and over time, Ip says. Employees must show more than just basic competency at a job. “Are they able to push themselves to go above and beyond what their current position requires?”
Ip recalls how an employee helped her team meet project timelines. “She was able to help the manager plan out the whole project from start to finish, make sure it was delegated to the right people and help those people along the way,” she says. “So she had the trust of her manager and her peers as the go-to person when the manager was not around.” By inspiring confidence in everyone, Ip says the employee confirmed her ability to lead and put herself on the path to a promotion.
“Presentation and financial management skills are good to have, but I would definitely have to say that most organizations focus more on soft skills rather than hard skills when looking to promote,” Ip says. So when you finally decide to make the big move, remember that knowing how to motivate others is as important as your ability to balance the books.