How do you know when management is the wrong path for one of your team members?

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Senior Director CIO Office in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
At a past company, we would have an annual career development conversation with all of our employees that was asynchronous to the performance review. We would ask them to designate their short-term and long-term goals. In the short-term, everybody wanted to get an additional technical certification and in the long-term, they all wanted to become vice presidents or CIOs.

In a big company, one of the best practices is to push cost account management down to the lowest levels of the organization, because they know that they can count the pennies better than senior management can. So we’d go to these people who wanted to be in leadership roles and say, "We want you to be a cost account manager." And the amusing thing was that they’d often reply with, "I can't handle that. I'm too busy and that's a waste of my time, so go find somebody else." Many people who say they want this people responsibility and budgeting responsibility are not prepared to invest the sweat equity to do so.
VP - Head of Information Technology in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
At a former organization, there was an era where a lot of ICs were promoted to managers. It was one of the darker periods at that company because all of the people that were good ICs assumed their skills would translate to being managers. But what really happened was that it created a whole layer of micromanagers. It took a lot of training to correct that. We had to tell them, “Your success comes from your direct reports now. You don't tell them what to do. You just need to get them to that level."

If someone says, "I want to be in management" during an interview, I'll ask them to explain why. And if they say, "I just like motivating people,” or, “I like developing people and seeing them grow," then I know their expectations are well-aligned. There are a million other reasons why people think being a manager would be great, and if they bring up one of those reasons I know their expectations are totally wrong from the beginning.
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VP, Chief Security & Compliance Officer in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees

That's a great point. People see these titles and they don't necessarily understand what it actually takes to drive and own that position. There is a lack of understanding around the risk and the immediate responsibilities you have the minute you put that title on. It's a dynamic shift in expectation.

Technical Solutions Director in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
I recommend looking up the Peter Principle:
"... the tendency in most organizational hierarchies, such as that of a corporation, is for every employee to rise in the hierarchy through promotion until they reach a level of respective incompetence"

My perspective (as a long-term independent contributor) - many assume that a managerial role is the only way to progress their career. And unfortunately, it is true in many companies, where a mediocre manager is more valued than an excellent IC.
2 1 Reply
Technical Solutions Director in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees

Also, aside from career growth - many ICs see promotion to a management as a way to get:
a.) more visibility
b.) more autonomy

Chief Executive Officer in Services (non-Government), 51 - 200 employees
When it comes to determining if management is the wrong path for one of your team members, I suggest taking the time to observe their performance, compare it to their team goals, and assess the overall fit of their individual skillset. Other indicators could include low motivation or a lack of enthusiasm for their current role. If any of these are present, it may be time to consider a different path for that employee.
Principal in Finance (non-banking), Self-employed
I've made the mistake of pushing for promotion for people who didn't want elevation into management. Promotion is a two-way street which means the person being elevated and the leadership wishing to elevate them should be on the same page. We should also aspire for there to be enough fluidity in a company so that if certain people don't want to move into management, it doesn't create a stop-gap that stymies the company's growth and evolution.
CTO in Healthcare and Biotech, 11 - 50 employees
Not everybody wants to be in a management position. So, in your 1:1 with your team you must do inquiries with each of them if they want to be Managers or not.

Most of the people I have talked to in Engineering they want to keep coding, so the organic path for them after a Lead position ( Back, Front or QA ) is towards a Principal Engineer. Otherwise, if they want to have business, people responsibilities they would go towards a Head of Engineering.

Communication is always essential and key with your team.

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Without a doubt - Technical Debt! It's a ball and chain that creates an ever increasing drag on any organization, stifles innovation, and prevents transformation.
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