The Big Mistake Most Managers Make

June 2, 2016, 12:30 AM UTC
Chinese businessman rubbing his temples at desk
Photograph by Getty Images/Blend Images

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: How do you prepare for a management role? is written by Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow.

First and foremost, ask yourself whether you really want to be a manager. There is a huge misconception out there that in order to be “senior” in a company, you have to be a manager. In reality, you can absolutely be a top executive without being a manager—they’re mutually exclusive. If you don’t want to deal with people problems or if you don’t think you’re the right person to have those tough conversations, then maybe being a manager isn’t the right role for you. Recognize that about yourself. Say to yourself, “Am I going to enjoy doing these things?” If not, it’s time you had a very candid conversation with your superiors to explain that you want to keep moving up in the company and take on more responsibility, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to be a manager.

Recognize that your needs come last
What a lot of people don’t realize about being a manager is that your needs always come last. It’s all about your team. What can you do to provide them with the tools they need to be successful? Full disclosure: It’s exhausting. When any of my reports come to me with a problem, I typically need to solve that first before anything else on my to-do list. It’s just like starting a family. Their problems become your problems and your success is based upon theirs.

See also: The One Thing You Should Ask Yourself Before Becoming a Manager

What’s your emotional quotient (EQ)?
Figuring out what motivates people—what makes them tick—is half the battle. Put yourself in their shoes to understand what it is that inspires—or tires— them. You have to find that sweet spot between being an empathetic confidante and a firm hand depending on what your employees need, all without sending mixed signals.

Radical candor
Always be direct. That’s a big mistake managers make. They fear the reaction or consequence: Maybe the person isn’t going to want to do this and will leave as a result. Employees might be talented, but if you sense they don’t want to do what you need them to do, then you have to have that conversation with them, and quickly. Those are the kinds of tough discussions you need to be prepared to have. And yes, they might be uncomfortable, awkward exchanges or even lead to that employee leaving, but trust me, everyone appreciates a candid boss.


Model yourself on your mentors
Lastly, it’s as simple as looking back at your favorite past managers (or even teachers) and asking yourself what it was that made them stand out. Draw on those qualities and emulate those people in the same way you would take the best from your parents, family members, and friends to create the best version of yourself.