Aspiring Managers: Learn to Behave Like Adults

Last Updated Sep 15, 2009 10:31 PM EDT

It's relatively easy to be a successful child. All you've got to do is learn how to be cute, get attention, and cry when you're hurt or hungry. Learning how to be a teenager is much harder; I'm not sure anybody's good at it. I certainly wasn't. As for becoming an adult, I've been working on that for decades and making very, very slow progress.

Everything gets harder as you get older, and becoming a good manager is no exception.

In fact, becoming a good manager is harder than all of those other phases combined. Why? Because, it not only depends on how much of an adult you've become, but how adult your employees are. Not to mention all the management and leadership skills that so-called experts and gurus aren't even sure about - they debate this stuff all the time.

So, for all you relatively new, aspiring managers, and for those supposedly seasoned veterans who are honest enough with themselves to admit that they're still trying to figure it out, here are three relatively critical but not necessarily intuitive tips I've learned by trial and lots of error along the way.

Try to act like a mature adult. As I alluded to above, the best managers are those rare individuals who actually behave like mature adults. What does that mean? It means being as honest, comfortable, and empathetic with your own issues and shortcomings as you are with your strengths and skills. Only then can you do the same for others, and that's what good managers do.
Do the work - hands on. Work your tail off learning the basics of your trade and industry, whatever that is, while you still can - before you get promoted and lose the opportunity. Why? No matter how smart you are, that's the only way to get hands-on experience that will engender respect from employees and help you to make effective management decisions down the road.

Become adept at 5 things: finance, selling, presenting, negotiating, and business communications.
Finance. I don't care if you manage engineering, HR, IT, sales, whatever, you need to learn about finance. Why? Because that's how companies are run and how business works. Period.

Selling. To sell your own programs internally you have to learn how to open doors, help constituents and peers to make informed decisions, and close deals.

Presenting. It's hard to imagine your career going anywhere unless you can deliver an effective presentation. Unfortunately, most of us aren't born with the presentation gene.

Negotiating. Negotiation skills are critical to resolving conflicts, driving consensus among peers and other key constituents, and developing your own career.

Communicating. Great managers are also great communicators; it's a critical success skill. Unfortunately, they don't teach you about business communications in school.
These additional resources will help with the above skills:

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