Image: Dea Robinson
David Zalubowski  /  AP
"The bottom line is if you're in management, you have to figure out how to talk to people, get along with people," supervisor Dea Robinson says.
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updated 4/6/2010 7:45:40 AM ET 2010-04-06T11:45:40

Do you have what it takes to be a boss?

Some people are natural managers. They love to lead, drive performance and contribute to the broader goals of a company. The perks also can be enticing — more money and perhaps even an office or expense account.

Yet, management isn't for everyone. It requires a unique set of skills to get the best performance out of all employees and to juggle a number of tasks all at once. Managers also put in longer hours and are held to a higher standard of accountability.

Here are some tips to help you decide if you have what it takes to be a manager.

Manager or managed?
Some workers simply evolve into managers over the course of their careers. Others are bored with their current position and see it as a way to tackle new challenges. In difficult economic times, some are promoted before they're ready, which could put them at a disadvantage.

"It's not just a raise in pay or better title," New York City counseling coach Lynn Berger said. "There's responsibilities and duties, that some people are better suited for than others."

If you're interested in pursuing a management position, you first should decide whether it would be a good fit.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What do you love about your job? Would you be disappointed if you no longer could do those tasks?
  • Watch what your boss deals with every day. Are those tasks you would like to do? Could you do them better?
  • Are you interested in mentoring others?
  • Are you an effective communicator? Well-organized? Team-oriented? Patient?
  • Are you confident and secure in your abilities and as a person?
  • Can you hold people accountable? Could you discipline or fire a subordinate?

Since 1998, Dea Robinson, 47, has been managing a staff of five as practice administrator for Inpatient Medicine Service in Englewood, Colo., a Denver suburb.

She likes the variety and the challenge of her work, from mentoring to trying to coax a difficult employee to succeed.

"The bottom line is if you're in management, you have to figure out how to talk to people, get along with people," Robinson said.

You're not trying to be their friend, but you have to figure out what motivates someone in order to draw the best out of them, she added.

Pros and cons
Becoming a manager gives a worker a tremendous opportunity to grow professionally. Managers gain a broader perspective by being exposed to different aspects of a company's operations. They're forced to take a big-picture view.

Those changes can inspire and motivate many people. Others, though, might feel overwhelmed, especially now that they've become bosses.

As a manager, you will have to hire, fire, write performance evaluations. You will have to deal with the unexpected, such as finding a way to keep the operation running when employees miss work because of illness, a family crisis or difficult weather conditions. Or, when they're laid off.

That's when managers need to be flexible and patient, says Elaine Varelas, managing partner at the career consulting firm Keystone Partners in Boston.

If you become a manager through promotion, you likely will supervise people who have been friends, colleagues, even rivals.

If that's the case, the best way to approach it is to meet with each person individually, Varelas said. Listen to their concerns and comments, both on their own and then as a team. Work to earn their respect.

If an initial move into management doesn't work, some people can learn from their mistakes or mature and become good managers later in their careers.

Individuals who hit obstacles along the way or believe they need more training can rely on a wealth of information, such as your company's human resources department, seminars, continuing education and how-to books.

Can you ever go back?
If you become a manager and discover you hate the job, there are ways to get back into what you love.

Approach your bosses and work out a way to return to a role as an individual contributor rather than have your bosses come to you, Varelas said.

Make sure you can explain your reasons for wanting a change and how it will be the best move for the company.

It's also a good idea to discuss your move and the reasons for it with the people you supervise who may end up being your peers again.

Andrew Kuligowski of Sarasota, Fla., found himself in that position just a few years ago.

The senior software programmer and developer became a team supervisor because it seemed the natural progression on his career path and he thought it would provide a challenge.

Over the course of two years, his team varied between three and eight programmers plus outside contractors.

Sometime into the second year, Kuligowski realized he wasn't comfortable because his success hinged on the success of his team. He worried more and would wake up in the middle of the night wondering if tasks were getting done properly. He fretted over what he might have done wrong or should have done better.

Kuligowski said he realized his biggest problem was that there was no one on his team who could provide the expertise needed in a specific subject matter. He also knew he would be much happier if he returned to programming.

He convinced his bosses that someone could be brought in to manage the team and he filled the void on the team with his expertise.

He returned to the team but eventually took a job as a senior systems developer with another company. He also is active in a trade group where he can provide expertise as a conference leader and technical writer.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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