I have been working as a technical expert for about a decade. I have been headhunted away from where I was three times, with a substantial signing bonus and salary raise each time. I now make more than I ever thought I would—and I am still getting calls about twice a week.
I am told the sky is the limit with my technical background and skills. I like where I am, though, so I have no reason to leave. I get the budget and time I need to stay current with my skills and my boss depends on my recommendations for strategic changes to our technology.
My boss has talked to me about becoming a manager and I am intrigued by the idea. The organization I work for sees management as a tour of duty, not really as a promotion, so I am not being pressured. I have never really considered going for a manager position because I am desperately shy and congenitally introverted. The idea of having to talk to people and tell them what to do fills me with crippling anxiety. Do you think I should push myself to try managing people?
Dear Shy Techie,
No. I don’t.
But you did write to me for a reason, so maybe there is more to this that you are not saying. Are you bored? Are you looking for a challenge? If you are seeking to really challenge yourself and put yourself in a situation where you will be forced to grow and change, maybe you should consider giving management a try.
I will tell you this: managing people is hard. Some managers were simply born to manage others and absolutely thrive in the job. The rest of us must rise to the occasion every day—and it is endlessly challenging because people do not act like technology or data sets. People are unpredictable. They have complicated lives and problems that keep them from focusing on work. They often have indecipherable personalities that change when they are under stress.
Even the most rational folks can turn wildly irrational. The most reasonable people can become unreasonable for no apparent reason. Everyone gets overwhelmed and has terrible days and needs to be talked off the ledge—usually all at the same time and on your worst day when patience and empathy are in short supply. It is easy for managers to say the wrong thing or have what they thought was the perfect answer be misinterpreted.
Have I talked you out of it yet?
Really, my first thought was “If it isn’t broken, why on earth fix it?” Shyness isn’t a reason not to manage people; there are a lot of wonderfully effective shy managers. But they are usually driven by a desire to serve and help others, so are compelled to work hard to overcome their own natural inclinations. If you aren’t madly driven by an internal motivation to teach, develop, and serve others, you should find other ways to challenge yourself and expand your horizons.
I would have given different advice twenty years ago when I thought everyone could do anything they put their minds to. Thirty years of coaching have taught me that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
About the author
Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
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