On Target-Stop The Up or Out Mentality
By Alicia Orr Suman
IT USED To BE THAT THERE WAS ONE WAY TO greater rewards and respect on the job, one accepted career path to success: the vertical road to the top. Keep doing good work, and you will follow a steady path of promotions and some day reach the ranks of "management."
But the problem is that not all talented workers want to be managers. Among executives, more and more are admitting they miss the jobs that got them to where they are today. Instead of dealing with budgets and personnel issues, they long to be back in the trenches, so to speak, whether that means writing copy, creating fulfillment systems or designing direct mail packages.
The issue affects lower- and mid-level managers, too. So instead of promoting your top phone salespeople away from the phones, find other ways to reward your best sales reps' achievements. Same goes for good creative types; keep them involved in the hands-on work they love.
Another important point: Management requires leadership skills, something not all people possess. Some individuals are born followers while others, especially creative thinkers, prefer to work more independently. As Anne Fisher writes in her "Ask Annie" column in Fortune (May 28): "We tend to assume that everyone who is good at his or her job wants more power and more status, when in fact those things don't really predict psychological health or happiness," says Dr. Steven Berglas, who teaches at the Anderson School of Management at UCLA and also has a private practice counseling unhappy executives.
If you personally still find yourself boxed into the management corner, consider looking at your managerial role in a new, more creative way. Here are a few of the tips presented by Mark Sanborn, president of Sanborn & Associates, at May's National Conference on Operations & Fulfillment:
• Follow the WIN strategy: What's Important Now? Ask your employees the three most important things they do each day.
• Prove the significance of your employees. Make sure everyone on your team feels famous for something. You want them to always have a reason to come to work.
• Free up some time to think. Don't become too busy doing the work that you don't have time to lead. Leaders used to learn the most stuff. Now, it's better to learn the most important stuff the fastest.
Or as Dr. Berglas says: "Push back once in a while. Most organizations are looking for innovative thinking, whether they tell you so or not. So offer it."