Gaining Leadership Skills is a Journey, Not an Event

I have been an individual contributor for almost five years and would like to become a manager. What class should I take to get the management skills I need to be promoted?

First, thank you for emailing me your question.

Management/leadership is a very wide topic encompassing a variety of skills and professional experiences. As a result, you can’t learn everything you need to know about becoming a manager in a single class. Many companies provide great internal training classes designed to help prepare their individual contributors for future management roles. These classes are generally two to three days in length and designed as a number of different management oriented subjects, such as delegation, leadership concepts, goal setting, providing feedback, and other related topics.

The advantage of this type of class is that it provides you with a rudimentary understanding of various important management skills that are considered vital for management success at your company. If you have the opportunity to take one of these classes, I wholeheartedly suggest it. Being in an internal training class like this also provides the opportunity for you to network with other future managers and begin to position yourself internally as having future manager potential.

This class, however, should not be viewed as the end of your management training. It should be considered the beginning of life-long learning in leadership, management process, and soft skills related topics. Training in these areas should be a lifetime endeavor for a number of reasons, including the following: • There are many management related topics, such as negotiation skills, giving performance reviews, delegation, time management, etc. The list goes on and on. • Most leadership and soft skills that help you at work are also life skills that will help you in your personal life because people are people regardless of the setting. For example, the same negotiation skills you use when dealing with a vendor at work will help you get a better deal when buying a new car. • As your management responsibilities change over time, different situations bring with it the need for different skills. For example, if a company reorganization makes you responsible for staff at multiple physical locations, you must gain training, knowledge, and expertise in managing virtual teams, a skill that was previously unneeded because all your staff was in one location. • As with technology and fashion, trends in management best practices also change and grow over time. As an example, many of the management techniques used thirty years ago are much less effective today.

This list could be endless. There are a number of places that you can access to continue your management education including the following: 1. Other company-offered management training classes on specific topics, such as time management or delegation 2. Traditional college classes and degree programs, such as an MBA 3. Free online YouTube videos 4. MOOC classes offered through Coursera.org and edX.com 5. Books written on specific leadership concepts 6. Wikipedia 7. Being mentored by your manager or a trusted advisor 8. Public classes offed by independent training companies 9. Volunteering to take a leadership role at your favorite nonprofit or religious institution to practice your management skills (and do something good for the world at the same time) 10. Offer to lead small projects at work that require the assistance of other employees, thus showing your leadership abilities and willingness to lead

On a personal note, I spent over twenty years of my career and for the past five years have been teaching management, leadership and soft skills based classes through my company, Manager Mechanics, to techies and non-techies alike. Even having this deep experience, I still continually try to expand my knowledge in these areas with the goal of enhancing my management and instructional craft.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom and @MgrMechanics or at www.ManagerMechanics.com.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to build your professional brand.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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