Specialists are often promoted because they have recognised knowledge and skills in their field. They know their job very well and the next “obvious” career step for them is to become a manager. Once they are promoted into a managerial role, the hype soon dies. We have seen that from spending very little time doing what they used to do they are now dealing with “people problems”, office politics, coordinating projects and people.
They will likely testify that this transition is utterly exhausting. They are no longer just focusing on their own skills and successes – but the skills and successes of others.
Being a specialist means a person have great expertise in a specific field. Once a manager, however, this expertise is less relevant. One needs to lead the team and trust that the team has the expertise. The fact is that one should refrain from trying to be an expert when reaching management level. This has obvious implications for one’s identity in the organisation. One goes from being a high achieving superstar to now starting all over, at the beginning. This is likely to feel more like a demotion, than a promotion.
There exists a Management Myth – everybody want to be and should be a manager. This is simply untrue.
We are not implying that all specialists will ultimately be poor leaders; however we are saying that not all specialists want to be or should be managers. It is likely to negatively impact on the bottom line if employees are doing what they do not enjoy.
Being a specialist and being a manager require two different skill sets. Of course it is possible to develop skills, but would you “promote” the best soccer player in a team to the team coach? Likely not.
A flaw in the majority of organisational cultures, is that it is assumed that the pinnacle of career progression is to be a manager. Managerial roles are viewed with prestige.
Why do all organisations not have non-managerial pathways for progression?
Organisations should have a dual track career progression. Those who lack leadership competencies, or who do not want to be a manager, should be able to progress on the non-management track, reserved for people that continue to grow their skills and ultimately become true subject matter experts, developing a name for themselves in their profession. If organisations focus on what each employee wants, they could save billions spent on turnover and training.
The stigma associated with not being a manager after a certain tenure within an organisation should be eradicated, as we are setting individuals up for failure.
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