Top performing consultant = manager, right?

So you’re a great consultant, the top biller in your company and everyone is asking you “when are you going to be a manager?”

This seems to be a typical situation for recruitment consultancies the world over. As soon as consultants start performing well, the senior management team label them as a major part of their succession planning strategy. Sometimes the individual hasn’t even been asked!

So why do we think this way?

Why do we think that just because someone is good at something, that they will be able to manage other people doing that job?

Being a recruitment consultant and being a manager require two totally different skills sets and attributes. People need to feel that they are progressing and management is usually the obvious option. My suggestion would be to look to other opportunities (or create them if they’re not currently there) such as Principal or Executive Consultant, National Sales Manager whereby you manage large clients for the company… rather than people etc.

John Adair defined the leadership role into 3 elements.

  1. Achieve the task
  2. Build and maintain the team
  3. Develop the individual

So now that achieving your targets is only one element of the job, what does it take to move from one role to the other? 

Here’s your starter for 10, to review as to whether you think you want to be a manager or not.

1. A willingness to listen to other people’s problems and issues

I’ve put this first because if you haven’t got the patience for this, then it’s unlikely you’re going to make a very good manager. I’m not suggesting the issues outside of their work, but definitely the ones that affect your team in work.

2. Exceptional listening and observational skills

The first relates to point 1, but the ability to observe others and identify both their strengths and weaknesses is a skill in itself. Gathering information and relaying it back at the appropriate time is a delicate balance.

3, Detailed feedback

Being able to share both positive and negative feedback with individuals, so that the overall experience is beneficial to both is not plain sailing. Initially it’s important that both parties have trust and are willing to take on board the feedback.

4. Heightened communication skills

Most people find it easy to pass on good news, but each team member will interpret information in a different way and this is none-so more evident when you are the bearer of bad news. Being able to adapt your style and the way you present details to maximum effect takes thought and conscious communicating.

5. Building trust

As a manager, your team need to believe that you have their best interests at heart. It’s this part of the job that can cause major conflict.

As an individual, you were happily looking out for yourself. Now as a manager, you need to be promoting your team but at the same time ‘towing the company line’. Not an easy thing to do.

6. Vision

You may know where you’re going and what you want to achieve, but have you verbalised this to your team? So many times it’s in the manager’s head, but it needs to be written down, shared and discussed with the very people that will make that vision a reality. Asking for their input initially to create the vision will gain even more commitment.

7. Planning

What are you aiming for? What’s the plan at least for the next year, but preferably the next 3 years? What are the benchmarks along the way to monitor that you’re on track? How will you keep everyone updated?

These are all questions that your team are asking of you – even if it’s not out loud. By doing this, each member of the team can see their career moving forward with you and are therefore less likely to be looking elsewhere for their next position.

8. Integrity

Do what you say you’re going to do… do it when you said you were going to do it… and make sure that everyone benefits – not just you! In recruitment, this means keeping 5 different people happy at the same time (did I mention this job wasn’t easy?!). Everyone needs to gain success from your actions and the way that you conduct business – your client, candidate, team and your company… as well as yourself.

9. Consistency

Being highly positive one minute and then a doomsayer the next has even more effect when you’re a manager. A study on employee engagement by Melcrum showed a 61% impact on performance and behaviours, comes down to how the manager communicates. So if your team doesn’t know how you’re going to react from one minute to the next, they’re unlikely to trust you and be willing to go the extra mile.

10. Developing others

Being a trainer myself, this was always my favourite part of the job. Putting the time and effort into coaching, supporting, empowering and training individuals was what gave me job satisfaction. What I learnt as a manager from my peer group though, was that you also have to have humility. My aim was to make my team better than I was… achieving more than I ever could as an individual. This attitude is not always what I see in managers today.

If you are a top consultant and considering becoming a manager, ask yourself – “am I willing to step back and be the second best consultant the company has ever had?”

If not, this job may not be for you.

Angela Cripps

Angela Cripps has worked within the recruitment industry for over 25 years and runs Connemara UK Ltd. Her career started as a recruitment consultant, where she recruited both temporary and permanent staff for Blue Arrow in Catering, Industrial, Healthcare and Commercial sectors. She is now an Executive Coach, Mentor, NED and Trainer for the recruitment industry.

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