For perhaps half of my candidates, their career goals involve moving into a management position and ultimately out of being technically hands on. Often the path to do this is to move from a support or engineering position through to a team leader and then ultimately to some kind of a Service Desk Manager, IT Manager or Services Manager.
The question is how do you make this move? Or to ask the question another way, what skills or knowledge is required to get that coveted manager title.
If one word could sum up the biggest difference between a team lead and a manager, it would be responsibility.
Think about what a team lead does on a day to day basis. They’re often heavily involved in training their colleagues, managing rosters and scheduling work. They make sure that tickets are being performed in reasonable time frames and effectively do the admin side of a management role.
If you then look at what a say, Service Desk Manager does, you find it’s less about what they do and more about what they’re responsible for. The buck stops with them when it comes to running an efficient service desk. They are the ones that need to work out how to work more efficiently, what processes and procedures need to be developed and implemented in order to increase efficiency, and still maintain a friendly and prompt level of service that the users enjoy and trust.
3 Key Areas
So, when summing up what this responsibility means for a manager, we can basically break it down into 3 key areas.
1. People skills
You need to be able to prove as a team leader that you have the emotional skills to understand your team and to know how to work with them to get the best out of them. If you can prove that at a team leader level, then you have the right mentoring skills and performance assessment abilities to be able to do that at a management level.
2. Policies and procedures
These are normally implemented by a team leader but they’re created by a manager. The manager is the one responsible for delivery. And on this basis, they’re the ones that need to create the appropriate policies and procedures that will mean they’ll get the most out of their employees and meet service level agreements.
The manager is the one that identifies the problem and the appropriate fix for the problem and it’s then the team leader’s responsibility to implement that fix within the team. So, to be a good manager, you need to be able to first identify problems, then evaluate possible solutions and finally create the right solution to fix those problems. Those solutions will generally always have some policies and procedures attached to them.
3. Financial literacy
Every manager that has responsibility over an area needs to understand the income and expenses for that business unit. They will at least have a budget that they’ll need to meet and any extensions to that budget will need to be approved by managers higher up which means that an appropriate business case will have to be made.
That is, the key skill difference here from a team leader is the ability to read profit and loss and budget spreadsheets and know how to write effective business cases that are based on return on investment. Further they need to understand the hard numbers around capacity and utilization within their team in order to be approved for resourcing when required.
So, if you are someone who is stuck in a team lead position and looking for the next jump then consider how you can prove your financial literacy, people management skills, and problem solving skills both on your resume and in an interview.
If you can pull on specific examples where you have demonstrated these skills with a story that reads well and proves this level of management experience, then employers are more likely to take a punt on you. I hope this helps and good luck in your journey up the corporate ladder.
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