You’ve been working in your team for a while. You’re contributing and doing great work. You get things done.

But somehow, your managers still see you as that amazing worker who can really crank out the work and get results. They don’t realize you’ve grown and that you’re no longer “just” that terrific worker bee they’ve relied on for years.

You’re ready for management but they haven’t yet seen that you are… yet.

When you’re ready for management but others still see you as a worker, it’s frustrating

Unfortunately, what people perceive about you is not in your control. It happens at their end and can feel unfair. But since we can’t implant a different view of you into someone’s brain (like in the movie Inception), the key is to focus on what’s in your control.

It’s far more energizing to be able to take actions that move you toward your goal instead of waiting and feeling frustrated.

So, here are three areas you can work on right now to help your managers see you as someone who’s ready for management:

  • How you think 
  • How you act 
  • How you sound

It all starts with how you think

Your thinking affects your behavior which affects your results. And here, the result you’re after is to be seen as ready for management.

So, what kind of mindset do you have and what do you spend your time thinking about? How does it compare to what people in management think about?

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As a team member, I was so busy working on tasks that I had very little time and brain space to think about the next level of strategic issues and opportunities. So if you’re like how I was, stuck in firefighting mode, it’s time to lift yourself out of the minutia periodically, get clear on what managers think about and start adopting that next level mindset as much as you can. And if you don’t know what managers in your organization are thinking about, this is a great time to ask and find out.

Another aspect of mindset is the extent to which you’re actually ready for a management role. Is it simply the next step in the career progression, a function you’re already performing without the title, or something in between?

In my case, I wanted to be in management because it was the next logical step if I wanted to keep advancing. But I didn’t have much insight into what it really meant to be a manager. And part of me was afraid I wouldn’t measure up.

The first person you need to convince is yourself. If you don’t believe it, no one else will either. 

Which brings us to the next area.

The way you act sends signals about how ready you are for a management role

Think of this as what people would see if they shadowed you for a day.

What do your behaviors show about your maturity under pressure?

If you’re frazzled and frantic over deadlines, which was common for me when I was a “worker bee”, it won’t help you come across as ready for management. Managers are expected to remain calm under pressure and in doing so, help calm the rest of the team so they can perform at their best.

And what do you do with your time?

As a high achiever, you’re probably working constantly and making great contributions. But are they the right kind of contributions that lead people to think you’re ready to shift to a management role or continue in the role of “hard worker”?

I used to think that being busy, showing how hard I was working and producing loads of output would make me a natural candidate for upper management. Wrong.

Getting things done led to my being given more tasks to do since I was so good at it, but these were the kind of projects that would keep me in the same role. And being busy sometimes made me appear overwhelmed with the amount of work, which others read as not having my act together.

Your choice of actions and activities is largely based on how you think of yourself and what you think about. So step back and ask yourself “what am I doing in my day?”

It’s all too easy to show up as a worker bee if you’re not careful. For example, I love taking notes and it felt natural for me to sit in meetings and write down what was being said. It wasn’t until my skip level boss, who was trying to get me promoted, called me into his office to say, “stop doing that!” that I realized my behavior made me look junior and unimportant. Like the court stenographer instead of the judge or lawyers.

This brings us to the third area.

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The way you sound shows your readiness too

Think of this as the audio recording of you going through your day.

One of the things that differentiates someone who has management potential from a worker is how they speak in meetings. It’s hard to gauge what kind of manager you’d be if people don’t hear you speak up.

For the longest time, this was an issue for me. I struggled to have the confidence to put my hand up and make a point in meetings. I would sit there and agonize over whether I should say something. By the time I got up the courage to open my mouth, someone else would have said it. Then I’d get down on myself, which made it even harder to speak up. The longer the meeting went on, the worse things got.

When people in management speak, they have opinions and they voice them in an appropriate way. They’re talking about the big picture rather than details. And they sound confident and leader-like in their tone and choice of words.

When you take the actions you can take, you’ll have no regrets

While you can’t snap your fingers and magically have people see you’re ready for a management role, you can help them along by focusing on the areas that are in your control:

  • How you think – are your thoughts and mindset consistent with someone in management rather than a “worker bee”?
  • How you act – if someone were shadowing you for a day, would they see the signs of someone ready for a management role?
  • How you sound – are you speaking in meetings on strategic topics in a way that sounds confident and leader-like?

Which area will you work on right now to help your managers to see you as someone who’s ready for management?

Leave a comment and let me know.

If you want more strategies to show you’re ready for a management role, check out my Career Mastery™ training on “How to Think, Act and Sound Like an Executive”, as well as:

  • How to Build Executive Presence and Polish
  • How to Be Seen as a Strategic Thinker
  • How to Be Seen as Someone Who Can Do More
  • How to Contribute Powerfully in Meetings
  • How to Use Email to Position Yourself as More Senior
  • And much more

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