In the past, when children were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, traditional responses would include becoming a doctor, train driver, pilot and even explorer or astronaut. Our present fascination with celebrity has possibly moved the emphasis more onto becoming famous, whether as a pop-star, actor or perhaps just for being famous.
In any decade though, it is unlikely that manager would have been any child’s career of choice. Being a manager is something few aspire towards; it is something people become while doing something else. Scores of dedicated nurses, enthusiastic IT boffins and successful salespeople take on management responsibility, not because they are passionate about the challenges it offers, but as a way of earning more and progressing their careers. For others, being a manager is seen as a stepping-stone on the path to greatness – the dues you have to pay if you want to become a senior executive with all the power and perceived glamour that entails.
Having taken a step onto the management ladder, people often find it is not always a comfortable experience. They spend less time doing what they love, and more time being caught in the middle of the organisation, blamed by both those above and those below for all its ills. According to research by the Hay Group, many company directors in the UK believe middle management to be the single greatest barrier to achieving company objectives, while dissatisfaction with a manager is a major factor in employees looking for a new job.
Given all of this, it would understandable if people were less than passionate about being a manager; and yet passion is exactly what managers need if they want to succeed. It takes passion to motivate, engage and get the best out of people, and a passion for success and delivering the organisation’s strategic goals is what senior executives need from their managers.
It is difficult to be passionate about something if your focus is elsewhere. Many managers see the people management aspects of their role as interruptions that get in the way of their real work, be that caring for patients, solving some technical problem or closing a sale with a new customer. Similarly, understanding the wider context of what is happening in the organisation sometimes seems like a distraction that has little to do with the day job.
Turning irritation into passion takes effort; it starts with paying attention to what’s happening around you and instead of looking for quick fixes, getting curious about what’s creating the problems in the first place. Curiosity sparks interest, and from here genuine passion can be ignited. Passionate managers are rare, but hugely influential. Although being a manager may not have been your first career choice, becoming a passionate one is something to aspire towards.