Let's face it, those of us in management frequently (and quite rationally) ask ourselves, "Why in the world did I sign up for this impossible job? What was I thinking?"

Or maybe you've spoken with a "manager" who lamented the hardships and challenges of managing as though he or she was a victim? Perhaps you've talked with a manager that was actively questioning the effort versus rewards of leadership. Or, perhaps, you're coaching someone contemplating a career in management and trying to figure it all out. If any of the aforementioned sounds familiar, read on.

As we wrestle in our minds about why we went into management, here are a few questions to consider.

  1. Was it for the fortune and fame? If we were truly economically motivated, we probably should have moved in to a sales job. As for fame, here's a test ...
    • Step 1: Stick your hand in a bucket of water and hold it there for 5 seconds.
    • Step 2: Carefully remove your hand from the bucket of water.
    • Step 3: Study the size of the hole that remains where your hand had been.
    • Step 4: Know the fame you are likely to acquire as a manager is negligible compared to the hole you left in the water.
  2. Was it for the freedom and power? The surest path to servitude is to assume the role of leading others. As for power, sure, you might get a "say" in what happens, but at the end of the day the real power resides with those that do the work and the customers for whom the work is done.
  3. Was it to have more control over your destiny? The harsh paradoxical reality is the higher you ascend the less real control you have, especially over managing your own time or worse yet achieving that ever illusive work-life balance. Experienced managers know, to be successful, we must trade control for influence. (And while we're at it, let's trade in coercion for persuasion.)

Then what, pray tell, can we really expect in return for being a good manager?

One word: Impact. In fact, I have argued that managers' highest rewards (and our most awesome responsibilities) relate to impacting the lives of others. As managers, we have the opportunity to not only profoundly impact the quality of our team's lives but also the lives of those that count on them.

As managers, acknowledging our real ability to impact the lives of others can be a difficult reality to accept or embrace. For instance, take a look at your orgchart and consider the names of the people on it. Now, add the names of the dependents of the people to your chart. This exercise inevitably conjures up images of an iceberg and the realization that what's visible doesn't really tell you much. Let's do some math, shall we? A manager with 5 direct reports who each have 5 direct reports has a department of 25 people, right? If each member of the department has "four dependents," that manager impacts the lives of 100 people. Now, if just half of those 100 impact others in some way, our manager has impact on 150 lives each and every day... which is over 37,000 impacted lives per year! Are you starting to get a deeper sense of the responsibility? Perhaps a heightened sense of awareness about the impact you have? How many lives do YOU impact each day?

Keep in mind that our impact can be good, bad, or, I suppose, indifferent. The question to be asked now is "What kind of impact do I want to make?"

Maybe it's just me, but it's all too easy to get caught up in our objectives, tasks, and individual assignments, only to discover the real measure of success is our ability to positively impact others. Funny, but the last time I checked, those rewards didn't appear on a P&L.

One last question: Why don't managers assign a greater priority to their own development as leaders?

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