When someone says management, do you immediately think of someone with staff reporting to him or her? One of the myths about career progression is that in order to be a manager, you must have staff reporting to you.

While many managers have one or more levels of staff reporting to them, there are those functions that require management oversight but little or no staff reporting to the manager of the function.

People or Function?

In our training program, we use a wine glass to illustrate how people start at the bottom in a career, develop upward, and then come to a decision point at the bottom of the cup of a wine glass.

Those on the right side management track can be thought of as the gurus and specialists who oversee those organizational functions that are accomplished largely through the efforts of the manager and a very small staff. Those on the left side management track oversee functions whose purposes are mostly achieved by through a larger staff.

Each Has Its Own Set of Competencies

Both managerial roles require well-developed and significant managerial competencies associated with managing a function or managing a staff.

For example, in some organizations business development is handed by a single senior executive sharing admin support with other executives.

This individual is expert in identifying future opportunities, developing business cases and positioning the organization for future growth. He or she takes a more direct role in accomplishing the objectives of the function.

His or her senior counterparts are often executives who handle functions with a larger staff, such as sales, operations or customer service. Such functions accomplish the work of the department or function through the direct efforts of a staff, with oversight by the executive. Both managerial roles are critical to an organization’s success.

Which Way Should I Go?

If you’ve reached that position in your career where you believe you want to advance to a management role, here are a number of questions to answer about yourself:

  1. Have I completed a behavioral assessment, such as DiSC or MBTI, which can teach me about my own behavioral strengths and tendencies in a managerial role?
  2. Which side of the wineglass do I think I would be better suited for, from the perspective of my own behavioral style and personal preferences?
    1. Do I have the patience and interpersonal skills required to work well with others?
    2. Do I prefer to work independently or as part of a team?
    3. How much risk am I comfortable taking?
  3. Who do I know, either in my organization or in my network, who works primarily in a functional management role? In a staff management role? Would they be willing meet with me and give me their perspective of managing a function/managing a staff?
  4. What specifically is missing from my current skill set and experience that I’d need to have, in order to move to that next position? How can I acquire these skills and experiences?
  5. What would be my biggest challenges in each path, and what specifically will I need to do to deal with each challenge?
  6. What advice have I sought on this topic from peers, supervisors, HR and others whom I trust? Does their advice line up with my own opinions?

Bottom Line

An essential part of managing your own career is to think ahead in order to prepare yourself for the opportunities that may present themselves farther down the road. If management is something that appeals to you, add the wine glass theory to the many factors to consider.