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The Actor Manager

Robert D. Freeburn
Everybody has his own theatre, in
which he is manager, actor, prompter,
playwright, sceneshifter, boxkeeper,
doorkeeper, all in one, and audience into
the bargain.
Julius Charles Hare

Great actor managers included Henry
Irving, Beerbohm Tree and Donald
Wolfit. Now this list could include
managers in industry. Managers manage and like actors change roles often
within a working day. Their offices
become stages for these changes of
● manager as confidante;
● manager as protagonist;
● manager as appraiser;
● manager as presenter;
● manager as co-ordinator.
The list may seen almost endless and
so every manager is using role-play as
a management tool in the box of tricks
used to manage properly and
No longer is a manager simply
employed to manage. That role has
changed. Previously a manager may
have sat behind a desk and organized,
with the help of an assistant and a
secretary, a workforce. The demarcation line between worker and manager
was clearly defined, if often undefined,
and was emphasized by blue and white
collars. Today that is no longer the
case. A manager is in the midst of the
employees in an open-plan office and
so the stage has become more open and
has many exits and entrances. The
manager now finds that the demands
are many and varied and rarely clearly
In the morning the first problem a
manager may have to face is an
unhappy colleague. The work of his
colleague is respected and so there is a
desire to help. The problem creating
this unhappiness may be personal, or
work based and so to ease and perhaps
allay this unhappiness the manager will
set time aside to listen. In this situation
the manager becomes a counsellor:
take some leave and go on a holiday

Robert D. Freeburn

with your partner; take your daughter
to the clinic; consider the other side of
the problem; talk about it and let us see
if we can find a solution. The skills
employed in this situation are
numerous and include the ability to
create trust, openness and honesty
while retaining objectivity and
compassion. The role, however, is one
known to many managers who care
about the welfare of their colleagues
and the environment in which they
work. As the greater part of our lives is
spent at work, this concern is vital to
the health and well-being of a
Next the secretary may appear with
the post and to collect the signed letters
she presented yesterday just before 5
o’clock. Unfortunately, the manager
has to tell her for the second time to retype two of these letters. She overreacts and storms out. Now another
role is adopted, because this incident is
one of many and a decision must be
made. The tolerant, understanding
manager has now run out of patience.
The manager telephones personnel for
advice and together they agree to meet
the secretary to discuss the situation at
noon. Meanwhile, this manager has an
important presentation to make to a
potential client. Manager as coordinator emerges. Slides and illustrations for use on a flip chart have arrived
and a room has been booked for a
dummy run in front of some colleagues
and the line manager. So far the
manager has organized all the visual

22 Executive Development Vol. 7 No. 2, 1994, pp. 22-23, © MCB University Press, 0953-3230

aids, but the technician, who in turn
organized the equipment in the
allocated space, is off ill. Phone calls
must be made to find a replacement as
the run-through – the rehearsal – is at
11 o’clock. When all this is in place
time will hopefully be found to read
through notes in the privacy of the
Managers should set aside some
time each day to work in their offices
alone, if only to recharge their batteries
for the next role they have to play.
Without periods of consideration
managers will make mistakes. Closing
the door firmly, if only for a few
minutes, allows silence to reign and
calmness to be restored. In that time
they will be able to write letters, think,
contemplate and even relax. To keep a
well-oiled machine functioning it is
important to turn it off from time to
time, to let it cool. We all need time and
space to ourselves, rather like a short
holiday, after which we feel refreshed
and enlivened and able to do our jobs
effectively and efficiently. An actor
will often sit on a stage alone before a
performance to absorb what is around
him, to consider the role he is about to
play and his part in the whole
ensemble. He comes alive with the
other members of the cast and mostly
with the audience but it is important to
realize that without his colleagues he is
nothing. A manager is a part of a
company, a bit-player in a larger cast,
all working together to achieve
common goals – a viable and profitmaking company, a successful
production – and hopefully both will
have a run of weeks, months, years.
Moments of silence can be reassuring.
Moments of silence can also be
unnerving, in that the phone is not
ringing, so customers may not be
wanting your product or no one is
wanting to see you so you are not
needed. In the smooth running of a
company, everyone needs to get on
with their own jobs and a recognition
of this requirement will assist in the
understanding and appreciation of
At 11 o’clock the manager becomes
a presenter, probably self-conscious,

and in the course of five or six seconds his expression will change successively from wild delight to temperate pleasure. The manager as presenter will be in the centre of the stage. Considerations. Managers can be replaced in a month.and yet the role adopted is that of the assured salesperson more than ready to convince the potential client of the worth of the product which is to be sold. The parts a manager plays are therefore many and varied. the phone call. the need to secure a success. from fright to horror. ● question time. from surprise to blank astonishment. from that to fright. However much they attempt to concentrate on routine matters this may fill their thoughts until the event has taken place. ease of delivery and vocal impact. Roach (Associated University Press. To convince an audience of your authority and the worth of the product in a new arena adds extra pressures. Managers will be judged for what they are – true to themselves. Flexibility of office space has encouraged a flexibility of approach which has encouraged a more flexible response. p. skills. Garrick’s tour de force. changing role quickly and convincingly. therefore. and an acceptable hair cut. knows he or she is on show. How does a manager become successful in all these different roles? He or she doesn’t. this is a special occasion. include: ● target audience. How does this player cope with these roles? How does this player learn the lines and give so many different per- formances? The manager focuses on one objective at a time – to one audience. ● competitor. of course. Management is now about “personal interaction” so even the chief executive “goes on walkabout”. ● support material. a week or indeed even in a day. they can establish a unique identity and a unique working environment by playing many parts. And the letter in the morning’s post from a supplier who has not been paid. hoping not to fluff the lines and hoping that all the props will be there and will work when required. To be more specific. There is. Self is emerging from behind the uniform and self is acceptable. And now the manager must return to the inefficient and offended secretary. To communicate with you. Even the costume may be different – that wellcut suit that he last wore at his daughter’s wedding with the tie his wife gave him last Christmas. the famous eighteenth-century actor-manager performed an impressive series of monologues from Shakespeare in Paris during the winter of 1764. from sorrow to the air of one overwhelmed. Garrick will put his head between two folding-doors. from tranquillity to surprise. all the other bitplayers that make up a company. if indeed you ever close your door. from this to tranquillity. Gone too are the “proper” channels of communication – the memo. The Player’s Passion J. The rehearsal should be useful in defining areas of weakness and strength but then the presenters must be prepared for the event itself. On top of all these considerations will be the personal impact the manager will make upon the target audience – appearance. After all. your colleagues – note colleagues – now wander over to your desk or knock and enter your office. from that to sorrow. opportunity and perhaps even relaxation. Volume 7 Number 2 1994 23 . Garrick set his mind to conveying a particular emotion and a manager should attempt to do the same – to focus on a particular role in relation to a particular situation and yet to be flexible enough to change role as and when the need arises. As such the manager will not feel at ease. Each manager is a human machine which coughs out the goods. a regulationlength skirt. however much the manager may simply try to be him or herself. leaving frustrations and anxieties behind and creating a more refreshing. Delivering the goods is the main objective. They adapt and react to each situation in turn to the best of their ability. while toeing the line is now unnecessary if the former is achieved on a regular basis. With the role of “the manager” there is now so much room for “self” and with this realization can come strength. authority. ● length of time. William Garrick. In this role the manager may be closest to being an actor. Gone are the days when there were no computers. Such an approach may allow similar responses from colleagues and so a more honest and straightforward approach may become the order of the day. 1985. Rather than a formal letter from the typing pool which firmly reestablished the relationship between the sender and the recipient (Dear Sir. knows that everything depends on this one-hour presentation and knows that the main impact will be made in the first 90 seconds. They are bit-players in a larger scenario and as such have a number of responsibilities. however. Greater informality means greater availability and hence the many roles managers now seem to play – and are expected to play. from horror to despair and thence he will go up again to the point from which he started. What if that ability is insufficient to meet the needs? They have to accept that they cannot be everything to everyone. that tailored suit she bought recently with the co-ordinated blouse and discreet jewellery. Gone are the days of wearing a formal suit. Perhaps each manager should now consider each situation as a different situation to be considered and approached differently. to gain this client. ● content. This one-man/one-woman show is a one-off performance with an audience. no photocopiers. Freeburn is an Assistant Principal at the Central School of Speech and Drama. ● decision. a job description. With this “coming out” of the personality lies the crux of the problems many managers now have to face. Together. They set their minds to establishing and achieving goals that fulfil the needs of the corporate whole. Personal relationships are more like the real world. no fax machines. This is their main priority and as such they are certainly dispensable. however. Robert D. inadequacies and expertise and so do all their colleagues. However men and women are not just machines. lively and stimulating environment in which to work. the letter. 152) No one would suggest that this is what a manager should and could do but at times it may feel like that. strengths. Tel: 071 722 8183. R. hand written and friendlier. Dear Mrs) a Post-it note is stuck on the desk. vocabulary. Each situation requires a facet of the role played to be highlighted or perhaps diminished and different aspects of each manager’s personality to emerge. They have feelings. And organizing the theatre tickets for Les Miserables which the family really wants to see. with technology as an enabling tool which allows everyone to achieve that flexibility. a manager manages people and situations which ensure that their section of an organization works. was an exhibition of fluctuating passions.

Q You describe this process as a psychological transformation. you go from being an individual contributor. One is to manage your team. Becoming a manager means learning to frame problems in ways that are much broader. and scanning what’s going on in the competitive environment to make sure that the agenda you set for your team is appropriate. The feelings managers experience as they adopt these new attitudes and views have a tremendous impact on the evolution of their professional identities. Q That’s the conceptual element of the transformational task. and in control. As a new manager. if not more. First. Copyright © 1997 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. and around. and how you can have impact. They feel stretched. New managers soon learn that formal authority is a very limited source of power. Management has just as much. And peers and bosses. To set the direction for a group is a much more complicated process than people might think. they mistakenly think they should just focus on their teams per se. say. and how is your understanding of the process distinctive? When I first started to investigate this topic. the engineer who’s working in the lab or the consultant who is not yet a managing partner in the firm. if not the first year. unless they look up. I discovered there’s a lot of research about what managers need to know. But. Q What’s involved in becoming a good manager. When they first became managers. to think strategically. over whom new managers have no formal authority. play an important role in whether or not man- agers succeed. So I designed a qualitative longitudinal study that would create opportunities for new managers to speak for themselves about their experience. Seeing yourself as a network builder and also as a leader—these are fundamentally different ways of looking at who you are. you have two sets of responsibilities to learn. and manage the context. Becoming a manager means coming to terms with the difference between the myth of management and the reality. The other is to manage the context within which your team resides. in fact. as opposed to. You have to adopt new attitudes. And because of what’s happening in business in general. fast-moving organizations. how it felt. Understanding what your role is. Becoming a Manager: Mastery of a New Identity. more holistic. Hill’s book. the people in my study were very focused on their formal authority—the rights and privileges associated with getting the promotion. and it’s one that has two pieces. Harvard Business School professor Linda A. to do with negotiating interdependencies as it does with exercising formal authority. but very little about how people actually learn to lead and manage. and new world views if you’re really going to be successful. so then what do they have to feel expert about? They feel out of their comfort zone in terms of their 3 . That change in professional identity is what people find the most challenging. new values. Basically. You also go from being a person who’s very technically oriented—fairly narrowly focused—to being someone who’s responsible for setting the agenda for the group. their teams are going to have unrealistic or inappropriate expectations placed upon them. New managers often narrow their horizons too much. how you can intervene. and out of control in the first months. new managers feel constrained. Right. not so smart. In a recent conversation with writer Loren Gary. The study captured not simply the content of what they were struggling with. who is relatively independent. describes the profound psychological adjustment involved in morphing from star individual performer to competent manager. obligations. That means managing the boundaries—the relationships of your team with other groups both inside and outside the organization. requires a lot of learning. she elaborated on the challenges one faces in making this transition. Their technical competence can become obsolete. in addition to acquiring team management competencies. New managers have to start viewing themselves as responsible for determining the group’s agenda. to being a network builder. you also have to change yourself. and interdependencies. more longterm. They’re also not going to have the resources necessary to do their jobs. their subordinates won’t necessarily listen to them. but even more importantly. particularly in flat. context management is becoming a much bigger and more complex job than it used to be. is a continuous learning process.c o n v e r s a t i o n a l w i s d o m What You Must Learn to Become a Manager An Interview with Linda Hill I N CONTRAST TO management treatises that concentrate on tasks and responsibilities. smart. Now the capacity to actually come up with an agenda. What about the emotional element? Instead of feeling free. But they soon discovered their new duties. All rights reserved.

organizations are not perfect—no matter how much you restructure them or revise their policies and practices. or from which we learn the wrong lessons. So in that sense I think there is indeed learning. Delegation. they learn to be more strategic about their careers. Q Another major point in your book is that people learn how to be good managers through experience rather than through training. And to me it’s completely the wrong way to think about it. For managers to figure out the implications of their style on a given situation. you help them figure out cause-and-effect relationships. Often you H A R V A R D M A N A G E M E N T U P D AT E J U LY 1 9 9 7 . From this. not so smart. you get more of the results you want. in fact.Becoming a Manager . It’s as if when you’re new. . in fact. Adjusting to this aspect of the managerial role is a major part of the transformation. people skills. The other thing that happens is that as you get better at your new responsibilities. modulating their behavior to produce the desired outcome. The models we use for mentoring. Managers are essentially paid for dealing with the reality that you can’t get everything exactly right. for example—it’s a very tricky set of judgment calls. for instance. they learn to be more strategic about their day-to-day activities. To the extent that you can provide people with this kind of feedback. and they also can discover. We all know that there are certain mistakes that a person who’s new is going to make. Q You think people can actually learn how to get satisfaction from these new ways of operating? They can learn. or the professor/student model. what are some of the flashpoints or watersheds that people should be on the lookout for? One thing is having the appropriate expectations of what is going to. You help make the link Q Interesting—most of what you read about this topic deals with finding a mentor. they enjoyed it more than solving the problems on their own. but most companies don’t know how to acknowledge that. I think you can help people learn how to teach themselves to lead and manage. It’s 4 discovering new things about the self. choosing the work experiences most likely to bring about the growth and development they’d like to achieve. We have all kinds of experiences from which we learn nothing. you can help people learn to act in ways that make others want to give them feedback. . seeing someone else succeed—and that. Another piece has to do with how you get satisfaction from your work. because we don’t know how to make sense of those experiences. Sending the signal that they’re willing to hear what others have to say will get managers the information they need to make on-the-job corrections. Things they thought would be satisfying weren’t. You can also help people be more self-aware. between their intent and their actual impact. some pleasant and some not so pleasant. You must learn to like seeing other people succeed. Some people hadn’t realized until they became managers that they really enjoyed coaching. they need feedback— not simply about what they’ve done. like individuals. occur. new managers feel constrained.” Along with developing their introspection skills. People often have very unrealistic notions about what mentors are supposed to do for them. frameworks that attune them to the key issues in a situation. Q In that crucial first year of being a manager. and other things turned out to be thrilling. And there can be lots of stresses associated with leading others. and you rarely have the same instant gratification you get when the outcome is a technical one that depends solely on you. to like helping them succeed. or time. “Instead of feeling free. and in control. and out of control in the first few months. Moreover. So in order to feel satisfied in your new responsibilities. there can be some changes in the way you actually get satisfaction from your work experiences. you’re supposed to do just as good a job as a very experienced manager. you must learn new ways of defining success. or an imperfect organizational structure or incentive program. Managers who are relatively open to feedback and don’t become defensive find that others will want to mentor and coach them. How do you get your kicks when you’re a manager or leader as opposed to when you had a doer role? As a manager you may be many steps removed from the outcome. In my research I found that people had lots of surprises when they became managers. Some of those stresses stem from the fact that. smart. are inappropriate—because in fact the people you learn the most from are your peers. and that can be quite satisfying. they are the people who have to deal with the trade-offs that come from not having enough resources. but also about how they’ve done it. such as the parent/child model. your relationship to the outcome is often more ambiguous. I don’t know if I’d call this learning. I don’t think you can teach anyone to lead. You do this by providing them with some of the tools that they’ll need to capitalize on their on-the-job experiences.

because as they go through a major transition they’re most open to new learning. it’s very easy to understand an ambitious new manager’s reluctance to ask for help. Tel. is not to punish mistakes that are fairly predictable. If you’re a high-achievement kind of person. Sure. Still another big mistake new managers make is in thinking that getting the relationship right with each subordinate. If you’re the boss. Asking for help has costs associated with it. I’m not suggesting that new managers should run around admitting to everyone how out of control they feel. 331 pp. 800-988-0886 or 617-496-1449) High Performance Management (CD-ROM. Because they’re searching. You are also trying to learn how to assess trustworthiness.. What is the nature of the feedback and how is it coming to the new manager? H A R V A R D M A N A G E M E N T U P D AT E J U LY 1 9 9 7 Answers to these questions give a coach a sense of where the new manager’s blind spots are—where he’s not picking up important cues. Only then can companies start thinking about what kind of coaching would be helpful. Becoming a Manager by Linda A. What’s very important. As a result. . The same holds true from an organizational standpoint: Subordinates don’t want to hear that the new person running their unit is feeling out of control. read that new managers have trouble with delegation because they’re control freaks. they can bring a fresh perspective on things. you may be just the kind of person who likes to solve problems on your own. The issues of safety are huge.95. This is really a shame. Those are moments when a supervisor’s intervention can really make a difference. Q That’s a very subtle thing: People have such different feelings about asking for help. . People are quite impoverished in most organizations with regard to feedback and coaching. you are still negotiating the identity issue—getting out of the role of the doer and into the role of the agendasetter. Q What makes for good coaching? There’s no magic to it. It’s not that you shouldn’t hold the new manager accountable—you should— but you should adopt a joint problemsolving approach to the mistake. they can ask the question that really gets to the core of the matter. rather. New managers are like beginning anthropologists: They’re desperately collecting any information that seems relevant to their new responsibilities. And if you’re the expert. Often new managers will be as reluctant to ask a human resources person for help as they will their boss. 1995. agenda-setting. and some people know how to do it more constructively than others. But they do need safe places where they can talk about these often overwhelming negative emotions. you’re supposedly the expert. or because senior management had inadvertently transmitted the wrong signals. new managers are very sensitive to the mixed messages that a company gives. It creates a positive feedback loop: If an organization understands how its messages and values are being misinterpreted. A good coach provides supportive autonomy. where he’s not asking for help. if you’re the boss of a new manager. A number of the new managers in my study talked about their reluctance to ask for help. were dead-on. $24. is the same as having an excellent team.Becoming a Manager . it’s usually a question of whether someone is available to do it. you need to be able to make judgment calls about who you can trust. This goes back to what I said earlier about being a good protégé. But actually that’s a very small piece of it. 800-795-5200 or 617-496-6521) ■ Reprint # U9707C Q What is it that organizations can learn from people who are in the process of becoming new managers? 5 . Tel. For one thing. they were shocked—either because the new managers’ impressions. Harvard Business School Press. Companies would benefit from knowing how new managers are reading those messages. What lessons can be learned so that it doesn’t happen again? A good coach also inquires about the kind of feedback the new manager is getting. Delegating. . who has difficulty admitting there’s something you can’t do. One of the things that people in my study said about going to new-manager training was that they got a much better feel for what the values of the company actually were by reading between the lines of what happened during the training. it can make constructive changes. why do you need help? From this psychological standpoint. Harvard Business School Publishing. Hill (1992. managing the team versus the individuals on the team: Companies need to acknowledge that these are predictable trouble spots for new managers. The collective is very different from the sum of the individual relationships. HR people tend to be quite connected across the organization. one-on-one. ■ If you want to learn more . . When I shared the new managers’ insights about the companies’ values with senior managers. unpleasant as they may have been. and doesn’t know what he’s doing. so managers worry that letting the HR people know about their difficulties getting up to speed might hurt their chances for a future promotion. To delegate effectively.

Management is very hard. I've taken a lot of what others would perceive to be career risks. I've just been willing to raise my hand several times for new opportunities. we see that leadership can be an exciting but arduous journey of self-development. she made a series of upward and lateral moves that entailed a number of tough assignments across many functional areas. and rejuvenated performance. I have had the privilege of developing teaching materials about many experienced leaders and their career development. When she advanced again. and then. Beginning as the director of regional operations in New England. First. a key strategic initiative for the future success of the company. We can learn vicariously from their experiences. based on her performance. she became director of sales for 150 stores on the east coast. Hiring a strong team of direct reports. only four years after first becoming a manager. Page 1 of 5 . this manager received two more challenging assignments. instituted training programs. this manager had profit and loss responsibility for fifty underperforming stores.. Consider the example of one manager who was about to undergo a critical transition in her career. flat sales. she moved back into the marketing department as senior vice president of small business and retail marketing. There she had profit and loss responsibility for $350 million and twelve people in an area with poor assortment of merchandise.. tripled net direct product profitability. teaching.. I have come to understand more deeply than ever that the best managers are those who have an appetite for learning and are willing to work on themselves. Due to her success in operations over the next two years. and increased sales. a year later. This chapter builds on stories from some of the talented managers I've encountered who are out there making a difference in their organizations. She is an excellent role model for how to manage our careers if we hope to move into ever more important managerial positions. she set store standards. and consulting over the past ten years. Over the course of her first years at the company. This manager is much too modest. 2003 Author: Linda Hill Through my research. From her story. she recalled: I'm not a good example of how to manage your career. she was appointed president of the company's ecommerce business. When she was about to step into an executive role as senior vice president of marketing at a nationwide office supplies superstore. In the course of my work. She and her team turned over 75 percent of the assortment. even the most gifted people must commit themselves to lifelong learning and self-development. Three years later.How New Managers Become Great Managers Published: August 18. and low direct product profitability. which fortunately have worked out. she was promoted to vice president and divisional merchandise manager for furniture and decorative supplies.

I will address four challenges: choosing the right position. There are mechanisms that keep people from honestly evaluating themselves. The difficulty in remaining objective about oneself. like the other effective leaders I have studied. and values.. The more candid feedback that managers can obtain from varied sources. much of leadership is learned. and open themselves to constructive criticism—admittedly a tall order. in an individual's life that profoundly shape them as leaders. As unsettling as it is. managers need to reflect on and consolidate the lessons of those experiences. individuals must be prepared to seek assistance. people find it nearly impossible to accomplish their development alone.g. however. Indeed. potential managers can better learn from their own experiences by receiving feedback. disclose some of their shortcomings." or tests and trials. they must be prepared to engage periodically in introspection—to collect feedback on and analyze their behavior. Instead. especially the leadership functions. attitudes. and building a network of developmental relationships.The best managers are those who have an appetite for learning and are willing to work on themselves. The best assignments from a developmental perspective are ones in which the fit is imperfect—it is a 'stretch'. we have found that the essence of development is diversity and adversity.. landing stretch assignments. internal and external to the organization). however. the more accurate and precise their assessment will be. observing. They must devote time and energy to building a network of developmental relationships (superior and lateral. advice. high energy level. To make meaning from their experiences. and a drive to lead). a renowned leadership expert. and emotional support.. As many have observed. has concluded that it is the "crucibles. managers who want to take on more and more responsibility over the course of their careers must ask themselves: Am I preparing myself to manage and lead? How can we learn to manage and lead? Although some of the qualities of effective management are "innate" or acquired principally through pre-work socialization (personal integrity. From these developmental relationships (e. and interacting with others. These relationships can be helpful only if the managers are willing to take some risks. To change and grow. Management is primarily learned from on-the-job experiences—by doing. I will build on the previous discussion of power to present a framework for lifelong learning developing a successful managerial career. Page 2 of 5 . This manager. To grow and develop. is well documented. people do not always learn from their experiences. In framing each of these four challenges from the point of view of the emerging leader. getting off to the right start. Warren Bennis. I hope to underscore my belief that management. In the pages that follow. mentors or sponsors). is a self-directed learner willing to reinvent herself time and again. cannot be taught.

Risk should be commensurate with the individual's ability to cope with and responsibly manage it (for the sake of both the organization and individual). important weaknesses are not a serious drawback. They should pursue situations in which their strengths are really needed. sales. and their core values are consistent with those of the organization. The best assignments from a developmental perspective are ones in which the fit is imperfect— it is a "stretch" (in terms of talent. Those early in their careers can glean important self-insight through careful and systematic introspection. the risk is probably too great if it will take more than six months to progress far enough along the learning curve to produce meaningful results in a particular job. skills. in other words. Besides. not values). they acquire more of the sources of power necessary to be effective and successful. "fit" is subjective. the compromises demanded may be considerable. This can be a dangerous tactic. year after year. These assignments are riskier. merchandising. People should seek out diverse experiences to facilitate and balance their development in multiple areas. and judgment. studies that compare high-potential managers who have "derailed" (become plateaued or terminated) with high-potential managers who have made it Page 3 of 5 . the stretch should not be too big or the risk too great. what types of learning opportunities does the position offer? To the extent that the fit is "perfect"—that the manager has the requisite talents and characteristics (personal values that match the corporate culture) to do the job—the manager will be in a better position to make an immediate contribution to organizational performance. In this regard. But they are also the kinds of assignments from which managers can acquire new knowledge. she rotated through operations. since the manager is more likely to make mistakes that might set back his or her career progress or have a negative impact on organizational performance. perspective. This is precisely what our manager mentioned at the beginning of this chapter did. People should look for jobs in which they can leverage initial fit to establish a self-reinforcing cycle of success whereby.Choosing the right position Establishing a management career begins with choosing the right positions along the way. Those who are able to grow beyond their initial strengths and develop a broad repertoire of talents are more likely to progress in their careers because they have the requisite abilities to meet the ever-changing demands of their jobs. becoming a credible leader of others when acting out an inauthentic self is very hard. If an individual's values are not consistent with those of the company. and marketing. As a general rule of thumb." One way individuals have coped with this reality is to hide who they really are or how they really think until they get a foot in the door. Admittedly. and all too often women or minorities have been excluded because others have not found them to "fit. Managers should take into account two factors when making decisions about which job opportunities to pursue: How good is the fit between who they are and the position (and the organization)? How good is the fit between who they are and who they want to be? That is.

it is best to pay particular attention to how comfortable they are with their potential colleagues. Getting off to the right start Managers must be aware of their strengths. Hence. In other senior executive positions are enlightening. the more powerful the leadership learning opportunities. However. They are unable or unwilling to develop other complementary capabilities. they are easily seduced by the money. they get off to a bad start by selecting jobs and organizations that simply do not fit their capabilities. people choose jobs that are too demanding for them. Some define the "good" opportunities as those that are popular in the social milieu in which they find themselves. they only become aware of who they are and who they want to become through experience. and values very well. and values in order to make the appropriate trade-offs between fit and learning opportunity when selecting a position. limitations. and figure out how to motivate the stakeholders to implement the strategies and fulfill the vision. almost by definition. newly minted MBAs who have never had subordinates reporting to them before may take jobs in which they will have considerable people management responsibilities. For example.. motivations. One characteristic of those who derail is that initial strengths (e. and values. These sorts of assignments." When faced with new and different challenges. motives. with little sense of the risk in doing so. For those in the minority. given the special challenges of building developmental relationships (discussed below). a "hands-on" style or technical virtuosity) later become "fatal flaws. require individuals to establish direction. communicate that direction (vision and strategies) to diverse stakeholders.g. All too often. These individuals end up taking jobs because the jobs are the popular choice and not because they are excited by the people with whom they will be spending time or the products or services with which they will be working. The more revolutionary—as opposed to evolutionary—the change. they have an opportunity to make choices and test those choices. Professional school graduates should be cautious about accepting jobs in highly politicized environments where only those who are very skillful at handling difficult work relationships can prosper. and begin to clarify what they are good at and what is important to them. or prestige associated with a given job. In terms of developing leadership talents in particular. even when they are no longer sufficient or appropriate. As they accumulate work experience. motives. revitalizing a mature business. it can pay to look for stretch assignments involving change. Page 4 of 5 . glamour. or starting up a subsidiary in an international market. these managers continue to rely on their initial capabilities. Some examples include introducing a new product or information technology system. Because they are not clear about who they are and the kinds of jobs to which they are best suited. they get themselves into situations where they are simply in over their heads. Because they do not fully appreciate their strengths and weaknesses. those early in their careers may have only a vague sense of their talents.

Soon. in trying to decide whether or not to move into a leadership role. ambiguous problems? Do I cope well with stress (e.g. tough personal decisions)? If they cannot answer most of these questions in the affirmative. people will begin to seek them out and be more eager to work with them. develop relationships. nor motivation required to be an effective manager.Those early in their careers can glean important self-insight through careful and systematic introspection. As they acquire more power and establish relationships with a broad range of people. extended hours. their network of relationships will grow. Some will be willing to sponsor and perhaps even mentor them. it may suggest that they have neither the personal qualities. taking risks on their behalf and promoting them into stretch assignments. they find themselves holding a more central position in their network of relationships— and thereby they gain even more power and access to currencies. and core values. this cycle of success becomes self-reinforcing. their track record and credibility in the organization will begin to grow. Therefore. In particular. they acquire more formal authority and can consolidate their power. From these assignments. they develop more expertise and more relationships and therefore are in an even better position to contribute to key organizational objectives. and make a contribution to organizational performance in relatively short order. Once they begin to advance.and job-specific expertise. people should ask themselves the following questions about what kind of work they find most interesting and fulfilling:      Do I like collaborative work? Do I tend to become the leader of groups in which I find myself? Have I ever volunteered to coach or tutor others? Do I find it intriguing to work on thorny. Page 5 of 5 . in other words. character. Once they begin to make a contribution to organizational performance (perhaps in a limited way at first). their track record and credibility continue to flourish. they should look for pervasive themes in their past and current experiences that say something about their key strengths. they will be able to convert their general competencies into company. important limitations. If people choose an appropriate position. For example..