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Encouraging A Team Member To Move Up The Career Ladder

Tom Carden

Senior Engineering Manager at Square

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Problem

An engineer, who had recently transitioned into our management track came to me and asked what it would take for him to move up to the next level. This engineer thought that in order to move to the next level of our career ladder, he would have to had managed other managers before. Because of this, he questioned how he could prove he could do the job when he had never handled that type of role before.

Actions taken

As his manager, I helped him to realize he had the skills and potential to do well on the job. People take chances on others all the time and it is up to the person to figure out how to make himself the best possible choice for the job. This engineer needed to understand that he could also prove he could lead by influencing others, rather than directing them. If he could organize work with the team and show he could perform the job, even without authority, then he could show he was more qualified than someone who does the job but has been given the role and authority right from the beginning. I further encouraged him by explaining that building one's skills and experience involves a series of small leaps and this process usually takes time. Managing without authority is harder but it makes you more effective. Don't assume you need authority to demonstrate that you are ready to be given it.

Lessons learned

Even if someone doesn't have a solid track record to speak to, sometimes all that's needed is just a change of mindset, a strong interest in the job, and a drive to get out of their comfort zone. There are lots of things an ambitious line manager can do to show their manager that they're ready for the next step. At some point their manager will make the judgement call that they're ready to manage managers - for the ambitious line manager the goal is to make that judgement call obvious. Managers should frame the challenge of new roles as a positive way to grow and learn and should remove barriers by bringing an optimistic spin to the situation.

"Building one's skills and experience involves a series of small leaps and this process usually takes time."

"Managing without authority is harder but it makes you more effective."


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Tom Carden

Senior Engineering Manager at Square


Career GrowthCareer ProgressionSkill DevelopmentLeadership RolesEngineering ManagerLeadership & Strategy

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