Successful individual contributors (ICs) don’t automatically become great managers.

In sports, the best players aren’t always great coaches (see Wayne Gretzky and Isiah Thomas). However, there are great coaches that were mediocre or average players (see Phil Jackson and Tony La Russa).

Rock star engineers and high performing salespersons get promoted to lead people because that’s the next “logical” step. Organizations often fail or ignore to assess the actual skills and capabilities required to effectively lead others.


Here are the top qualities to look for when considering ICs for People Manager roles

Self Development: They are self-directed in their own development. They seek opportunities to improve their skills and capabilities. They reflect on their actions and intentionally adjust their behaviors.

People Focused: They are willing to give feedback. They provide positive encouragement and tactfully give constructive feedback to their peers. They seek to mentor others. They are able to build trust and rapport with different people.

Results Driven: This is probably one area that’s easy to notice in ICs and the primary reason they get promoted. They produce results so they are rewarded with advancement. It’s a great quality to have but as people managers this should be about inspiring, coaching, and sometimes commanding others to accomplish the team’s goals.  

Positivity: Look for behaviors that lift others. Pessimism has a way of sucking the life from a team. Who wants to work for a downer?! You’ll notice pessimism through snide remarks or overt sarcasm.


Other Skills to Consider

  • Can communicate a vision
  • Able to effectively facilitate discussions
  • Listens to other points of view
  • Ability to work across teams


What other behaviors would you look for to identify successful people managers?