I was about 26 years old and was a ‘hotshot’ salesperson within a great computer distribution/financing company. We were doing very well, times were good and I was sitting down with the President one day.

‘We’re looking to open an office in Montreal and we’d like you to start it for us.’

I had voiced my interest in returning to Montreal but that was the sum total of the preparation. No training, no checklist, no specific knowledge of that marketplace. Not a whole lot but a vote of confidence in my potential.

I don’t refer to this experience in any negative way. I loved the company, I totally admired the CEO, I had grown up in Montreal so I had some French and a deep knowledge of the city (at least the part that I had grown up in).

I introduce it this way, because that’s how it happened and that’s how the vast majority of first time managers get thrown into their world.

Uncovering management capability is often not as clear as one would like. Sometimes circumstances throw people into unique ‘sink or swim’ environments. Sometimes it’s a clear path. Regardless, here is how most managerial mindsets develop and manifest themselves.

  1. Your people shift their vocabulary from “mine” to “ours.” Going from being an employee to a manager occurs when team members hit a tipping point. It’s normally a point when they begin to understand a manager’s point of view. Look for subtle changes in a team member’s conduct. This may be a simple choice of words. An employee may use the term I, mine or me. Those ready to assume a management role may choose words like ours, we or us.
  2. People begin to self-manage. One key indicator that an employee has really come into their own is when they require less and less time to manage. They know what needs to be done and make sure it happens. They learn to spot opportunities and coordinate actions to seize them. The only way someone can ever hope to be a manager is if they can manage themselves, and this is typically evidence enough that they’re ready.
  3. People begin to look out for others.If an employee is concerned for their co-worker’s success as much as their own on a group project, that’s usually a good sign you have a team player that wants others to succeed. Great managers are selfless leaders who want the unit to succeed together.
  4. Employees take responsibility.A sign of a leader ready to take on a managerial role is the ability to take responsibility for themselves or the team. The people you lead will give you respect if you own your decisions, regardless of the outcome.
  5. Individuals excel beyond expectations.The sign of a good leader is if they are going above and beyond consistently. When you naturally see them leading others in all their work–when they excel above expectations in everything they are doing–it’s time for a promotion. You don’t want to lose them to someone else that’s willing to give them that promotion when you’re not!
  6. People actually want to take on new opportunities.The most important sign is that they want to be in a managerial role and they ask for it.
  7. They’ve mastered their technical craft.Once team members have mastered their technical craft–but before they get bored – it’s time to explore their interest in leading others. Some people are quite content in their individual contributor role, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Others, however, crave opportunities that bring new challenges.
  8. They already manage without realizing it.You’ll notice that they’re helping other employees with the marketing plans, giving advice on how to deal with a difficult client, or making a new intern feel welcome. When somebody truly wants to be in a managerial role, they do it without even trying because they enjoy it.
  9. They look for solutions.A good manager will understand that they need to bring forward solutions and not just problems.
  10. They show ownership.One sign is that the employee regularly shows a feeling of pride and ownership in their work. Leading a team is about understanding the big picture and internalizing not only what it will take to get there, but understanding how the assets available to you can help you realize that picture. Employees who approach every task as if its success or failure is a direct reflection on them are on track.

Needless to say, helping your people clarify and direct themselves on their journey with you will ensure a fulfilling relationship for both of you. Have a great ride, and remember the all-important pat on the back!