A typical career path is to start as a team member, whether as a sales associate, PR officer or accountant and then get promoted to team leader, manager and into a more senior role. But is this playing to your strengths?

Not all of us are ideally suited to the manager role, but in the UK and USA there is no professional career path, such as you find in Germany. That’s why we have brilliant sales associates becoming mediocre managers and professionals (including psychologists!) moving out of their area of expertise into a role that doesn’t necessarily play to their strengths.
For some people a move into management is a really great job – they have the natural talent to manage others and being able to get the job done through others is something they relish.
I’d like to set aside mentoring and coaching as although this is part of a managers’ role, it is not the only thing that a manager does – there is also the monitoring, planning, organising, and a key aspect of management is to manage other people to do something rather than doing it yourself. That’s what some people find difficult.
I regularly use the Highlands Ability Battery with my clients and when we discuss the driving abilities I can see if someone is a good match as a manager, or not. Some clients are disappointed, so we discuss what a manager does and how their abilities match and they (almost always) get the eureka moment.
This past week I’ve conducted a highlands ability feedback session with Jo as part of my Silver Plus career programme. You can see her driving ability results below

Her score for Classification (also known as inductive reasoning or diagnostic thinking) is quite low, which means that she prefers situations where she can make decisions based on prior knowledge, and having to do too much fire fighting would be stressful for her. This score also means that she will understand something fully rather than ‘wing it’ and this helps with managing other people. This ability will enhance managing others. If she had got a high score she would be brilliant at making quick decisions and would solve problems immediately but would find it very frustrating to work with others, waiting for them to catch up with her. Not ideal in a manager.
The second bar is for Concept Organisation (also known as deductive reasoning or analytical thinking) for which she has scored at the 95th percentile. This reflects her very high level of organisational skills – a natural organiser who will be perfect at setting up systems. You might think this is a great ability for a manager – organising tasks and getting things done but whilst this is fine for your own tasks, there is a tendency to want to organise others and to critically review the way other people organise things. So it’s hard to sit back and not comment on how other people have done something and for many it’s hard to resist the urge to suggest changes. Being logical can also mean that you want to follow a process and not cut to the chase, and so this can slow down decision making.
Idea productivity, the third bar, is measuring the quantity of ideas, not the quality, but almost always if someone has a high number of ideas a reasonable number of this will be really useful. Like Jo I score high in this ability and I do think it can be a curse in many circumstances. I sometimes think I have too many ideas for my own good. When I had a team of senior managers, they looked to me for suggestions and ideas, and it was hard to stop sharing ideas and to have to coach other people to develop ideas. If I’m honest it was frustrating for me, I’d spend hours getting to something I could have done in a few minutes; one reason why I left to set up my own company. As a manager your team can also get frustrated with the stream of ideas you have, as you share ideas with your team, they may expect you to action them and get confused on priorities. With high idea productivity you need to be in a role where you need to come up with ideas, not a job where you need to maintain a situation or deal with routine, however high level this may be. Effective managers score low on this ability.
Spatial relations theory (SRT) is about understanding theoretical and abstract relationships and is a required ability for science, maths and engineering. It can help with counselling and advising, and is helpful for seeing the other persons’ point of view, which would help negotiating and helping people work together. So why does this get in the way of management? A lower score means that you are more interested in direct contact with people and to be more practical than theoretical thus helping you to focus on the tasks. So a manager with high SRT will develop theories and leave the implementation to others, but not necessarily with sufficient guidance whereas a lower score means they are more likely manage the work yourself.
Spatial relations visualisation is related to ‘hands on work’ and being able to see things in 3D. A high score means that someone is more comfortable with abstract than practical work, so they would rather be working on machines or researching than practically working with people. A lower score means that you are an abstract thinker who is comfortable in work that deals with words, ideas, concepts, principles, values, people, relationships, or information. This is all helpful for a management role where you can understand and work with the abstract feelings and ideas of your team.
I’ve explained these 5 scales in depth to raise the notion that management is not going to necessarily make you happy. I think I was a perfectly competent manager, but looking back it wasn’t playing to my strengths and when I went through the highlands ability battery it all became clear.

As you can see from this image to the left Jo has 3 high abilities and 2 lowish ones, and this doesn’t make being a manager the right next step for her. My ability pattern is similar, see box to the left. I have 3 high scores and two low.
If you are interested in learning more about the Highlands Ability Battery please visit: https://www.amazingpeople.co.uk/highlandsabilitybattery/
Brought to you by Denise Taylor, Chartered Psychologist and Double Award Winning Career Coach. Denise has been a Highlands Affiliate since 2002. Denise’s books include ‘How to get a Job in a Recession’, and ‘Now you’ve been Shortlisted’ Read more at – www.amazingpeople.co.uk

Published On: June 1st, 2015 / Categories: Assessments, Career Management /

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