Your IC Prime
Transitioning to management is one of the more complex transitions you can make in your career, and I’ve been thinking recently about the mindset shift required to pull it off successfully. Actually, I read about inversion (see references), and started thinking about what themes were common among ICs (individual contributors) that weren’t able to make it work as managers. One issue kept cropping up as I went over past colleagues who switched and stumbled: they thought they were still in their IC prime.
What is your IC prime? It’s a concept I made up, but basically think of it as the period in your career when you, as a directly responsible inidividual (DRI), had the most impact. As a PM it might be the biggest product you ever launched. As an engineer it might the most complex system you ever architected. As a salesperson it might be the biggest deal you ever closed. Basically, it’s the peak of your powers as an IC.
So what does this have to do with jumping into management? Well, the move is made harder if in your mind you still think you’re in your IC prime. It leads to several dysfunctions:
you default to showing people how you’d do it vs coaching people on how they could do it
you lack empathy for folks who may not have hit their IC prime or whose prime is not near yours
you get frustrated with having to repeatedly communicate what is obvious and intuitive to you
you assume that your playbook is the only formula for execution vs being open to other ways
So what does this mean for an IC considering management? Here are 3 key questions to ponder:
Do you think your IC prime has peaked / is on the decline?
Would you be fulfilled coaching others vs doing it yourself?
Can you learn the skills required to unlock others’ IC primes?
I’d love to hear from readers about their successful (or not) transitions into management - please chime in via comments👇. And if you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing.
further reading / references
when a problem can’t be solved by “thinking forward”, it helps to think backward using subtractive avoidance, aka inversion
DRI is a concept from Apple, and one framework to ensure that IC’s in their prime are given ownership and accountability
SCARF is a framework managers can use to better undertand their directs
another related concept I’ve shared before is the exponential hire, which is another way of saying you should hire folks who are on the cusp of / in the midset of their IC prime
one of the better analogies I’ve heard about the move to management is thinking about it as typing vs tapping
childish drawing / interpretation