Earlier this month, I discussed how I went from seasonal hire to manager, so it is only fitting that I had to figure out what being a manager really is all about. Yes, there are perks to being a manager at a creative company that does not rely too heavily on structure. I am able to really manage my projects with originality and innovation. I am salaried without a set schedule and most importantly, I am empowered to chase my ideas with enthusiasm and grit. With that said, being a manager is stressful and the bar keeps rising.
The company I work for relies so little on structure that the minute I was promoted to operations manager was the minute I had to start figuring out what that meant. There was no handbook and very little training. Despite the lack of training, my senior manager is extremely supportive and I have two mentors within the company. Still, there are moments of utter loneliness and complete frustration.
I am not going to lie that many of those moments have to do with the fact that I am a young black women in a space usually reserved for older white males. Even in a company founded on valuing people, there are microaggressions, misinterpretations and the daily reminders of having to tell yourself you belong. This combination of things can take a toll on your well-being and I was not fully prepared for this aspect. Yet, over the years I have learned a great deal and wanted to share seven things I wish someone told me about being manager. Check it out below:
Your passion will be mistaken for aggression
As a black woman and a manager, this is almost a given. It does not matter how progressive your company attest to be, the indignities and gas lighting will be a constant. There will be plenty reasons to be passionate, but people will act as though you cursed them clean out instead of preventing the company from losing money from pursuing poorly developed ideas.
Do not waste your time arguing with anyone. Speak their language, do the work and prevent wasting time in a well thought out presentation or report.
Also, allow your senior manager to do their job. Do not always rush in to be savior. It is their job to prevent waste and make final decisions. You should not be the only one who cares.
Find the balance between the people and the business
Working for a progressive company that believes in treating people with dignity and a business trying to make money is challenging. Treating people well requires a level of investment that cannot always be made if you are also trying to turn a profit. As a manager, you will constantly be deciding between what is good for the business and what is good for people. The people on your team will have an unrealistically high expectation of what working for a company like this really affords them.
Your goal here should not to try to please everyone all the time. Do the best you can with the resources you are provided with.
Trust your instincts
Your instincts are your super power, so be sure to trust them above all else. This means you must take the time to listen to yourself because the more stressed you are, the harder it will be to hear your thoughts. When things get stressful, let go of the stress and allow yourself the opportunity to hear your instincts. Once you do hear them, do not second-guess them. Simply go with it.
Your instincts will not always be enough. You should do the relevant work that will strengthen your gut feeling. You cannot go into a meeting with a gut feeling, but you can do the work to support that gut feeling. That work might take the form of a Return Of Investment case, a report, some data work, or a survey. Essentially, the formula for a situation such as this would look like the following: “A gut instinct + relevant work = success!”
Write everything down and then send it in an email
There will be countless meetings that you will have to attend and host. With this immense amount taking place, it is almost a given that many will forget exactly what was said. Be productive during this time because the one with the most notes and the power of the recap e-mail is the one with the upper hand. You want to make sure that you are covered! No one will hesitate to throw you under the bus when there is no e-mail or written evidence. Also, use the power of the “CC” in emails if you need an extra eye on something. Some may not like the idea of this, but it ensures that things get done and the right people are informed.
At one of those many meetings you will be very tempted to speak first, but at times resign to speaking last or as close to it as possible. It is just as important to hear the ideas of your colleagues and team members as well as share your own. This is an easy way to earn their respect and trust, which will come in handy when you want to get buy in for future projects and ideas.
Do not take work personal
Yes, your work is personal, but taking every critique to the heart is the easiest way to ensure you have no peace of mind. At the end of the day you have a job to get done. There will be times when you will critique others as well, so take it all with a grain of salt. This is your job, not your life.
This is your job, not your legacy
Some may be lucky enough to be doing the job that will be their legacy but for others this is not the case. You may truly enjoy your job and you want to excel at it, but at the end of the day you are living out someone else’s dream. Shut down your computer, save that last e-mail until tomorrow, go home and work on the dream that will your legacy.
Becoming a manager was a lot easier than being one day in and day out. I have learned a whole lot about myself and gained some invaluable skills that can take me anywhere that I want to go. There are days that drive me insane, but there are also days that uplift and make me feel invincible. Over time, I am sure I will continue to learn more and gain more skills. Having these lessons before I was a manager would have made a world of difference, but I would not give up the journey it has taken me on to learn them.