The day I was asked to be the manager of M+Co’s creative team, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. Little did I know about the challenging journey I was about to embark on. I can honestly say that moving from an individual contributor, where you get to be in the trenches and touch many projects, to being someone who guides was the hardest transition I’ve made in my career thus far.
Young managers often struggle to balance and prioritize their workloads. They want every project done well and, because they’ve never had someone else do the work instead, they are reluctant to delegate. They want to continue to do it all.
One of the hardest things for me was learning and accepting that I couldn’t be the go-to person for troubleshooting. When I hear one of my designers struggle, my gut instinct is to jump out of my chair and help. The reality is, they’ll find a solution just fine without me always getting involved.
Here are 8 things I’ve learned (and am still learning) along the road:
1. Focus on building relationships and establishing your credibility.
You may not be used to making executive decisions, but it’s important that when you do, you stand your ground. This will help in fostering trust and creating a team with an attitude of always going above and beyond.
2. Ask your employees what their short-term and long-term goals are.
Part of being a good manager is empowering your employees to have an intrinsic attitude of going above and beyond. When you ask them what their aspirations are for the future and what you can do to help make them happen, you’re essentially telling them that you believe in them and that they are a valuable asset to your team and company. Studies show that employees are more engaged when their managers are interested and devoted to their development growth.
3. Build your professional network.
This is important to gain leadership skills. Surrounding yourself with people who are more knowledgeable than you and have been in your position before can immensely help you through tough situations that come with the new role. In my case, I asked one of the senior partners in my firm to be my mentor. When I’m in need of guidance, I know I can go to him for advice.
4. Give your employees opportunities to share their expertise.
Ask them to explain things to others. This highlights their importance in the team. You don’t know everything, and you shouldn’t act like it either. Your employees are just as good as you are - or better.
5. Sometimes you have to be autocratic.
Being a manager sometimes means calling the shots without consulting the team. This may feel uncomfortable at times, but remember you were put into this position because people above you believe that you have what it takes to make executive decisions.
6. Democracy is important.
Let your team make some of the decisions. Although you are trusted to call a lot of the shots, it is important you allow your team to decide on certain things. Their input and different opinions will bring a lot of value to clients.
7. All great decisions should be followed by great explanations.
You should never make a decision that impacts the whole team without telling them why you decided to do it. Transparency should always be there so that everyone trusts each other. Without this, the team won’t see the value in the decisions you make, creating a sense of carelessness.
8. Ask your boss, “How can I make you look better? What can I take off your plate?”
Just like you ask your employees what mountains you can move to empower them to be the best they can be, you also should ask this of your boss. This shows that you are not only managing below, but also above and across your organization.
At the end of the day, people don’t work for companies – they work for people. As managers, that should always be in the back of our minds. We have the power to facilitate our team's journey from good to great. So let’s do it!