I’ve been a systems manager for a few years now. But last March, I also started managing a person!
For those keeping track of the timeline, that’s right. I became a new manager at the start of a global pandemic. 😬
Life Before Managing
If I’m being honest, I hadn’t considered becoming a manager.
That’s because I enjoy getting lost in the small details of a job! Got a spreadsheet that needs cleaning? Great, I’ll see you in 8 hours. Antsy about database dupes? No problem. I’ll sprint into the eye of that tornado for you.
And for a while, this was fine.
But as my org’s CRM needs grew, my one-woman show stopped cutting it. Luckily, I had a manager who recognized this before I could. She’s the one who helped me fight my own reluctance to jump into the management tornado.
Now, I’m on the other side
I survived the recruiting process. I’ve had a direct report for a year. Both of us are still here! Systems are in the best shape they’ve ever been. And if my workplace idol is to be trusted, then my worst period as a manager is hopefully behind me.
So while the journey is fresh on my mind, here’s what I’ve got.
3 Lessons Learned
Managing helped me find a voice I didn’t need before. As a sole contributor ( who often worked in silos), I learned how to thoughtfully speak to my own work. But as a manager, I’m constantly thinking, planning and speaking to work through the lens of my team.
It’s a difference that’s tough to verbalize. But basically, it ain’t all about me anymore.
Managing forced me to delegate beyond my comfort zone. This is probably the most beneficial lesson, because I wouldn’t have done it otherwise! It’s tough to trust someone else with the complicated moving parts you’re used to managing. But this skill became essential: to free up my own time, and to guarantee that someone else knew how to do the tough stuff.
Managing provided a new mirror for me to assess my efficacy. While success in my role has always relied on others, my actual outputs haven’t! Now, things are different. I’m in a position where my outputs often depend on another person, and vice versa. Our team can’t be successful if one of us falls behind.
What I Enjoy Most about Managing
All of this lends to my favorite part of the management experience. Managing gives me an outlet for doing something I really enjoy: helping nonprofit professionals grow in their careers.
In retrospect, that should’ve been an obvious perk. *looks around at the blog…* But I focused so much on the potential challenges, that I didn’t give this side of it much thought. Working with someone who’s curious, ambitious and receptive has also made this part of the job uniquely rewarding.
Where I Struggle with Managing
If you’re not used to delegating, giving constructive feedback, receiving managerial feedback, being direct, giving directives or managing others’ workloads…then managing will definitely push you outside of your comfort zone. To put it mildly!
Many of those things were reasons why I didn’t want to become a manager. And guess what? They all happened. And it was totally fine.
My big challenge has been something I didn’t expect: the absence of a barometer. I don’t have a clear gauge for how well I’m doing as a manager.
When Salesforce automations stop working, I get 389278 Apex error emails to let me know. When a process is inefficient, there’s no way I’m not going to hear about it from a staff person. 😅
But if I flop as a manager, I have to hope that one of us will recognize it. And if it’s my direct report, I have to hope that I’ve made them feel comfortable enough to bring it to my attention.
All of this adds a layer of obscurity that, as a data person, I simply am not used to. Someone build me a manager effectiveness spreadsheet already, please!
Like I said before, I didn’t aspire to this. Becoming a manager was partly an accident!
But while it has its challenges – especially being remote – it’s also been rewarding. Expanding our team was inevitable with how my org is growing. I’m personally grateful to have had the opportunity to grow through managing, and to have my colleague on my team.
If I didn’t have to become a manager, I probably would not have sought it out. I still enjoy sole contributor work a lot. And it’s definitely easier to not have to worry about the “people problems” that can come with managing.
But just like my last big career journey, it feels great knowing that I can do this. And it’s opened the doors in my own mind, about what career options are possible down the line!