It's Not Easy Being a Manager

Posted on September 28, 2011.

At the Penn Faulkner dinner the other night, there were some amazing writers sharing their essays, but one writer in particular really hit home when he spoke of how “everyone is a writer today”. And it’s true. Between ebooks, blogs and self-publishing, it seems everyone’s a writer. I count myself among them. 

But how many are dedicated to writing as a profession and are actually good at it.  What does it take to make the leap from everyday blogger to recognized author?

The same question could be asked of becoming a manager.  Many people call themselves managers, but how many do it well? It’s not easy. For many it’s like trying to push a boulder uphill and you hear them say things like, “thankless”, “unappreciated”, or “overwhelming”. So what’s it take to make the leap from being a manager to effectively managing people?

  • Selflessness.  It’s not about you anymore. Being top dog as an individual producer may have gotten you promoted, but it won’t help you once you’re in a management position. You need to start caring more about the people that work for you. If they’re successful, you’ll be successful.
  • Kindness. One of my former employees, who is now a manager, was told he was too nice. Since when did becoming a manager mean you had to morph you
  • rself into Dr. Jekyll?  With unemployment and layoffs on everyone’s mind, there’s already too much stress in the workplace. Since when can’t youmanage effectively and still do it with kindness and respect?
  • Decisiveness. Just because your nice doesn’t mean you don’t have to make tough decisions. You may need to fire or lay someone off. You can’t be wishy washy about it.  This goes for critical decisions that impact the business.  You need to be able to assimilate the information in an organized way and make the decision. You won’t always be right, but you’ll learn from your mistakes and people will respect that you took action.
  • Honesty. You have to bewilling to provide timely feedback and coach your folks to their highest level of performance.  Unless you’re honest with them about their strengths and weaknesses, it won’t happen. You also have to be honest with yourself about what you know and what you don’t know. Just because you’re a “manager” doesn’t mean you stop learning.
  • Communication. Don’t you love the boss that stays in his or her office all day with the door closed?  That’s when you wonder why you’re not just telecommuting. Does this same boss pass along every corporate directive unfiltered, so you have to figure out what’s really meant? Communicating effectively is more than just chit chat. It’s listening to your staff, it’s filtering those corporate messages, it’s keeping people informed about changes that impact their job, it communicating successes and teaching from failure. If you can’t communicate effectively, you can’t manage people.

It takes talent to be a great writer and admittedly, management can be taught. But if you don’t possess these core skills and traits, you will never be able to effectively manage people. It’s just not that easy.