Hi, I’m Jeremy, also known as
Being a manager is hard.
This story originally appeared on Medium. View on Medium »
I've been a manager of some sort for nearly 7 years. And it's hard — but not for the reasons you think.
I think there's a lot of misconceptions about what management really is.
Non-managers often have the preconception that being a manager position is like a more demanding version of their own role. That is, they often expect that a manager is similar to them in skillset, just with deeper or broader experience within the same field.
Those who are hiring (or promoting people to be) managers also tend to share the preconceived notion that in order to effectively manage a team, you must first have reached the ultimate level of experience within that domain. I suppose this is what feeds that idea into non-managers.
Other preconceptions about an ideal manager's skills are that they're decisive, they are emotionless, they are able to deal with budgets and numbers. Lots of hard skills there.
While managing is certainly demanding, I've found, at least for me, that it's demanding in entirely different ways than what the broad expectation for the role is.
You see, I have all the skills one normally considers good for management. I'm decisive. I'm able to communicate difficult information clearly and directly without too much emotion. I can juggle spreadsheets and deal with budgets. I even have a decent depth of experience and knowledge, and, dare I say expertise, within my field.
It should be easy for me, then. I'm a natural, they say.
But being a manager is hard. Because being a manager is being a people manager.
My title may read Manager of Widget-making, but in reality, it should be Manager of People who Make Widgets. And that tiny wording change shifts everything. Being a manager is truly a role about people.
Everything you think about being a manager before becoming one is wrong. When you shift your focus to the people you manage, a whole new list of needed skills shows up on your desk.
To be a truly great people manager, the skills you really need are: empathy, careful listening, positive communication, and patience.
None of those things were on my list of skills that supposedly qualified me for being this position. They sound more like the qualifications for a teacher, a guidance counselor, a psychologist, or even a cheerleader — not a manager. But it's true. And that's exactly what you are for your team: a teacher, a guidance counselor, a psychologist, and yes, even a cheerleader.
For me these things don't necessarily come naturally. Sure, I care about people, but I'm far from the touchy-feely soul one would expect to fill all of these roles. And that truly is the challenge of being a manager.
The job of managing people isn't what most people think it is. It isn't hard in the ways people think it's hard.
But it is hard. And it is a unique and rewarding challenge.
In my experience, the sense of accomplishment I feel from seeing people I lead be successful is so much greater than that which I felt doing things on my own.
Maybe you are a manager, or maybe management is in your future. The best advice I can give you is to remember that regardless of your specific title, you're really a manager of people.
Get in Touch With Jeremy
The majority of my time is spent working for Happy Cog, however I do take on occasional consulting and speaking gigs.
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