I’ve been wrestling with management ever since I started being responsible for people. I’ve never had good mentors in my professional career. I’ve learned by watching my superiors and emulating their behaviors as well as avoiding the things I didn’t like, which is sort of like learning how to be a lawyer by watching Law & Order reruns.
I’ve found that it’s a lot more busywork than actually making the sausage, which is a huge shift in mindset for a person like me; I tend to work better on large linear projects instead of multiple streams of work. In my current role I’m juggling email, a complicated meeting schedule, multiple large initiatives that span weeks, and project management, as well as one-off requests for technical help on things like video editing, illustration, and design. Oh, and also: managing people. As I started hiring, I was able to find two very good designers who quickly stepped in and took over responsibility and management of their work.
Backing off and letting them do their thing was difficult at first but when I knew they could handle themselves I stayed out of their way. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve worked for micromanagers in the past, and I know how demoralizing that can be for an employee. I realized that my role should be to give them the tools they need, direction and advice when they ask for it, and the support to insulate them from bullshit.
In my daily travels around the web yesterday I stumbled on something that made me stop and reevaluate my approach, and made me feel better about my somewhat laissez-faire methodology:
Delegate more than is comfortable. The complete delegation of work to someone else on the team is a vote of confidence in their ability, which is one essential way the trust forms within a team. Letting go of doing the work is tricky, but the gig as a manager isn’t doing quality work, it’s building a healthy team that does quality work at scale.
I’m always worrying that I’m not doing enough to help my team, but as with everything else, it’s all about the balance.