What I Wish I Knew as a Young Manager

young manager

When I was promoted at age 26 to a senior management position in my firm, I experienced a bevy of thoughts and emotions- elation, trepidation, excitement, pride and fear, to name a few.

I had a semblance of a vision I wanted to explore, but there were more pressing things to consider, in my inexperienced mind. How was I going to manage a multi-million dollar division? What about managing people? Where was I to begin?

If you’re a novice manager reading this, don’t worry- I’ll share some tips 2015 Jill wishes “Aughts” Jill had, so that you can avoid similar missteps. Obviously, there are more things to share than I have room for here, so feel free to ask follow up questions about other issues or these ones in the comments below.

  1. Resilience & Resources. [tweet bird=yes]Whoever came up with the notion that it’s ‘lonely at the top’ wasn’t kidding.[/tweet] I wish I knew how isolated I would feel. My friends were in different places in their lives, and there were few people at work with whom I felt I could discuss my trials and tribulations.Seeking help outside of your normal circle is going to be key to setting you up for success. Hire a coach (my employer provided the management team with a management coach, which was so helpful), seek out a mentor or two and build relationships with them, go to professional events and link up with people going through the same things you are – those sorts of people will help you remain committed to your goals and vision, and they will provide support, perspective and direction when you feel directionless and run down. You don’t have to adjust to a management role in a vacuum, which I more or less did minus the management coach.
  2. Gender Roles. I debated including this, but in the end I felt the article would not be complete without it. There’s so much to discuss here, but I’ll just say one thing- how women managers act is perceived and reacted to completely differently than how men managers act, and this difference can have big ramifications on your place in the organization, how well your team gels and more.Once, I had an issue with an employee who was blatantly not doing his job. I asked a male mentor in senior management at his firm (i.e. highly respected in his field) for advice. When I applied said advice, I was called to the carpet in a very intense way for my approach and ‘tone’. I guarantee that had the senior mentor delivered this news, the reaction would have been startlingly different.What I’m saying here is that it’s extremely important to be aware of these nuances whether you agree with them or not and take them into consideration before acting or reacting. Although her book is about knowing your value at work, Mika Brzezinski’s “Know Your Value” adds several layers of insight into this idea. It’s a great read for both female and male managers.
  3. Essentialism. You may have noticed that I reference Greg McKeown’s book, “Essentialism” often, but it’s so spot on that to ignore it here would do a disservice to new managers. As a new manager, I was constantly being pulled in different directions. Different departments needed my immediate attention. There were always fires to be out (or perceived fires). After a while, I didn’t know which way was up- things were moving so fast! And as a self proclaimed ‘excellent multi-tasker’ (which has its drawbacks) coupled with my desire to do a good job and please people, I let myself be led around instead of being the one doing the leading.Implementing the concepts in the book, like setting boundaries, understanding the unimportance of practically everything, and grasping the power of the graceful ‘no’, among MANY other concepts will set you up for success as a new manager.I wish ’09 Jill had known about the concept of essentialism- it would have saved me a lot of head spinning, sleepless nights and hours second guessing, and it would have made it easier to achieve my vision.
  4. Integrity. I purposely listed integrity after essentialism because I believe that pursuing the “essentialist” path helps one maintain their sense of integrity. Because of the aforementioned chicken-with-head-cut-off syndrome, I was a flip-flopping machine. In other words, I let myself be easily swayed on some (but not all!) key issues and decisions. Sometimes it was out of fear and other times it was because I didn’t have a ton of support and guidance. Stand for something and stick to it
  5. But It’s OK to Change Your Mind. Just because you change your mind on a strategy that isn’t working doesn’t make you a flip flopper. You will be respected as a leader if you thoughtfully change course if the previous path isn’t working. Remaining pigheadedly committed to a failed vision or strategy doesn’t win you friends or influence people in any way. Start to get a sense to know when to fold ‘em- maybe at first, that’s something you speak with your mentor(s) about.

I could go on and on. Being in management can be rewarding, challenging and fulfilling, and it’s extremely important to set yourself up for success by considering these issues before you get in too deep. Which of these have you been grappling with? Are there others you’d like to add to this list? Leave comments in the space below!

About the Author

Jill Ozovek is a certified career coach in New York City. Her practice focuses on helping Millennial and mid-career women find and develop careers that align with their passions. For more info on your own career change and Jill’s Career Change Kitchen course, click here.