A newly-promoted manager at Jhana, eager to make a strong start in her new role, recently asked me, “What do you wish you knew about managing when you started?”
For those of you who are considering management or are early in your management career, I’ll share my own lessons here.
Here’s what I would have told myself:
1. It’s more rewarding than you can imagine. Why? Seeing people do something nobody thought they could do, not even themselves, firing on all cylinders, living up to their potential, and knowing you played a part in getting them there — that’s fun. I’ve seen this time and time again at Jhana, and also at previous companies, organizations and even Ultimate Frisbee teams.
2. It’s harder than you can imagine. People are complex. Teams, which are made up of complex people, are even more complicated. I wish I could have learned faster (tools as good as Jhana weren’t available back then). I’m still always looking for ways to keep learning faster and sharpen my game.
3. It’s not about you anymore. Once you become a manager, you say goodbye to your days as an individual contributor. Your new job doesn’t have anything to do with how many deals you close, how much code you write or how terrific your new website design is. As a manager, your job now has to do with how many deals your team closes how much code your team writes and how terrific your team’s new design is. It may sound like a minor difference, but it isn’t. Getting great results out of a team of individuals requires a completely different skill set.
4. It requires years of daily practice. Like yogis who wrap their ankles around their own shoulders in a headstand. You can’t just go to a management training seminar for two days, implement a couple of tricks and proclaim yourself a great manager. It’s an ongoing effort. It requires practice, feedback and coaching from others. It requires you to be humble and willing to try new things, making (and making up for) countless mistakes and challenges along the way.
5. Coaching and external support help. A lot. A coach provides an outside perspective. You can vent. You can spitball. And a good coach will challenge you and hold you accountable. I’ve found a combination of coaching, regular inner-team feedback and content resources like Jhana help to significantly improve the learning process and reveal blind spots. Combine this with daily practice, and you’re off to a good start.
6. Hiring is hard. Obviously, interviews are a critical part of the hiring process, but since most candidates can easily prepare a canned answer to the most common questions, they’re also notoriously unreliable. And then there’s the candidate pool itself. We all hope that we are inundated with dream candidates to choose from, but the reality is there will be times when not a single applicant out of 100 is qualified. It’s easy to be impatient, but failing to wait for the right person is a much bigger headache down the road. One tip for heading off false-positive interviews and ill-suited candidates is what one of Jhana’s board members refers to as “extreme reference checking,” where you rely heavily on reference checks for evaluations (as well as actual working sessions).
7. Don’t white-knuckle it (aka micromanage). You’ll make mistakes. We all do. I remember back when my first direct report was starting. In my nervous zeal to get everything just right, I scheduled every 15-minute block of her first two weeks in painstaking detail. When, at the end of the two weeks, I asked for feedback, she gently suggested that perhaps next time, it would be better for me to provide a little more breathing room. I was white-knuckling it. Give people space. Even if it’s uncomfortable, they’ll appreciate it, and that’s how you’ll learn.
8. “Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented.” This is one of the findings from Google’s Project Oxygen. It’s true. I’m not saying you need to rule with an iron fist, but you do need to hold your team (and, just as importantly, yourself!) accountable for meeting goals and producing quality results.
9. People are people. Sometimes they have bad days. Sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes they say things they don’t mean. Don’t hold it against them.
10. It’s especially important to be good at managing when your whole company’s mission is around good management! The managers at Jhana often talk about the challenge of living up to our mission and our product’s advice for management. No slinking by!
While there’s so much to learn, it’s worth the trouble. Because when managers are successful, their teams (and the companies they work for) win.
Rob Cahill is the co-founder and CEO of Jhana, which provides bite-sized performance support for people leaders to build the skills they need to be successful, in a simple, on-demand format they’ll love. Rob started Jhana to help millions of people get the great manager they deserve, but often don’t have. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for Teach For America’s Bay Area region. This article was originally published by Jhana. Reprinted with permission.