Early in your career, you're focused on you. Your work, your path, your advancement. It's hard to imagine that someday, part of your job will be to think about the work of others—sometimes more than your own. But before you know it—and often, before you think you're ready—you'll be responsible for overseeing an intern or a junior on your team.
Being a manager is hard. It's a muscle that needs to be worked and stretched. Equally analytical and emotional, it'll push you and bring about your best and worst days. If you're just starting to oversee others, or know that being a manager is something you want in your career, here are a few ways to think about evolving from maker to manager.
When I first started managing, I used to stress when my team came to me with a question. While it was usually no big deal, there was a small part of my brain that thought, what if I don't know the answer? How am I supposed to manage and lead if I can't answer their questions? But being a manager isn't about having all the answers. It's about knowing how to help others get to the answer. What resources can we tap? Who needs to be involved? What methods can we use? Take comfort in the fact that saying, "I don't know. Let's figure it out together," is a perfectly acceptable answer.
In our first episode of We Are Next Live, Karen brought up the idea of clearing the runway for her team. By managing how work comes in and out of the Studio department, and how other teams are working with them, she allows her Studio Designers to focus on what they're awesome at. Delegation is one aspect of managing—another is how you can enable great work from the people you manage. What outside stressors can you remove for them? What context and tools can you provide that will set them up to succeed?
One of the most challenging parts of becoming a manager is being the emotional lightening rod for your team. Suddenly, people look up for cues on their own tone and mood. If things are rough and morale is low, it's on you to raise them up and keep people motivated, even when you feel defeated. Being a manager is an exercise in empathy—you'll absorb people's struggles, both professional and personal. But you'll also share in their wins, big and small. There's nothing better than seeing someone you manage crush it.
Think of becoming a manager as slowly zooming out and being able to see more and more of the bigger picture. Making the leap isn't easy. It's a skill and role that takes time to develop—and a privilege that warrants the effort.
Watch the video replay of We Are Next Live, Episode 1 for more insights on being a manager, what a Studio department does, and what it's like working with Apple. A huge thank you to everyone who tuned in! I have a ton of thoughts on how it went, and what I'll do differently next time.
Onward & upward,