27 September 2023

Women in management: The five things to know before moving up

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Krystin Morgan* reveals the five things she wishes someone told me before she became a manager.

When I became a people manager, I knew some things would change — I’d do different work, have a calendar full of meetings and maybe have more of a say in big decisions.

I didn’t, however, anticipate some of the ways my day-to-day role would evolve.

Here are a few things I wish someone had told me when I was first starting out.

  1. It’s lonely at the top.

One of the first thoughts I had as a manager was, “wait, where did everybody go?” As a leader, your circle changes: you’re on a different level than your former peers, and you may be spending a majority of your time with your manager or the folks above them.

It can be a difficult adjustment when you’re used to having a group of coworkers at your level.

The best thing I did was to find my manager cohort; for me, these were folks with whom I went through manager training, managers on adjacent teams or hiring managers my recruiting team supported.

  1. It’s not just about you anymore…

I’m an executor and an achiever, but being a manager is about more than that.

The transition to management means that the days of focusing on exceeding your own goals are gone: now your focus is on bringing the whole team along to success.

When you’re used to spending your time cranking out your own work, you need to learn to work a different muscle, one that’s focused on leading and growing your team to their own version of success.

A leader’s success isn’t measured in how many calls they make or lines of code they write, which means that at the end of a long day, sometimes it’s hard to tell what you truly accomplished.

It requires a new way of thinking about productivity and success.

  1. …but winning as a team feels even greater.

It’s true: as much as it feels great to beat your own goals, it’s even more thrilling to win as a team.

There is a lot of joy in knowing you’ve supported people to do their best work and achieve their goals, and the impact you can make as a whole team is much bigger than you could do alone.

  1. You can’t always do it better.

You’ve probably had former managers who did things that made you think, “When I’m a manager, I’ll never do that,” or “I’ll do it better someday.” Although that’s a great daydream, it’s not always reality.

I never understood some past managers’ decisions or actions until I became a manager myself.

The fact is, while it may seem like a manager holds all the power, sometimes their hands are tied and they can’t make changes even if they want to.

Sometimes they have to give hard feedback or difficult hard answers even if it’s challenging for them.

It’s all part of being a leader and doing what’s best for the larger team or organisation.

That said, there are certainly lessons from former managers that I carry with me to this day.

Some of those are things not to do, and others are things I strive for.

  1. People are paying attention.

As an individual contributor, the circle of people who notice your success or failure is important but not necessarily extensive.

As a manager, a lot more eyes are on you; how you react, how you interact and how you lead all have a big impact on your team.

It’s imperative to be unbiased, respectful and positive.

Actions you may perceive as minor can have an outsize effect on someone you manage, so it’s important to be mindful.

The saying “what got you here won’t get you there” applies to nothing if not management.

Leading a team is its own skill, and regardless of how excellent you were at your previous role, it’s an entirely different ball game to manage people doing that job.

It requires humility, a willingness to learn, and a strong sense of teamwork.

*Krystin Morgan is a Seattle-based recruiting leader at a rapidly-scaling tech company, the owner of Amplify Career Services (a resume writing and career growth company), and most importantly a mom to a beautiful (human) baby girl and elderly black lab.

This article first appeared at fairygodboss.com.

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