I'm just past my first year as branded content editor at The Penny Hoarder, my first time as a manager. I was excited and confident moving into the role, because I knew I had the skills to handle the production parts of the job, like editing and coordinating projects.
The people part of the job, however, is a new challenge. And there's a lot more of it in a management role than I expected. (I'll pause here for knowing laughter from experienced managers...)
Here are some mistakes I made early on -- and the advice I wish I'd had before becoming a manager.
Not planning ahead for meetings.
I have one-on-ones with several direct reports and cross-departmental meetings filling my calendar each week. I didn't realize right away that this busy schedule means I also need to budget time to plan for meetings.
I can't just walk into a team meeting and ask everyone what's up. They need me to lead it.
I can't just sit down for a one-on-one and waste 30 minutes with chit chat. I need to come prepared to offer insight and feedback.
Now I add recurring blocks to my calendar for meeting prep. This keeps it from filling with back-to-back meetings that leave me no time to prepare.
Avoiding (or forgetting) direct feedback.
"Delivering hard feedback, making hard calls about who does what on a team and holding a high bar for results -- isn't that obviously the job of any manager?" writes entrepreneur Kim Scott in "Radical Candor."
The book, my go-to source for management advice, advocates for just what its title suggests. I totally agree with the approach... but my midwestern, conflict-avoidant soul often has trouble conveying what my practical mind knows needs to be said.
That's a challenge for a lot of managers. However, I learned well into my first year as a manager that I make it harder on myself by also not offering enough positive feedback.
As Inc. columnist and author Scott Mautz has pointed out, constructive feedback is useless unless you're already making employees feel valued through positive feedback.
Easy solution: I set a weekly Slack reminder to shout-out wins on my team. I notice the great things my team does all week, but this is a much-needed nudge to say it out loud. That positive feedback paves the way for any harder stuff we might have to work through together in the future.
Working in a leadership silo.
The Penny Hoarder has other editors in a role similar to mine, doing the same work of managing and coaching writers in their teams. They have more management experience than I do, so they're fantastic resources -- when I make time to talk to them.
Our teams work in parallel, so our projects don't often intersect. I have few natural opportunities to interact with them day to day.
I wish I would have made a point early in this role to grab lunch with them, observe their meetings or just chat with them by the coffee machine so I could absorb their management know-how.
Not letting my team own their work.
The consistent feedback I got from my direct reports in my first 360 review was that I needed to delegate more. They worried I was taking on too much and wanted me to know they were available to help.
That's basically new manager 101, right?
"As a manager, you can't focus on individual tasks -- you have to focus your effort on helping your team complete their assignments," Avery Augustine, a full-time manager at a tech company, writes at The Muse.
I've learned to let the tasks go and focus more on making sure they get done. It's about more than freeing my time, though. It gives everyone on my team a chance to learn new skills and collectively take ownership over the work.
Not thinking enough about career development.
I've been editing and coaching writers in the craft for years. But becoming a manager adds a layer I didn't anticipate: I'm now responsible for someone else's career path.
I didn't think enough early on about helping my team develop their soft skills to prepare them for the next steps in their careers. Where does anyone find the time?
"The urgency of work invariably trumps the luxury of learning," HR experts and researchers Josh Bersin and Marc Zao-Sanders write at Harvard Business Review. "... We're all just too caught up in the inexorable flow of work."
Bersin and Sanders recommend making learning part of the regular workflow. That means encouraging things like newsletter subscriptions, resource-sharing, mindfulness and calendarizing time for education, so learning becomes integral to daily work, not a chore we never get around to.