I have been in middle management for about a year and a half now, and there are still times when I wonder if I’m doing this “managing” thing right, or if I’m really cut out to be a manager. But I guess the day I stop wondering how to do things better is the day I stop improving (and there’s always something that can be improved on).
When new people start work in my department, there are a few things I tell them, regardless of their role or their previous work experience:
- If in doubt, ask (in our line of work, you have to be sure — guessing is not good enough)
- If you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up about it — chances are I’ve seen other people make the same mistake before, and other people will make it again. Just try to learn and move on
- If at any time you have an idea for how something could be improved, let me know
One mantra that has helped me stay calm at work (which apparently is really important because panic is contagious, especially when it’s coming from a leader) is “everything is fixable”. The solution might not always be convenient or easy or cost-effective, but it exists!
Applying this to point #2 is pretty straightforward: if you make a mistake, we can fix it. It would be great to not have a mistake to fix in the first place, but such is life. I also apply this mantra to point #3 in the sense that if someone makes a suggestion, and it doesn’t work out, we can always just go back to the old way, or modify things somehow to make it work.
I think this approach is important to me because I’ve worked with managers in the past who aren’t receptive to suggestions and new ideas. I remember how I felt in those situations, and I’m sure other people have felt the same way. It’s a human need to be heard and valued. (What I ended up doing was making small changes while my manager was away. I think sometimes it’s the thought of making a change that is off-putting, but once the change has been made, it’s easier to accept.)
I also really don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking that because I’ve worked somewhere for so long, that that is the best way to work. New people bring new perspectives, and that’s why I encourage people to make suggestions regardless of how long they’ve worked here.
Of course, not every suggestion can be (or has been) actioned or implemented, but I’d like to think I’ve taken everything into consideration (or jotted it down for future consideration if I was too busy at the time).
Sometimes I wonder if I’m too concerned about whether my staff are happy — after all, that wasn’t in the list of responsibilities I was given when I accepted this role — but if I’m not concerned about this, then who will be?
And, as a general thing, isn’t absurd to be wondering if one should care about other people? There’s no need for some care-distribution-algorithm, just care in whatever capacity you can.