Author: Emiliya Tsaneva
The journey of the junior manager continues. Day after day he gains more experience, goes through all kinds of situations, achieves success and suffers failure. Sometimes everything goes with ease, other times all seems quite difficult, but he finds the courage to keep going, despite the times that he feels down and wonders what to do. He already knows what he is doing, but still senses the need for improvement and knows there is a lot more to learn. So here are some important lessons for the junior manager during this part of his journey:
- Structure and flexibility – having a good plan and a stable structure is extremely valuable for a manager, however, being flexible is just as needed. It is important to know your goals, to realistically plan what steps need to be taken in order to reach those goals and to prioritize the tasks properly so that the most important ones really get done. To achieve this, you need discipline – there are often some urgent matters coming up, which, however, are not so important in the long run, and if we spend too much time on them, we won’t even start with the most important things for the day. This is why it is advisable for a manager to get his priorities straight and to plan accordingly, but at the same time it is wise to leave some spare time, so that you could be flexible – this way if there is an urgent matter or someone on your team needs support, you can invest some of your time in it, without neglecting your priorities. And if everything goes according to plan, well, then you can get some extra tasks done in the spare time.
- Promise less, give more – in order to be a man of your word, promise only what really depends on you and you can really accomplish. If you are not sure whether you can do it, it’s better to be honest and say that you will clarify if it is possible. Even if it depends mostly on you, keep in mind that often we get so many questions and requests that if we commit to them all, most probably we won’t be able to live up to the expectations – at the end of the day we are human beings as well and our time is limited. When we are unsure, it is better to say that we will check or think about it and then give an answer. It’s also better not to give a deadline for your reply, especially when the matter does not depend entirely on you. Of course, make sure you clarify things as soon as possible and give an answer – it is always better to surprise a person with a timely reply, then to irritate them with a missed deadline. If you work according to the principle “promise less, give more” you will definitely be more satisfied with yourself and you will nourish the trust of people around you.
- Find your own style – every person has his own character and history, he has been through different experiences and has been influenced by the contact with different people. It is wonderful to have peers around you and to gain some experience from them and exchange ideas. In some situations you will be the person who has more experience, in other situations this will be someone else – the support among peers is extremely valuable. However, let’s not forget that people are different – what works well for one manager, might not be the best approach for another. Furthermore, the people on our teams are different too, so we need an individual approach, flexibility and taking the specific circumstances into consideration – to copy and paste solutions rarely works out fine. Exchange ideas with your peers, support them and look for support yourself, but remember that each of us is unique. When you gain some more experience, you will be able to sense what works for you and what doesn’t fit into your approach, so that it’s easier for you to decide what’s worth trying out and what is not suitable for you even if the idea is good. Don’t start comparing yourself with your peers at any time and don’t expect of yourself to act the same way as they do. We often have the same goal, but there are many roads that could lead us to it. So try out what works good for you and listen to yourself, it is not necessary to be like everybody else.
- Urgent situations – no matter how good we plan, there will always be urgent situations coming up. The process didn’t work out well and the consequences appear all of a sudden, so now we urgently need to take action. Maybe the communication didn’t work well and someone didn’t get important information for some reason, and as a result now he is dissatisfied and unmotivated. Sometimes a serious conflict emerges in the team, which makes it necessary for us to intervene, a system stops working and hinders productivity or all of a sudden the fire alarm in the building goes off. Sometimes such situations happen that we could have never imagined. Not only are we surprised, maybe even shocked, but we need to manage the situation somehow. Especially when the whole thing was not expected at all, it is normal to have some emotions arising. Exactly this is the key – whether we will succeed in managing the situation well or not, depends mostly on what we are going to do with those emotions. If we let panic, fear or anger prevail, we won’t be able to think straight anymore. Especially in heavy situations we really need our whole mental capacity and composure to be able to manage. So prepare in advance for such situations, you can’t avoid them all. Practise how to keep calm on a daily basis with easier situations, so that you have the chance to react adequately and find a good solution when a difficult situation comes your way.
- Deal with change – change is a constant part of life and that’s especially true when we talk about work. Nevertheless, most people have resistance towards change, they fear it, they prefer things to stay the same as they were, and often they even start idealizing the past. When you are responsible for other people, not only you need to overcome your own resistance towards change, but you also need to assist the members of your team accept the change and adapt. I will be honest with you, I am one of the people who really hate change happening from outside. If I initiate it, then okay, I am happy with it. Yes, there is also a period of adaptation, but the decision is mine and I feel good about it. But if a serious change happens from outside and I don’t have the power to stop it or influence it somehow, and I just have to deal with the consequences of it, well, I am not happy with it at all – that’s a fact. My first thought even now is – oh, no, no, I don’t agree! Can’t we simply go back to things as they were?! But this can’t happen, not everything depends on us, we can’t control everything, not everything will happen as we want it – we just have to face it. Change is a natural part of life, it has its drawbacks, but also its advantages. The best thing we can do with a change from outside is to accept that it is what it is, no matter if we like it initially or not, then to see what are the advantages in the new circumstances and plan accordingly. Sometimes we simply need time to think things through, so that we accept the change. Other times the new situation won’t suit us and we will have to initiate a change on our side as well. In both cases the most important thing is to get clarity for yourself and accept that a change has happened, then you already have the capacity to support your team in going through this change as well.
- Get some air – in order to have the capacity to keep going, you will need good motivation, a practical plan, hard work and… a break. Yes, that’s right. One of the most productive and purposeful people I know, often says: “Work hard, then party hard”. Rest, laughter, fun activities outside of work, time spent in silence and calmness all give us energy, stability and perspective. It is important for a person to enjoy life outside of work regularly in order to stay healthy and productive, as well as to be satisfied and contented. So, go get some air, especially if you feel stuck somewhere.
Those were my lessons for junior managers – good luck and have courage! If you haven’t already read Part 1, you can do it now.