I’ve had the strange experience of being thrust into leadership roles almost my entire life. I haven’t asked for it, most of the time. It just sorta shows up, because when things aren’t getting done I have a tendency to make them happen. Or if people are being complacent and aren’t moving forward, I prefer to step up, figure out what needs to be done and I just do it.
One of the challenges as I transitioned to life as an office (as opposed to say, working in retail as a teen or being in the military) was learning to delegate.
I grown used to to just doing everything I needed to do and doing it my own way. It’s similar to why I’ve always been a better singles player than a doubles player. I’d rather be responsible for my own mistakes, rather than having to compensate for someone else’s errors all of the time. And for a long time, I viewed working with people like a lot of student view working in groups — as more hassle than it’s worth.
When I was afforded the opportunity to have a student worker in my first professional web job, it changed the game a bit for me. I learned that he could actually be useful and that I didn’t need to feel bad when I gave him “busywork” because it was 1) still work and 2) it needed to be done. I went almost instantly from feeling bad about it, to feeling like a big weight had been lifted off me and felt free to start to explore other projects.
One of the other parts of working with people who are just starting out is mentoring. I’ve been fortunate throughout my career to work with some outstanding supervisors and leaders and I feel like, melding what I’ve learned from watching them with my own leadership style, makes me a good mentor and someone who tells it straight and helps people grow.
Once I ended up in a role where I had a full-time staff member reporting to me, as well as a few students, that changed things even more. I was (and still am) learning about the best way to handle dividing work and figuring out the best way to use those people at my disposal. But it’s such an interesting situation when someone you almost have to double take and realize how much your individual actions control a given situation, process or function in an institutional setting.
Maybe it’s just my penchant for focusing on macro-level things, that makes me even consider it from that perspective, but it’s been interesting to watch my own evolution as a manager. I’ve still got a lot to learn about delegating in entrepreneurial situations. The nature of wanting to “do it all” is more evident there than in almost any other circumstance and so, it can be hard to know when to let go and what to let go of. Especially in the beginning of the project.
I’ve learned to surround myself with good people, to communicate well and to listen more and talk less. Every day is a new part of my learning process, but it’s a great feeling when you start to witness your own growth and can demonstrate that through doing your work a little better today than you did it before.