Finding my (work) self

I’m in a direct management role for the first time.

For the past decade, I’ve “led through influence” – a fancy way of saying I learned to play nice to get what I needed from people who didn’t work for me.  I’m good at it.

Now, though, I have a few people reporting directly to me and many more for whom I point in a certain direction and say, “Go!”  Yowza, has my level of stress (and guilt!) skyrocketed.

Turns out telling people to do things doesn’t come naturally.  Or, more accurately, I’ve fought the inclination to tell people what to do for long enough (decades!), I struggle to find the right words.

Yikes, nothing more annoying than a constantly-apologetic manager.  So, I’m finding my way around, paying attention to how my boss gives me projects (without much fanfare) and how I respond in turn (with a renewed sense of purpose).


I worked for a really fantastic boss for a couple of years, one you might remember from an old post on NQBC.  She was (and is) just as good at everything as rumored, and as I jump into this new gig — the one with the travel and the people working for me and the need to choose the most important things to fix — I think of her a lot.

How would M have handled this?

How did M give me new projects?

How might M have responded?

But, as with everything else, I have to remind myself that I am me, not her, and the lesson is in being as much myself as she is herself.  She has a flair for the detailed; I don’t.  But I am mighty loyal, mighty fierce, mighty patient — until I’m not.

People are already learning.  Whew.


2 thoughts on “Finding my (work) self

  1. In my experience, with bosses is that loyalty is the number one thing I respect. It’s not until that first time you mess up- and come crawling to the boss to own up to it– that you get to see this. Will they defend you to outsiders, give you room to make mistakes, be productive in their criticism and encouraging of our discouragement? Similarly, the way a boss deflects praise and credits employees to other bosses/outsiders etc. demonstrates that they’re not just in it for themselves and that they’re loyal. My best boss was unfailingly loyal, my worst boss threw me under the bus time and time again. I have a feeling that in this respect you’d be a good boss.

  2. Good luck! While you do want to be yourself as a manager, I definitely think modeling after good managers you’ve had in the past is a great idea. This can help you remember what makes people love a manager (he always had my back and kept us motivated) and hate a manager (soooo many reasons, chiefly: he blames me for problems he caused or treats me like I don’t know things even though I’ve been here longer).

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