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Asking for a Friend: How Do You Learn to Manage People?

Asking for a Friend: How Do You Learn to Manage People?

During the nine years Claire Mazur and Erica Cerulo ran the design-minded e-commerce business Of a Kind, they learned a lot—and a lot of it the hard way. To spare you some of the head- and heartaches they experienced, they’re answering a couple Qs about creative entrepreneurship to help you on your way. Here’s the second installment of a two-part series. You can follow their weekly newsletter and podcast for more intel—business, design, and otherwise.   *** Q. How do I become a good manager? There’s no one showing me the way, and I don’t want to screw it up. Getting good guidance feels especially fraught these days. Congrats on wanting to get this right! That’s a heck of a start. It seems so many people just jump into a management role without dedicating much headspace to how they want things to function, and unfortunately our thoroughly modern work culture doesn’t do much to set anyone up for success on this front (Management training?! LOL.). When we hired our first employees, we made a slew of mistakes. You will too—but hopefully what follows will keep you from making some of the same ones we did. You will also get better at it with practice, so cut yourself some slack when you flounder. While you’re at it, try to do the same for the person you’re managing, too.  Set Some Boundaries There’s a difference between being friends with someone who reports to you and being friendly with someone who reports to you. If you want this to be smooth sailing, you’re aiming for the latter. Where’s the line exactly? For us, it’s the difference between knowing the name of an employee’s significant other and knowing every detail of their WFH routine. Camaraderie is important—talk about an illustrator you discovered, a book you’ve been meaning to read, a recipe you’ve been cooking all you want!—but developing a too-familiar bond can, among other challenges, make it hard (on both of you) when you need to have a tough conversation. Suddenly, your employee can feel like you turned on them when you’re just doing your job, and the conversation can have a more personal undercurrent than it needs to. But this doesn’t mean that everything personal ought to stay private. Say there’s a big thing happening in your life that affects your day-to-day, like a sick parent or a pregnancy. Share it in a way that feels authentic to you and appropriate to the setting—and encourage anyone on your team to do the same. Definitely tell people who work for you that you want to hear these things from them—but also lead by example. That’s what sets the tone to make someone comfortable sharing, and you’ll save your reports a lot of stress if they know that you seeming distracted in a meeting has absolutely nothing to do with the project they’re presenting. Navigating these conversations can be harder when they’re mediated by a screen, but that also presents an opportunity to lean into the literal visibility you have into people’s home lives to get (just the right amount of) personal.  Prioritize—and Systematize—Face-to-Face Communication How lucky are we to have Slack, email, and all of the collaborative tools we do?! Hugely. But as wonderful as they are, they’re not the best forum for everything you have to say. We hate a waste-of-time meeting as much as the next person, but a weekly check-in with someone who reports to you is never a waste;  » Read More

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