Discover more from Thrifted Design Leadership
So you want to become a manager?
Here’s why you shouldn’t.
Welcome to Thrifted Design Leadership, the weekly newsletter where I share design leadership tips I’ve begged, borrowed and stolen from my betters ✨
By popular request (… of myself) I’ve decided to make these posts a bit shorter and more consise. I struggle with being verbose, and there’s too much to say!
So you want to become a manager or get your first management role? Here’s why not to.
You’re going to spend a lot more of your life in meetings.
What is management anyway? That’s the subject of a whole other post, but the long and short of it is it’s having responsibility and impact outside of what you’re immediate hands can make.
As a manager, you get the flack if someone on your team fucks up. You also get a portion of the glory when they do really well! Your domain goes from “do this task really well” to “create the environment in which other people do these tasks really well.”
If you’re the sort of person who wants to either
Hone your craft to a level of excellence or
really really hates being in meetings with people who don’t get your job
management may not be right for you, right now.
Management is your current job with extra steps
It’s very rare that in your first management role you will entirely step away from individual contributor (IC) work. Often, you will have some sort of split .
A good company will respect this and give you enough time to manage. A great mentor of mine once said that for every person you directly line manage, it takes a day’s worth of your time per week.
This might seem wildly optimistic, especially if you’ve only had negligent managers. But planning another person’s growth, advocating for them and learning management skills takes time and practice. Make sure whatever company is offering your this role gives you that time. Otherwise you’re setting yourself up for failure.
It’s way harder than mentoring.
Mentoring is a fantastic way to build the skills of management. It gives you practice working with someone more junior than you, helping them find their path, and giving them feedback. The key difference is the aforementioned responsibility for peoples fuckups.
As a mentor, you don’t have a direct consequence if your mentee isn’t learning or actioning the advice you give. As a manager, not only do you need to give this advice but you’re also directly responsible to the company if it’s not actioned. This means difficult conversations, writing performance plans; or even firing someone. Not quite the happy happy joy joy of having an enthusiastic junior you meet once a month.
If you like mentoring, there’s a big chance you’ll like management. But you need get good at the difficult parts too.
Despite all I’ve said above, managing others and leading teams is the most satisfying part of my career. If you’re reading this far, it’s likely you’re interested enough in managment to do well at it! At least to have a go and see if it’s right for you- there are many diverse paths for success and progression these days. You will find your niche!
Next up, we’ll talk about how to get that first management role (when you’ve not got management experience.) I hope you’re all getting some time off over the holidays and chance to relax before the new year. See you there!