For those who don’t know the back-story – my manager was lucky enough to get 6-7 weeks of leave and buggered off to Europe. Yay for him, boo for us poor sods left behind.
Because he was going away for such a significant period of time, he figured the team *should* have a manager – so he kindly asked me if I’d be interested. As I’ve always been wanting to move into the team lead/manager space, I was more than happy to take on the opportunity.
I spent just over 6 weeks being the manager. I’m writing this after coming out the other side with an appreciation of management (especially mine!) and a better understanding of what being a manager entails. There are things that I enjoy and things that I greatly despise. But it’s taught me a lot. So I figured that putting up a blog post of things that that I’ve learnt – both about myself and others – would be a good starting point.
Being the manager for your own team is *REALLY* hard
This was the hardest part. There are pros and cons for being the manager – pros being that I knew what everyone in the team was supposed to be doing, what projects were on the go, who I needed to speak to for certain systems. The cons are many – because you were part of the team (and because I was acting, would go *back* to being part of the team) getting respect was hard. No one saw me as the manager, they just saw me as this young upstart who was trying to tell them what to do. It also amplified personality clashes I had with people – I felt them far more keenly than I did when I was just a regular team member. There’s also the fact that I’m friends with some of my team – and being able to be manager and friend can be a tightrope.
People are petty and even if they didn’t want the job, they will still resent you
I know for a fact that there wasn’t anyone else interested in stepping up to act as manager while bossman was away. Bossman was very honest saying that a) I was suited for it but also that b) no else wanted it. And that’s fine. I was happy to do it – especially if no one else wanted to. But even if they didn’t, it still didn’t stop some of the resentment I received. Especially when I had to back off from a lot of my technical duties and hand off some of my work – I’m not sure that it was obvious to some in the team that a hand off of that kind would need to occur.
Being the youngest in the team also made things hard – going from being a bossy big mouth to being the manager wasn’t an easy transition. I think there was definitely some age issues, because I am the youngest. I know that age is an issue for some people in my team, though I have no idea why!
Being a manager involves a lot of meetings…like A LOT
I didn’t realise how busy my manager was before I took this stint of standing in for him. Oh. My. Lord. The never ending MEETINGS! It was ridiculous. I just couldn’t understand how the managers of IT Operational teams got anything done with the number of meetings they were in. For the first few days, I was swamped…until I noticed that every single other manager took their laptop with them to the meetings. While in the meetings, they were catching up on emails and responding to them, doing other work, going through their work queues. Multitasking, it appears, is a crucial skill for a manager. So it came to be that taking a borrowed Windows 8 tablet into meetings became the norm – and once again I felt on top of my workload as I was able to do both: listen to the meeting and keep up with what was going on with the team on the side.
Having an organised to-do list is vital
I’m not sure if I’ve pushed it hard enough, but without ToDoist I’d be screwed. Having an organised and well thought out to-do list is vital. I had things planned for each day and I tried (though not always successfully) to keep on top of this list and let it grow to gigantic proportions. I was reasonably successful, and have actually learnt how to better manage my time because of this stint at being a manager – due to having so many claims on your time that you *have* to be efficient. This leads me to my next point…
Stepping away from technical work is really REALLY hard to do
I didn’t realise just how hard this would be. Not doing the small jobs that I’d usually do of a morning, because I had so much other work to do before everyone else got in. Not stepping in to do work that I knew I’d be able to do – and letting others do it instead. Handing over the work that I would normally do to others. It was incredibly difficult, and I’m honestly not sure if I could permanently do it. I enjoy being technical and I enjoy the technical side of my job – a lot. So having to step back from that almost entirely was an incredibly difficult thing to do, but it also put into perspective which parts of my job – and which parts of being a manager – I enjoy.
Delegating is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, but I’m getting better at it!
I am not good at delegation. At *all*. I’m terrible. I know how something should be done and I want to get in and do it (much to the chagrin of some of my coworkers). This made handing things over INCREDIBLY difficult for me. But I did the right thing, I grit my teeth and I handed over my jobs…all except my big Server 2003 decommissioning project. Justification: I wasn’t going to hand it over when it was so close to being finished and was in the crucial stage, knowing that I’d just micro-manage whichever poor sod ended up with it. I’d much rather keep hold of it and add a little extra to my plate than make someone else’s life miserable. It turned out to be a good idea, as it wasn’t a huge overburden on me (because I was already across what needed to be done) and being in the manager position actually gave me more clout when dealing with some system owners!
Back on the topic of delegation – this was definitely one of the hardest parts of doing this role, because I had to keep my hands off and trust in the team. This proved to be fine, because everything worked out – things got done! I didn’t *have* to be involved – despite what I might’ve thought. I’m hoping this makes delegating easier in the future!
Dealing with HR issues is probably the shittest part of the job…who knew that being empathetic would make this trickier!
I can visualise conversations and how they’ll take place – and I don’t like how a lot of them go in my head, so I dread them even more in real life. Despite my hard-arse exterior, I am a softy at heart and I don’t particularly like or enjoy conflict…well, maybe a little, but I pick and choose my battles! And I certainly don’t want to battle with people that I’m going to have to work with as a team member again. So there were some HR issues (and I won’t get into any details) that I just couldn’t handle. I had to hand them off to higher up or just wait for my manager to return. They were out of my league – which is a good thing, because it means there are still things I have to learn.
Handover is important – document EVERYTHING!
I’m a bit of a documentation nut, so this was a no-brainer for me. But it was surprising to see that my manager was happy with the handover that I gave to him. I literally documented everything and kept everything as organised as possible – down to having a separate folder in my inbox for all my higher duties. When my time was up, I was able to just pass this folder (along with a very large OneNote document and a folder on a shared drive, filled with documents) over to my manager so that he knew where everything was – and even if I’d forgotten to include a detail in my OneNote document, there would hopefully be some trace of it in the email folder I provided.
So in the end, I feel like I didn’t too too bad of a job – nothing burnt down, no one died, the world didn’t end – so I can’t have been too bad at stepping into this role! I’m hoping to get a chance to do it again (or maybe apply for a secondment to another team elsewhere, to get some idea of managing a team other than my own) – but one things for sure: I definitely need to be a technical team lead, not just a manager. I can’t remove myself entire from the technical aspects of my work…it’s way too much fun!