Effectively Managing Time, People, and Happiness

It’s 2am and the only thing I’ve effectively managed to do is stay up way past what should be my bedtime. Somehow official work hours disappear in the blink of an eye, somewhere between meetings, interruptions, and small tasks requested of you that end up taking longer than anyone else might expect, not to mention your daily distractions.

There must be a much more effective way to successfully manage all aspects of life; if there’s anything I fail at most it’s management. If someone gives me a project to do with some sort of general framework, I can get it done. The second I’m tasked with competing priorities (personally and professionally) things go to shit. And that is why I’m still awake at 2:16am.

I’m also thinking, and concerned, about a conversation I had with the one person I manage at work. While I’m bad at managing myself, I’m absolutely terrible at managing other people. To be honest, I haven’t had a lot of experience in this area so I have to learn somewhere, but some people learn management skills from their parents and others don’t. I’m in the don’t camp. I’m in the “get beaten and degraded until you do what they want” camp. Not to say good managers couldn’t have been put through that sort of upbringing, but I can’t imagine it helps the case.

What I did wrong — very wrong — is that I assigned a few projects to the person who works for me, and I tried to be “hands off” but in the end was not thrilled with the result. More so, my boss asked me to revise the projects, which I can’t do in a few minutes. Or maybe someone else could, but I can’t make a few tweaks and be satisfied. I thought it would be a good thing to bring this woman into additional projects that were important, but it turned out the projects didn’t get completed on time and she feels like I’m taking credit for all the things that did get done and blaming her for what didn’t. Which, I don’t think i’m doing entirely, or on purpose, but I get why she feels that way.

It was a failure on my part in management, clearly, but I’m not sure where exactly I went from going right to wrong. Should I have not assigned her the project to begin with and taken it on myself? Should I have given more specific instruction and “micromanaged” up front in order to produce a result more in line with what I was expecting? Should I just stop expecting some artistic perfection in language and layout, when that matters a lot less than just getting the materials created?

In any case, in my second attempt at management, I’ve broken down a lot of the trust in the relationship and I think it’s going to be impossible to regain that trust. The biggest trouble I have is properly complimenting and using positive feedback to motivate behavior. Again, the only positive feedback I heard as a child was if my makeup looked good or if my art was better than anything created by my peers. Either I was perfect (or better than everyone else) and deserving of praise, or I was bad/wrong/not good enough.

Clearly one can’t manage that way, nor should they, but I struggle with being positive consistently, even when someone is doing a great job I can’t bring myself to offering praise all the time (and this person DOES do a great job at a lot of things, she’s really smart and talented at many things I’m terrible at). But I feel like every aspect of praise that comes out of my mouth seems fake and insincere. Maybe it is.

But aren’t the best leaders often sociopaths who know how to praise and prod their subordinates to world domination (or something like that?) Ok, so not every brilliant leader is that intentionally manipulative or successful with these intentions, but as I observe the best leaders they seem to all have some sort of highly controlled, magnetic charisma. Their words are all so effortlessly perfect, carefully improvised to get exactly what they want done. And somehow, when the results aren’t as expected, they manage to provide this news in a way that encourages revisions for the better, instead of just a lot of resentment.

There are many ways I can improve as a manager, but I fear it will take, at the very least, to the next company to regain trust amongst my peers. They do trust me for certain tasks I am able to complete, and see my value there (or at least I hope they do) but as a manager, my credence is shot. I just wonder if I have it in me to manage other people at all. I’m terrible at being friends with other people and am dating the only person in the world who is more socially awkward than I am, so why should I be remotely efficient at management? Maybe I should research and pursue a career that, unlike the one I’m in now, doesn’t require leadership or management skills (yea, I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t go out and get an MBA a few years ago.)

Instead of re-thinking my career, I’d like to just become a better manager. How can one do that when the person you manage doesn’t respect you or your feedback? Or that you are unable to communicate effectively and so they just get upset at you for attempting to provide any sort of input? I have a hard time not walking over the fine line of micromanaging if I want to give any input at all.

At my last job, my manager was extremely degrading to her subordinates, especially the other guy who worked under her. She would constantly talk to him in ways that I felt were completely inappropriate and belittling. I don’t think I’m that bad as a manager, but I’m sure there are times I’ve accidentally come close. I guess it all goes back to not assigning the project to someone in the first place if you think you might have to micromanage it. The challenge is when you have too many projects on your plate and you need to delegate, but you don’t necessarily have all the players in the process to distribute the work to. You’re already short-staffed and you aren’t able to have multiple people on your team with clearly differentiated strengths and weaknesses so you can balance projects this way.

The result of all this is my becoming paranoid; I already don’t like myself and assume everyone dislikes me, so it doesn’t help matters when I give them good reason to do this. I don’t really care about being liked anymore, but I do want to be respected. And respect is something I’ve only figured out how to lose over time. I’m not the type of person people want to be around. Words come out wrong every time I talk. I most like working on my own projects from start to finish with no one else or few others involved.

But even if I’m not cut out for management, I still need to figure out how to effectively manage in my current professional role, as well as to manage my own life so I’m not working 90+ hours a week, sleeping less than I should, and spending the rest of the time like a zombie watching marathons of old television shows, with so little time to dedicate to my boyfriend, and no time at all to dedicate to friendships and real hobbies (vs watching tv and Facebook.)

I want to believe it’s not too late to fix this relationship at work, but I don’t know how. Everything I do from this point on will seem insincere. I can be a totally hands off manager (which at this point I probably have to be) and as long as I just make sure I hand off the right projects, I don’t need to get involved. But the moment I want to provide input on a project, I will not know how to approach this, and ultimately I will either not say anything or will and, of course, it will come out all wrong, and I’ll be back to square one.

God, I wish I wasn’t such a social imbecile. And I wish my parents taught me something about managing effectively growing up. I don’t know what on earth I am going to do when I have kids. If I don’t figure out this management stuff now, they are going to hate me for sure.

 

 

 

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3 comments

  1. Lindsay says:

    As a currently out of work creative director (position rescinded, and I was traded in for a lower-salary 20something with no previous management experience to "save money"), I have to say that I believe managers are made, not born. When I started out in management, I had no idea how to manage effectively either. My bosses told me, when I requested training, "You're on your own, kid. Life is the best teacher." That sounded dubious to me, so I started checking out every book I could to learn the art and science of management. I read project management books, business development books, and Bruce Tulgan's management series (which I highly recommend, and which can be purchased here: http://www.rainmakerthinking.com/books-training-m….

    When I was secure in my ability to lead, my team took confidence in me as a leader. While overseeing a team that was 80-90% male (depending on the year), quite the intimidating task for a young woman, I doubled our revenue, brought us an award, and got team confidence up and mistakes down to the lowest levels in the history of my firm. I trained my team to understand their assignments, be cognizant of the deadlines, and feel welcome to come to my office with any questions or concerns. They loved me as a manager, and they never hesitated to ask when they needed help or a deadline extension.

    Because I didn't want to work 80 hours a week, I also instilled in them a critical attribute: confidence. I had one young developer whose confidence was poor. He felt he would never be able to create a PowerPoint to pitch a client…in fact, he felt he was unable to even crop photos for sites as well as his peers. I sat with him and showed him how to do these things, hands-on. And, I told him, "You can do it. I believe in you." He's never going to be a marketing or creative director, mainly because he doesn't want it badly enough, but he does have those skills now, because I showed and told him that I believed in him.

    You have to proactively improve your technique if you're going to become an effective manager. And inspiring confidence in your team is pretty much #1. Everyone's style is different, but personally, I like to meet with each team member for at least a brief period each day to review what they've done, what they're working on at present, and what's ahead. Sure, it takes a bit out of my day, but that's time saved down the line, because the work gets done right the first time. Clear communication is vital, and deadlines must be crystal-clear. But above all, you have to show your team that you believe in their talent and believe in yourself to manage it best. They, in turn, will reward you with hard work and loyalty.

    Sure, I guess I could tell you to suck it up and quit whining, but that's so cliched. Everyone complains about work. My complaint right now is residing in an area I've outgrown, talent-wise, and which has a severe dearth of senior and management positions for my talents, in addition to possessing too many companies with archaic views about women's roles. I'm facing relocation soon, and I hope that I will be able to get back into management quickly, because I really miss it. The Bay Area seems like a fruitful locale for senior creatives who are passionate about leading and developing great people, so in terms of raw materials and a bountiful talent market, you should be all set.

    Best of luck.

  2. OMK says:

    Dear HECC,

    I understand your position as I am in a similar one. I kind of woke up one day and found myself in a senior position where am I expected to delegate to staff and manage them. No one gave me any training, and my upbringing and social awkwardness are much the same as yours so I'm not natural with colleagues.

    Also, my resources are limited and I have little choice. I keep having to delegate to the same people and end up micromanaging. I can only hope that they will improve. The only thing I don't do like you is work silly hours to fix what I like – most of the time the boss isn't as bothered as me as long as the basics are there.

    Erin has a point, but it's not that easy, is it? When my staff do something poorly, I wonder if it's them or me. It's often a combination. Also, if she's that good, why didn't your delegate figure out the details without you giving really specific instructions? Say to yourself "Did I need to state… the obvious?!"

    🙂

  3. erin says:

    oh my god. pick up a book on management and read. strap on a pair and get over yourself. if you’re having to redo the projects, you’re obviously not giving clear, specific instructions. if you’re giving projects to the same person, then you’re just stupid in repeatedly giving it to the same person who isn’t doing the job correctly.

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