Over the span of my career, I was most fortunate in being asked a few times if I would be interested in a short term assignment as a manager, to fill a vacant position until it could be staffed permanently.
When that happened, I always felt like an award show nominee. The fact that someone thought highly enough of me and my work to extend such an invitation was a huge honour and for that I was most grateful.
I chose carefully and I accepted five times.
But looking back, even though I was told I did fine, I didn’t always think so. I was pretty hard on myself. I always thought I could have done better.
The bigger questions were why was I so exhausted when each assignment was over? Was it me? Would more training have helped? Was it a right fit for me? How did so many of the managers I looked up to make it look so easy?
As I reflected back over my agonizing decisions to accept, and the dissection of events when the assignments were over, I believe I should have paid more attention to my gut and to the struggle I was feeling.
After the last assignment, I realized that even though our society and our culture keeps telling us that climbing the ladder is a good thing, management might not be for everyone. I knew conclusively that it wasn’t for me and I finally knew the reasons why.
Creativity energizes me. Tapping into my creative energies makes me giddy with joy. I remember once being asked by a former manager to proofread a 150 page document for another team. The authors had worked on it so much, they needed a fresh pair of eyes to review it. All I remember was trying so hard to contain my nervous giggles from the honour of being offered the monumental task.
At the end of each day of full-time review, I was exhilarated. I could go home, work out, make a four-course dinner, spring clean the basement and alphabetize the contents of my kitchen.
Requests like that always gave me the most joy and the most satisfaction, whether that meant producing a PowerPoint presentation out of thin air, fine tuning a document for a specific target audience, checking a lengthy document for consistency, or coming up with the right words for a challenging message, in two languages.
Also, in the type of work I do, there is always a conveyor belt of documents that need attention on a regular basis. The care needed for those documents is what makes me jump out of bed and go “yippee” in the morning and make me look forward to work.
But those types of tasks are delegated to the team members. Take those tasks off my plate, and you also remove the energizing factor, as well as the joy and the satisfaction that come with it.
As an acting manager, my day was always busy with a different set of tasks. Even if I wanted to selfishly hoard some writing tasks to feed my creativity, I would have had to work on them outside of business hours.
But on those occasions when I had to write a rationale for anything, I would savour every second of the opportunity and would produce the most comprehensive, detailed, bullet-proof justifications the corporate areas had ever seen.
When a tough-as-nails staffing advisor calls you to thank you for your justification and has no recommendations for improvement, you’ve done well… or you’ve gone overboard… but I was happy to do it.
I was so starved for writing that I was overjoyed at the prospect of year-end employee appraisals and the opportunity to prepare individual feedback telling each team member how awesome they were.
Whenever our director needed a volunteer to write something, he didn’t need to finish describing what was needed, I was already scribbling an outline for my first draft.
Even my grocery lists were getting verbose just for the sake of putting pen to paper and feeling a sense of creativity. They started reading like product descriptions on The Price is Right.
But still, it wasn’t enough writing for me. You’d think that the common denominator to my ups and downs in energy would have become clear to me. Somewhere between being so busy and eager to please upper management, my team mates and my clients, my need to be creative wasn’t anywhere on my radar.
It took those managerial assignments (and time for reflection afterward) for me to realize that when my voracious appetite for production and creativity was not regularly satiated, deep down I got frustrated, I got tired and it dragged me down.
I deeply admire the folks who manage, who enjoy it and who make it look so easy. Similarly, I know people who look at my passion for writing and have a similar sentiment.
But that’s the beauty of team work when we can all do what we enjoy doing most, complement each other and collectively produce outstanding results that would make the Avengers take notice.
If I had to do it over again, would I? Absolutely. I needed to. It took those assignments to finally put into words why management wasn’t my calling nor was it a right fit. But if my need to write wasn’t equivalent to my need to eat, sleep and breathe, who knows how things could have turned out.
Not only has this knowledge and experience made the rest of my career so clear, but it charts the path for how my retirement days need to be filled for me to be truly happy and fulfilled. For that, I will always be very grateful for those opportunities.
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Have a great day,
4 responses to “What I Missed Most As a Manager”
Great article. Completely agree that manager role is not for everyone. Glad to hear that these experiences have been learning experiences.
Thanks for taking the time to read the blog and for your wonderful comment.
It is funny how society leads us to believe we need to keep climbing the corporate ladder, even when we have found our happy place and what we love to do.
To learn that this was not necessarily so was indeed a great life lesson! Just the same, I’m glad I tried and I know for certain that it’s not what I do best.
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