Ice Cream Before Dinner
They say you never realize how much your parents did for you until you have a child of your own. All the late nights, lessons taught, dollars spent, all to be appreciated in a single moment of revelation in the delivery room.
Since I'm not a father myself, it's safe to say I have no idea how much hard work and tough love my parents drove into me during childhood. Being a child is about living a perfect blend of ignorance and innocence; we want our ice cream now and find it ridiculous that we have to wait until after dinner to have some. Why is that a rule anyways?
Being a young employee is a similar phenomenon when you're hired into an established organization with bosses and procedures. On one hand, the newbie is supposed to come in and learn the firm's dynamics to fit in and help out. On the other, they're expected to shake things up by adding fresh ideas to old mentalities.
If done right, a new hire can spark real change at a firm and make everyone better. If done poorly, associates can feel trapped in a binary system where their only choices are to adapt or walk away. Management ultimately decides the fate of the cogs in that system.
Filling Big Shoes
Now that I'm wearing manager's shoes, my role is the ungraceful mixture of grounds keeping and open-mindedness. Yes there are rules and culture lines not to cross, but if we always do things the old way, we'll turn obsolete in no time. So which rules are worth keeping and which ones do we change? After all, culture trickles down from above.
The other dynamic I picked up as a newbie manager was how hard it is to develop young talent while also doing my own job. Our clients know me as their “Financial Planner,” but the firm mostly needs me for management and daily operations duties. It turns out all of the above could be full-time jobs of their own.
With an ever-growing list of clients and fresh talent waiting to be manicured, how do you find time to do a good job and make sure new associates do well too without being labeled the dreaded micro-manager?
Sorry for Being Arrogant
When I was the fresh talent myself, the only thing I was focused on was advancing quickly. I had moved across the country for this opportunity and only gave myself one choice - succeed. I saw some early success and wrongly assumed it was all because of me.
My entire perspective changed when I became a manager myself.
My big moment came a few years ago when our firm decided to hire our first intern. I consider myself a big brother at heart, so managing and mentoring a young person seemed like a breeze.
This was not the case.
A couple of months into gasping for air, the lessons came pouring in and everything my own manager had done for me was finally coming to light. Opening my eyes for the first time, I could see how much had been done for me over the years.
The client I gave advice to and bragged about for days? My early promotion and title change? The raving reviews from clients where I’d done half of the work but got all the praise? All were opportunities that I would not have had access to without my own manager’s blessing.
I barged into my boss' office and said, "I finally get it. I’m sorry for being difficult all this time." (yes this really happened)
All the well-intentioned, perfectly delivered lessons on Time Management, Managing Up, and Excellence that I basically ignored all surged back to me at once. I came to this firm feeling like an eager, talented person ready to shape the world. To someone who'd been around the block, I was the kid who viewed life through the lens of a not-so-perfect blend of ignorance and innocence.
The (Sometimes) Thankless Job
Being a manager can be thankless, repeatedly. Teaching someone rules, culture, and procedures can sometimes feel like explaining the health benefits of broccoli to a kindergartner. “Thanks for the lecture. Can I go back to work now?”
But a good manager presses on because they know what’s on the other side of the struggle.
It's amazing how much of life we can take for granted until we have perspective. And now that I’m standing on the other side, it’s my job to make sure the next generation has opportunities of their own to advance quicker than they ever imagined.