KELSEY ALPAIO: Now that you manage people, do you feel like a different person at work? That’s a question we put to new managers. Here’s how Jen, Cherry and Christie responded.
JEN: I feel different in that I have responsibility for people now and their livelihood, as opposed to just myself and my work. I can almost feel myself growing. I’m in the stage of uncomfortable, but a good kind of uncomfortable.
CHERRY: I do feel different, like a different person at work. I feel more jaded. I feel more tired and burnt out. I feel less hopeful. It’s almost like the curtain lifting the veil and realizing a lot of systemic issues in my workplace. And while I have more experience under my belt and I’m able to work more efficiently, I sometimes wonder at what cost, and sometimes I think at cost of my personality, who I am, and in some ways my joy and my innocence.
CHRISTIE: Since starting my new position, I do feel like a different person at work now. I feel more decisive and intentional and forward-thinking. Having a team behind me that allows me to dream big and to continue to push myself has been key to this new transition.
AMY BERNSTEIN: Kelsey, did any of those thoughts ring true for you?
KELSEY ALPAIO: Oh, yeah, definitely. Especially Jen and Cherry, I feel like, are exemplifying both the feeling of overwhelm and almost fear of having responsibility for other people and not just being an individual contributor anymore, having to care about other people, their wellbeing, their work, while also balancing your own work. It’s just so much to deal with.
AMY BERNSTEIN: Yeah, totally. When Jen talked about that stage of uncomfortable, oh man, I went right back to that feeling that at any second I was about to screw up and whatever it was that I screwed up would affect not just me, but the people I was responsible for. I was heartbroken when Cherry said that she sometimes wonders what her new role as manager has cost her and that she worries that it’s actually cost her joy and her innocence.
KELSEY ALPAIO: I know, and that also resonated with me, in that I feel like I lost a lot of my optimism when I became a manager. I was such an optimistic person, but then there was all of these negatives floating around in my mind all the time, that I just didn’t have that same bubbliness that is core to my personality. It was a weird time.
AMY BERNSTEIN: Yeah. And then I just have to say, I wish I could have had even some of Christie’s optimism.
KELSEY ALPAIO: Jen, she talks about that stage of uncomfortable. I never got out of that stage when I started managing. I left that job before I was able to emerge from that stage, but it sounds like there’s another side, where you do come out and you realize that you’ve gained this confidence and you’ve gained this way of moving through the world in a different way.
AMY BERNSTEIN: Or maybe if you go in with confidence, you are setting yourself up to move through the world in the new way that Christie described. How else did you feel yourself changing when you took on the managerial role?
KELSEY ALPAIO: I think the biggest thing for me was I had identified so much with the work I was doing as an individual. I had worked my whole life up until that point to get to where I was as an editor and writer, and all of a sudden I wasn’t any of those things. I wasn’t doing that work anymore, and so it was harder for me to feel pride in what I was doing because I also didn’t feel good at being a manager. It didn’t resonate with who I was as a person and where I felt like I had lost this big chunk of who I was.
AMY BERNSTEIN: What you’re saying is making me think about how there’s very little glory in being a good manager, but there is the glory of an article with your byline or your name on a podcast. It’s nice. You feel the warmth of the attention and management is, by its nature, about stepping out of the spotlight, don’t you think?
KELSEY ALPAIO: Yeah. I think it takes a lot of selflessness that I wasn’t ready to practice at the time. I still don’t know if I’m ready to practice it, but we’ll get there.
AMY BERNSTEIN: A lot of this is about identity and how it shifts when you take on a new role.
KELSEY ALPAIO: Yeah, absolutely.
AMY BERNSTEIN: Fortunately, you have found someone who guides managers through these mixed feelings and self-discovery: Jen Dary.
KELSEY ALPAIO: Yes. Jen’s a leadership coach, who helps people make sense of their new and changing identity at work. She’s here with advice for defining who you are now and for setting priorities and boundaries that’ll keep you intact mentally, emotionally, and professionally. Jen, what type of identity work is important for first time managers to do?
JEN DARY: There is identity work to do probably a little bit ahead of time, but certainly at that moment, which is, who do I want to be and what is my intention? That is helpful. I would also advise folks to come up with two, three people in their mind who’s a leader that they admire. Why? What qualities exist in those people that I might start to inherit and act for myself? You become this just combined marshmallow man as you move through. You’re adding chunks of influences and people that you’ve worked with and worked for, books you’ve read, moments you’ve observed out in the world where leadership was happening, but honestly, time and experience is also helpful. It’s hard for you to predict the identity you’re going to have ahead of time when it comes to some of these heavier lifts in a career and certainly a responsibility that comes with management and the modeling that you’re doing and the way people are looking to you.
KELSEY ALPAIO: What are some of those key inflection points where you can take a moment to step back and say, “Okay, I’m going to move forward intentionally here”?
JEN DARY: One might be giving someone very critical feedback or talking about underperformance. That’s hard. We are very nice people and it’s hard to sit down and have confidence and calm when you have that talk with someone. When you make a first hire, it feels exhilarating to go through that process, look at all kinds of candidates, wonder about whose personality, skillset, dynamism is going to come into that team, and they say yes, and it’s really exciting. It’s this new opportunity. Of course, letting someone go is another classic one of those. It’s great to have intention. It’s really important to take a second and wonder why you’re interested in this, but so much of it is going to come from the experiences, the challenges, the victories along the way that is going to solidify, “Oh, yeah. That’s when I’m brave. Oh yeah, that’s when I need more support.”
KELSEY ALPAIO: What advice do you have for managers who have lost a piece of their identity in not being an individual contributor anymore and not having that role that they resonated with?
JEN DARY: There is a bit of grieving. What’s funny, in terms of the cycle of things, what I see when someone first gets promoted is, Oh my God, this is so exciting, I got the promotion. They call their parents, tell their partner, certainly post on LinkedIn. “I have a new role.” And then maybe 6, 8, 10 weeks in, it’s like, Uh-oh. I used to like what I was. I was in the weeds. I made the stuff and then I shipped the stuff and then I got a new project, but now my currency is people and people never ship. People never have the deadline where you’re done with them, so it’s a very different flow of work. With people, you have to pace yourself differently, the success metric looks really different, and so there’s usually a grieving period at some point, where people think, did I screw this up? Did I take a wrong turn? Hopefully they have support and community and resources to get them through that question to either pivot back or the decision to say, “Well, this is a new ballgame. How can I be successful here?”
AMY BERNSTEIN: How would you even know to have that conversation with yourself?
JEN DARY: Yeah. Well, I interviewed someone once on my podcast actually about this, and she said she gives herself a timeframe. She stretched and said, “I would like to try management because I think the skills that I would learn there, even if I didn’t stick with it, would be really helpful for me as I move into tech leadership,” for example, and so she gave herself 18 months. She said, “I’m going to be a manager for 18 months, and at the end of that, I will decide if I want to keep doing that or if I want to get an IC leadership role,” so in the tech space, that could be a tech lead or someone who’s not people managing necessarily. I think that was really smart to give a number of months so that you are not so tied to the emotion of the moment.
AMY BERNSTEIN: Right. And I just heard Ginni Rometty, the former CEO of IBM, make a really interesting point, which is that to grow, you have to take risks. And what I would add to that is that risks are discomforting. If you sit in the discomfort and feel it as pain and feel it as a warning that you’re in the wrong place, then you’re not going to grow, but if you understand that the discomfort is going to get you somewhere where you really do want to go, then that’s helpful, but of course, Ginni Rometti had a 40, 50 year career from which to draw this insight.
JEN DARY: It reminds me very much of exercise and training. It hurts when you start training for something. It hurts, and there is that blurry line sometimes between, Am I harming myself or is this normal growth? I think that’s true for careers, too. Should I be strong arming myself through this period or have I just really ended up in the wrong role? Another very important component of all this is, do you actually want to be a manager, but not at this company? The culture of a place is highly influential on how you feel successful, the support you’re given, the resources and beyond, and also what’s being modeled for you, I should say. The role might actually be one you’re interested in, but the circumstance or the environment you’re in might not be the best place for you to either start your career in this or continue your career towards management.
AMY BERNSTEIN: How do you figure that out?
JEN DARY: I think it’s hard to see without, I don’t want to say third party, but someone who’s not you. Pay attention to what the people around you are observing. Are they seeing that you have nothing positive to say about work and you’re not energized at the end of the day, but you’re rather just totally deflated on the regular? And if you do have that self-awareness, some people journal, some people keep track of their energy at the end of the day, or an adjective that describes them. Look at your data. What’s it suggesting about where you are? Are you set up for success in this place or not? Are people that you really respect and liked working with, are they leaving? That would be a sign that maybe you’re not in the right place.
KELSEY ALPAIO: And there’s a difference too, between that feeling of grief, feeling that change and feeling that transition, versus one of our listeners Cherry mentioned that she started to feel more jaded and hopeless at work when she became a manager because, all of a sudden, she was seeing all of these things behind the scenes that she wasn’t seeing before. She was seeing the systemic issues. And as a new manager, if you want to take action and maybe try to address some of that disillusionment, how would you coach somebody to do that?
JEN DARY: I think I would ask what’s possible. I’m a big fan of making lists, so I might first ask them to bring to the next coaching session the top five things that they’re bummed out about. And then I would say, “What of this could be improved? What do you have power to look at? What could be moved forward a little bit?” And then we would pick off the list a couple of very tangible things to move forward. That would include going directly to your manager and feeding some feedback up about it. That would include asking for permission to take on, like, “Hey, I’d like to revisit the policy for maternity leave. Is that something that HR is open to? Are you looking for a collaborator on that?” And in this case, I’m talking more about policies, but you might just be frustrated with the software your team uses. Maybe you can ask for different software. Nothing really hurts for you to ask. You don’t need to ask it in a very entitled way, but you certainly can say, “Hey, I’m two months into managing and I’ve got some notes. Can I talk them through with you, manager? Can I find out from you if there’s any wiggle room here, because I have some ideas for evolutions and improvements I’d like to make.” You’re allowed to say that because, guess what? You just got more authority and more power now that you’re a manager. I think that gets overlooked sometimes in the daunt of getting promoted into management.
AMY BERNSTEIN: When I’ve talked to people who have felt that disillusionment, I have found myself saying, “You now know that management is messy and there are a thousand opportunities for improvement, and there’s a unique and evanescent value that you’re bringing to your role right now, and that is your fresh eyes. Remember that and speak up.” Okay. Jen, a listener, also named Jen-
JEN DARY: Good name.
AMY BERNSTEIN: -Yeah, it’s a great name – shared that one of the most jarring parts of becoming a manager for her was suddenly having responsibility for other people and their livelihoods. Again, we’re talking about the realities of management. How can new managers cope with that pressure?
JEN DARY: I feel this as a coach. I think many of us in a more service or support oriented role feel this, which is, I want to help them, I want to save them. I want to make it all very good, but there’s a maturity that comes with these roles where you realize that there is a boundary. This is what I can do, and this is what then you need to do. And you may struggle to say, “I can’t do anything beyond this,” but the success metrics at the end of the day for a manager are really blurry. What was a good day? Nobody quit? You didn’t have to fire anybody? And one of the core principles of a manager training that I teach is this idea that at the end of the day, you can think, “Did I move something forward today?” That could be a project, a client, a person, a career path, a feedback conversation, and the answer, inevitably, every day is yes. That’s what you hang your hat on in terms of, am I doing a good job managing? It’s not how much and how many and all these things, but it’s did I move something forward today? And when it comes to people, you can make a lot of impact with tiny moments. If you’re able to get somebody’s head on straight, let them leave at 5:15, feeling like they did a good job, whoever receives them at home is benefiting from the atmosphere that you created at the workplace that day. It means they might be a different parent, they might be a different partner, more helpful in their neighborhood, all kinds of stuff. And I don’t want to put all that weight on the manager themselves, but the impact can be huge for the ripple effects that a strong manager can have.
KELSEY ALPAIO: Yeah, that almost feels like more pressure, but I get what you’re saying.
AMY BERNSTEIN: Well, that’s my question. How do you keep a new manager from feeling paralyzed by all of that power and influence?
JEN DARY: I think you got to go one step at a time. The first day is, did you remember everybody’s names and their jobs and do we have the deadlines straight? There will be a point where that stuff is old hat and you’ve shipped a few features or whatever your work is, and you now can start to say, Something’s up over here. I don’t know. I’m going to use our next one-on-one to check in. Are they burned out? Are they demoralized? Is there something going on at home? And then you can troubleshoot, but at the very, very beginning, if someone just got promoted to management, do not think about changing your employees’ home. You just keep it right at work right there.
KELSEY ALPAIO: We’ve talked a lot about some of the pressures that come with becoming a manager and we’ve seen in different research, even in the Women in the Workplace report, just how much women stepping into management and women who have been in management are dealing with burnout and dealing with stress. What advice do you have for women to deal with that burnout and to deal with that stress?
JEN DARY: There’s a couple ways I see this showing up. One is the recession or economic climate we find ourselves in, whatever we want to call that. There are less people to do just as much, if not more, work. There is definitely a generation of burnout happening right now in a post-COVID time, where people are saying, “Don’t be at home, come back to the offices. Also, by the way, you have half your team. Also, by the way, we really need all that done faster than we thought.” It’s like, Okay, that’s just totally unrealistic. When do I say no? And that’s really hard, especially if you’re a little bit worried about maybe losing your job. Nonetheless, you serve no one when you can’t get out of bed in the morning and when you’re too tired to show up and you’re canceling all your one-on-ones and things like that. That overload and that overwhelm is potentially coming from that direction. You also have folks who are overcommitted, and that might not be other people obliging you to do things, but that you yourself have raised your hand for too many things. There will be a limit to the quality of work you can do and if you say, “You know what? Why don’t you give me both those other teams? I can take it on,” it’s a heroic offer and it can be hard to figure out what is a reasonable challenge and what is too much, what’s overcommitting. If you’ve got more than seven or eight reports, that’s a lot of people in your brain. If you’re going to go from seven reports to 15 reports or even 10 probably is an okay stretch, depending on how the company’s doing, but really trying to say yes to every opportunity is not always going to serve you.
AMY BERNSTEIN: You’re describing, then, this idea that you have to stay aware of what you actually can accomplish well. Right?
JEN DARY: Yes.
AMY BERNSTEIN: But sometimes that involves overpromising.
JEN DARY: Yeah, a lot of this really depends on self-awareness and also confidence and comfort with yourself. It’s not reasonable to be expect that you’re going to be able to be calm, cool, and collected through every new challenge in your career at all, but if you know who you are and you know who you are not, it’s going to be way easier for you to communicate what would be a stretch and what would be overwhelming. A phrase that I use a lot in coaching is “my best work.” This is a really neutral phrase that you could use at any point in your career, really almost in any conversation, which is, I want to do my best work. This obligation is stretching that, and I can’t do my best work if I’ve got 20 reports, if I’ve got 14 clients, whatever it is. That is a really neutral way to remind ourselves, we’re trying to do work together. This isn’t a personal conversation all the time. This is me trying to make sure that the project or the team or the company or the offering is successful. When we bring it back to that, everybody can agree that yes, that’s what we are all here to do is our best work together, and for me to share what would be more helpful to me to get to that end, I’m not saying no, but I’m saying I could do that with X, Y, Z support.
KELSEY ALPAIO: I think that’s hard, too, to set those boundaries and to start saying no to things when you are new and you are trying to prove yourself, both trying to prove yourself to yourself, but also to everyone else around you.
AMY BERNSTEIN: And you’re trying to learn.
Exactly, yeah. It’s that balance of trying to figure out who you are as a manager while trying to not burn out and trying to be good at your job. It’s just so much to balance.
JEN DARY: Yeah, it is, but this notion of being good at prioritizing or at least having a rhythm of prioritizing, sitting down every Monday and saying, “What are the four things that must get done this week?” That could look like do X, Y, Z ticket chunk of work or it could look like sync up with so and so to see how they’re doing. That is going to probably be something that is more managerial related. You’re watching someone who might also be experiencing burnout, and the sooner I have this conversation, the more options I have to try to fix it. Just the fact that it’s maybe four priorities doesn’t mean they have to be very tangible. They could be more strategic in nature, and that’s a big part of managing, too, is figuring out, what are the quick wins I need this week and what are the seeds I have to plant that might pay off in a month or even six?
AMY BERNSTEIN: Make a list at the beginning of the week of four things you have to get done. I’m going to start doing that.
KELSEY ALPAIO: All right. Well, thank you so much, Jen. This has been incredibly helpful.
AMY BERNSTEIN: Yeah. Thanks so much, Jen.
JEN DARY: Oh, you’re so welcome.
AMY BERNSTEIN: Kelsey and I have a guest in the studio with us.
KELSEY ALPAIO: We do. We wanted to talk with someone who’s pretty new to management, but has been doing it long enough to have worked through the uncomfortable and found herself again. That’s Taniya. She’s an electrical engineer in the public transportation industry in Boston. Aside from managing the commissioning and design and installation of a major project, she manages a lot of people. She took a break from all of those responsibilities today to come here and reflect on what we heard from Jen Dary.
AMY BERNSTEIN: She’s also going to tell us about how she’s changed since the last time I interviewed her for our episode, The Ups and Downs of Being a First Time Manager. Want to say hi, Taniya?
TANIYA UPPAL: Hi, everyone. Hi, Amy. Hi, Kelsey.
KELSEY ALPAIO: Hello.
TANIYA UPPAL: Thank you for having me back here.
KELSEY ALPAIO: Welcome.
AMY BERNSTEIN: Great to have you.
KELSEY ALPAIO: You mentioned in that episode with Amy that you weren’t really sure about the common advice to find a management style because your boss promoted you into the role because they believed in you as you were. And Jen talked about how, in reality, you can envision the leader you aspire to be, but you become that person through on the job experiences that shape you. How much leadership development for you has been proactive, and how much of it has been the result of responding to real situations?
TANIYA UPPAL: I think it’s been a combination of preparing for it and learning on the job. I always knew I wanted to become a manager, so I would say that I have prepared for it for a large part of my life, even if it was being in school, being a prefect, or being something or the other in the leadership role. I don’t really think I envisioned a management style for myself. I still don’t know the theoretical definition of what I’m doing, which category, which type of manager I would be called, but I certainly know there are days when I know what I’m doing is working and some days when I know it’s not working. That’s when I would come back home and reflect on, “Okay, how would I handle this differently?” Amy, if I can ask you a question, if I am someone who’s struggling to see what a leader I am, do you really think it matters, or by defining yourself as a certain style of leader, you’d be limiting yourself to what that type of leader is supposed to do?
AMY BERNSTEIN: Yeah, that’s a really interesting question. I worry about this need to self-define rather than to just figure out what matters to you, what your values are, and to lead with those. I don’t even know what … I probably should know, but if you asked me what the categories of leader are, I don’t know. There are lots of different kinds of leaders, and there’s no one right way to be a leader, but I think it really helps to understand what matters to you and to figure out who has set a great example or that’s what helped me. If being respected for your integrity is important, that’s something that becomes a true north for you. I bet competence is important to you, just based on what you said a few months ago, the technical skills you bring into this role. Why wouldn’t that be part of who you are as a leader? I always think of it as, what do you want to be known for?
TANIYA UPPAL: Absolutely. I’ve always heard there are two types of leaders. You can either be liked or you can be respected. I don’t know if you have any thoughts to that, while you were in your role, if you struggled with defining what kind of a leader you wanted to be.
KELSEY ALPAIO: Yes. We’ve talked about this a little bit, too, because I struggled with that so much with wanting to be liked more than respected. It’s actually a relief to hear you both talk about not falling into one of those categories, because I’ve read, I don’t know, a hundred articles, they all have different types of leaders listed in them, and I’ve never found one that really speaks to who I am. I’ve seen characteristics in each of them that resonate with me, but I’ve never found that one category that I fit into or that I want to fit into as a potential leader. Taniya, did you ever struggle with the respect versus likability thing?
TANIYA UPPAL: Because I became the manager of a team that I was already a part of, people already knew me and they knew my work, so as far as I know, I don’t think I had to struggle with that. Maybe the first few weeks there was a little bit of awkwardness, and so I tried harder to be likable. And then I realized at the end of the day, if the job doesn’t move forward, then it doesn’t matter if people like me or not.
AMY BERNSTEIN: A year into your role as manager, Taniya, what changes have you noticed in yourself?
TANIYA UPPAL: I think I’ve seen some good changes and some bad changes. For good changes, I’ve definitely seen an increase in confidence, knowing whether the decision I’m going to make is going to be good or bad, or if it is bad, then what the risks are associated with that, but the downside of it has been that I find myself to be more stressed than I used to be. There’s so much work to do, and it always feels like time is slipping away. And then I struggle with time management, and I as a person have never had those issues, but now I feel like there’s just not enough hours in the day. I’m trying to figure it out. I think I might be struggling with priorities, but it’s hard to define those, because I have to define those for myself. I don’t know if, Amy, you have any advice on that.
AMY BERNSTEIN: Sometimes what helps is to separate the urgent from the important and to make sure you’re not absorbing someone else’s sense of urgency if you don’t share it. You have to make your own decisions about what is truly important for the future of your project or your team or your organization. The other thing you can do is figure out if some of the stress you’re feeling is because you’ve got too many deadlines looming. Can you move some of them out? And then are you striving for perfection in everything you do, or would 75% be good enough? On the other side of that, if something is not perfect, what’s the cost of it? And it’s really hard to figure that out, but you should not be working every weekend. You should not be working every night. How could you sustain that?
TANIYA UPPAL: Right. It’s terrible. I’ve actually been trying to be nice about it. I have my phone set to no notifications after 5:00. I’m trying to be very conscious about it, because I realized it’s not going to work.
AMY BERNSTEIN: Good.
KELSEY ALPAIO: Is that working?
TANIYA UPPAL: I think so. The first few weeks were a little tough, to be honest, because I found myself going back to my phone and trying to see what’s going on, but then I realized it has to stop.
KELSEY ALPAIO: That’s good. And it’s interesting, is 75% good enough thing, the idea of that feels so freeing because similarly, I think I have held these perfectionist ideals about who I am as a person and the way I do work, and I want it to be perfect, and I want it to be as good as it can be, but who is that serving? It’s serving no one if 75% is going to do the same job.
AMY BERNSTEIN: And if you’re going to drag something out. There’s a lot of value in moving things along in the general right direction sometimes, particularly with projects.
TANIYA UPPAL: Absolutely. Maybe some things require perfection, and if others don’t, then that’s it.
AMY BERNSTEIN: Yeah, and most things don’t.
TANIYA UPPAL: I think that’s a little harder to accept.
AMY BERNSTEIN: You mentioned that you have a former boss who you used to go to a lot for advice, and you were a little bit worried that maybe you were leaning too heavily on his help and that was preventing you from growing. Do you still talk to that boss?
TANIYA UPPAL: I still do, but I think the stakes are higher when I go to them, because now I think I deal with a lot of things on my own. There are things where sometimes I know it’s going to go beyond my expertise and I’m not afraid to ask for help, because I don’t want to mess up where it affects a wider group than it needs to. I guess all I’m trying to say is it’s on a case by case basis, so it’s definitely not as much as before, but I definitely still need help and I’m not going to pretend to know it all.
AMY BERNSTEIN: It’s the higher stake questions.
TANIYA UPPAL: Yeah, absolutely.
AMY BERNSTEIN: Yeah, that makes sense.
KELSEY ALPAIO: What have you learned about yourself from becoming more independent?
TANIYA UPPAL: That’s a deep question. I should go a little easy on myself, because everybody’s learning. It’s easy to beat yourself up and think, “Well, I could have done this better or maybe there’s a different way to approach it,” but just be easy on yourself. That’s what I’ve learned.
AMY BERNSTEIN: What got you to that realization?
TANIYA UPPAL: Because I think in some cases I have thought out loud, “Oh, this is a situation. What do we do?” And there have been other people in the room, and we’ve been brainstorming ideas, and at that point, I realized that nobody really comes in with a decision in their mind. Everybody thinks it through in that moment. Everybody goes through the same thought process as I do. I don’t need to have all the answers right away. I’m allowed some time to think.
KELSEY ALPAIO: Right. If there’s anything this series has taught me, it’s that I was really, really hard on myself, and it’s actually nice to hear from all of these managers and all of these experts who have basically told me again and again, everyone goes through this stuff. They all figure it out and stop being so hard on yourself. It’s hard to get there, though. It really is.
TANIYA UPPAL: Right, absolutely. Last time I was here, I said something like, “Some days I just don’t know what I’m doing.” Actually, when people heard me say that, I kid you not, most people, including my family, said to me, “Really? We never thought of you as a person who doubted yourself.” And I guess I came off better than I thought, so just that, Kelsey, don’t go hard on yourself. I think we all deserve some slack end of the day.
KELSEY ALPAIO: Do you feel like your personal growth has stalled or flourished as a result of becoming a manager? When I first stepped into my role, all of a sudden it felt like my personal growth and my personal development, the things that I had been building towards had suddenly stalled. I was focused so much on everybody else’s growth, my team’s growth, our projects’ growth.
TANIYA UPPAL: Stalled is actually a great word for my personal growth. I don’t want to come off negative here, so I think I’ve definitely learned a lot, like a lot of my communication skills, people’s skills, but as far as professional training goes, the certifications goes, I have been wanting to do my PMP for several years now, and I really thought last year would be the year, and I couldn’t do it. I simply didn’t have enough time. I think that part of it has definitely been slower than I would’ve liked it to be, but again, it’s a matter of going easy on yourself. I was really nervous about it, and I know that having a certification like a PMP really helps in a role like this, but I knew I was already doing my best and I couldn’t do it, so I couldn’t do it, and hopefully this year is the year when I get to do it. It’s a matter of finding some time and focusing on what you need to do to take you to the next level, because I know if I continue doing what I’m doing today, it brought me from yesterday to today, but it’s not going to take me from today to tomorrow.
AMY BERNSTEIN: That problem of how do you make the time for something like a PMP certification, which will advance your career, that’s a big commitment. I don’t have a ready answer for you. Have you spoken to your manager about it?
TANIYA UPPAL: I actually talked to them last year about it. It was part of the, Hey, this is what I want to achieve in the year, and I just couldn’t. I touched base with them and I said, “Well, I know this is my goal, but I haven’t been able to find time.”
AMY BERNSTEIN: Maybe because now I really want you to do it this year, so maybe what you could do is at your annual review, maybe that goes into your self-evaluation or your conversation, and you get to say in that moment, “This is really important for me, but it’d be really good for this project, and these are skills I can bring into the organization. Here’s how I think I can manage it, if we deprioritize this thing or we push that deadline out, because then I can do the course.”
TANIYA UPPAL: Absolutely.
AMY BERNSTEIN: Just a thought because, boy, you’re not going to get less busy. You’re just not.
TANIYA UPPAL: I think that is a realization I need to have.
AMY BERNSTEIN: Yeah. It’s the weird physics of a career. You just don’t get less busy until you retire, I think.
TANIYA UPPAL: Wow, that’s a long way away.
AMY BERNSTEIN: Yeah.
TANIYA UPPAL: Kelsey, I know the first time you tried management, you had a somewhat negative experience. Do you think you would want to try it again?
KELSEY ALPAIO: I think I would. I feel like after doing this mini-series, talking to all of these experts, talking to Amy B., I have a lot more perspective on what I actually went through and I have a lot more understanding that it wasn’t just me. This is something that women who step into this role almost universally experience. And I think coming away from that, I can look back on the experience I did have and pull out the things that I was actually good at and the moments that I actually did enjoy from management. I really loved mentoring younger employees and helping them grow in their careers. I really loved strategizing and figuring out what we wanted to do as a team. There were parts of management that I really liked, and I feel like I focused on a lot of the negatives, but especially at an organization like this one, where I feel supported, I feel like I have the systems and the people who I can go to if I have questions, that I could help the organization move forward by leading other people. I can’t believe I’m saying this. It sounds wild for me. I feel like I’ve come a really long way in just a few weeks in my thinking about both myself and about people management in general, so long answer to say I think I would.
AMY BERNSTEIN: That makes me really happy, because I think you’d be great at it.
KELSEY ALPAIO: Thank you, Amy B.
AMY BERNSTEIN: Giving yourself a chance to succeed … Not everyone should be a manager, but there’s so much that you can get out of doing it if it’s what you want to do. As I said, I think you would do it very, very well, and it would give you a lot of joy. That’s our show. I’m Amy Bernstein.
KELSEY ALPAIO: And I’m Kelsey Alpaio. HBR has more podcasts to help you manage yourself, your team, and your organization. Find them at hbr.org/podcasts or search HBR in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen.
AMY BERNSTEIN: Women at Work’s editorial and production team is Amanda Kersey, Maureen Hoch, Tina Tobey Mack, Rob Eckhardt, Erica Truxler, Ian Fox, and Hannah Bates. Robin Moore composed this theme music.
KELSEY ALPAIO: Amy and I want to know what you are taking away from How to Manage. Do you have more perspective on your and other women’s experiences with people management? Do you feel more prepared to try it or try it again? Did you come to realize that it’s just not for you? Whatever your takeaways are or whatever feedback you have about the series in general, tell us.
AMY BERNSTEIN: We’re at firstname.lastname@example.org.
KELSEY ALPAIO: We’d also like to hear from listeners in middle and senior management. Do y’all want your own sets of episodes, because we could make that happen.