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When I think about my journey to management, there is one quote that always sticks in my mind:
"In weak companies the dreamers are expected to serve the planners. In great companies the planners feel inspired to serve the dreamers." - Simon Sinek
Five years ago I took a position at an Educational Technology company. It was an entry level position in the Market Development department and I was employee #212. The company was still navigating it's way through the market, processes were still being ironed out and refined, and the company was growing...fast. My Manager had done a stellar job of creating a nice sub-culture within the open company culture and I was happy with the position, the management, my co-workers, and the perks. I was in an environment to learn more than I had ever learned about anything in my life. I had the tools, the freedom and, most importantly, the support to grow and advance.
And advance I did. After a year and a half, I became a Team Lead. I had a small team of peers and we worked through some department restructuring and team changes. There was some typical turnover and then a boom in business and though I was busy interviewing candidates and keeping up with Sales, I felt stuck. I was restless and chomping at the bit to move up. Our numbers were good, my team was performing, I was performing, but I couldn't get over the hump. I was passed up for promotion on several occasions and I was growing bitter and angry. I even dabbled with giving up. I contemplated moving on. And then something interesting happened.
One of the last promotions I was considered for was given to a colleague. She had been on my team, she had worked under me and had excelled quickly. She was smart, analytical, and a real trouble-shooter. Now she was my Manager. I was disappointed and a little less than approachable once the announcement was made. I spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself. It was the first real obstacle I had come up against in the work place. I knew I had to buck up and drop it. I knew I had to stay focused on my team and my tasks and not let it eat away at me. I knew I had to grow up. Then my new Manager approached me and we started a dialogue.
Her approach, her tone, her attitude all spoke to my development. It was clear that her plan for me didn't have anything to do with hierarchy and subordination, I was now in a position to absorb as much knowledge and information from my Manager as possible. She became my go-to, my sounding board, my chief problem-solver POW WOW partner. I learned so much that year, from her and a small triad of managers. She provided so much insight, a larger perspective on the position, the department, and the company as a whole. I became more involved in cultivating relationships with other departments, asking questions, and finding the answers. I transitioned into Manager later in the year and I realized why all those other opportunities hadn't panned out. I hadn't been ready. I needed that time and the support to continue growing and learning. By the time I made Manager I had a plan, a solid team and a greater understanding of my team's role and value. For me, having her as my Manager had been far more valuable than the promotion.
1. Getting over myself. I was so focused on moving up (dreamer), I wasn't working on the things that would actually get me there (planner). Sure my team was performing, but how did that performance affect Sales? How did the goals of other departments, like Lead Gen and Marketing affect the performance of my team? I can tell you, I had no clue beforehand. I really had to step back and take a look at our role from all angles and that meant checking my own ego at the door.
2. Supportive and nurturing management. It was imperative to have a Manager that backed me up. Constructive criticism, the hard truth and a sense of humor go a long way in a management position and if I hadn't had those things in my management staff, no way I would have been successful. My Managers also encouraged strong relationships with other managers and peers. This created a unified front across the board and a great community with others who shared my role and title.
3. Paying it forward. The things I had to work on to become a Manager, I had to learn to cultivate and support in members of my own team. I had to apply the same encouragement, guidance and communication. To me, this was gold. This not only built trust between my team members and myself, but also was great motivation. The more I genuinely invested in there personal and professional growth, the easier it was to rally the troops, call upon the team or individuals for problem-solving and projects. Everyone was on the same page-a well-oiled machine that continuously met and exceeded goal.
Tell us about your road to Manager, Director or CEO. Did you have a pivotal moment, a mentor, or skill that propelled you to the next level? What tips do you have for dreamers looking to become planners?