Image via The Everygirl
I’m just going to come out and say it: I’ve had some badass managers in my career. All of them, actually, were pretty outstanding. Most of them women (who doesn’t love a fantastic #girlboss?) two of them men, and all of them wonderful. (Except for one, who was absolutely satanic. Woof. But we won’t talk about her.)
I was laying in bed at 4:30am a few mornings ago (why?) and randomly started to think about each and every one of these mentors, and how grateful I was to have received their guidance at one point of my career or another. And while I’m no longer in the “corporate” world, I’ve still taken their lessons with me–all still apply to my current career, and carry over into other aspects of life as well.
Then, the idea popped into my head to write down some of the most valuable lessons, because, how could I not share them with you? So, here we are.
Take this advice, and you’ll be on your way to a promotion in no time. I promise. It worked for me, and it will work for you too.
Lesson #1: No one is going to die.
Perhaps my favorite piece of career advice I’ve ever received. (Unless you’re a doctor, firefighter, etc, then I’m sorry–this probably doesn’t apply to you!)
If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you may have heard me repeat this before. When I started my first agency job, I was surrounded by a lot of other young overachievers that would take every minute detail extremely seriously. This often lead to a lot of stress over things that frankly–just weren’t worth stressing over!
My boss would always tell me, “Remember, we sell ice cream. Nobody is going to die. No matter how badly you mess up, it’s probably not that bad.”
And it’s true. Most of us aren’t saving lives. If you need to push back a deadline, if you accidentally made a typo in your client presentation, or mixed up a meeting time–nobody is going to die.
I continue to remind myself of this advice weekly. It’s easy to get caught up in the little things that you think matter, but in the grand scheme of things, do they really have that huge of an impact on your life? No. If I’m too stressed and I need to take a night off instead of finishing my blog post for the next day–are any of you going to fall deathly ill? No.
Big picture people, big picture.
Lesson #2: Being nice gets you further than anything else.
Being nice goes so much further than being harsh or intimidating, especially when it comes to a work environment. Of course, everyone knows that one successful manager who believes in scare tactics and micromanaging–but does anyone want to go the extra mile for him or her? Absolutely not.
This is especially true when you work closely with a team you depend on to get your work done. Being able to hold people accountable and keep them happy at the same time is imperative in succeeding at your job.
If you ask a teammate to turn something around on a tight deadline, it goes a lot further if you buy them a coffee to thank them afterwords, or buy them dinner for staying at the office late. Better yet, make sure to point out to your higher ups what a great job they did. (All of the above, actually, would be great.)
Around the same time that I was taught lesson #1 at my first agency, I remember there was a situation with an outside contractor (she happened to be a costume designer) who was a total flake. I mean, would not respond to emails, calls, totally missed deadlines, the whole nine yards. It had come down the wire with a client presentation, and we still didn’t have what we needed.
That being said, my emotions got the best of me, and I sent her a not-so-nice email as a result. My manager sat me down and reminded me that being nice and firm gets you MUCH further than simply being angry and demanding, and she was right. I’ve never forgotten that advice since. And know what? Since implementing this–I’ve never not received what I asked for, no matter how high I needed people to jump with me in order to complete a project successfully.
This doesn’t just apply to the office, but in all other areas of life, too.
Lesson #3: Market yourself, because nobody else is going to do it for you.
I received this piece of advice from a manager I completely idolized. She was young (she still is young), and had worked her way up the ranks quickly. She was everyone’s favorite co-worker, boss, teammate, you name it. I remember sitting in her office, talking with her about my career path and she looked at me and said, “Jess. You work in marketing. You’ve got to market yourself–nobody else is going to do it for you.”
And that stuck with me. You need to be your own best advocate. Don’t wait to be nominated for something, or assigned to a great project–it’s your opportunity for the taking. You are nobody else’s first priority.
So don’t feel bad asking to be put on the coolest project in the company, you are worthy. Don’t be intimidated asking to buy your CEO lunch–get yourself out there, nobody else is going to do it for you.
4. Work hard to develop your team members, and they’ll give you everything they’ve got in return.
We always think about what we can be doing to improve ourselves. How we can get ourselves to that next level–but did you know a lot of that has to do with how we can improve others?
Think about the best boss you ever had. If you’re lucky, that person was so wonderful that you would go to the moon and back for them, am I right?
But what made them so special? Likely, it’s because they took the time to push you, to help you grow, to make sure you got exposed to new things that made you a more well-rounded person and employee. They were your biggest cheerleader. They were knocking down their boss’ door asking when you were getting promoted.
I’ve been lucky enough to have several managers like this (some of them are probably reading this right now, because they’re still my biggest cheerleaders!) and honestly, I would still do anything for them. I didn’t care about staying at the office until 10pm at night to finish a presentation, or if I had to take a client trip on a Sunday to be there for a Monday morning meeting.
If you really want to be an indispensable employee, start with making others around you indispensable.
5. Only complain up, never complain down
This is such a unique piece of advice I’ve never heard elsewhere, and something I learned from my first ever boss (remember when I worked on a team with Neal? Haha!) While I grew to hate the job, I absolutely loved my manager, who taught me a lot about the corporate world. One of those things is to never complain down, only complain up.
(Note: It was not until I just googled this term did I know it came from Saving Private Ryan.)
What does that mean anyway? When you’re managing someone, they look up to you like a puppy. Everything you say has a big impact on them. That’s why you should never complain to someone who works under you–about a boss, about an office policy, talking badly about other coworkers–whatever it may be. When was the last time you heard a big leader talking smack about their employees? (Hopefully never, or else they were an awful leader!)
Of course, you can complain to your boss, other higher-ups, or co-workers of equal stature, but talking negatively to those below you will quickly pollute your work environment, and make your subordinates insecure about coming to you with issues, thinking you’ll talk poorly about them as well.
As far as your employees are concerned, the only problems you have are their problems. This makes you a more caring, more trustworthy manager.