Donning the Manager’s Hat

By, Prajakta Pradhan

As exciting as it is to imagine yourself as a Manager, it is at times extremely difficult to understand how a team functions. This is especially true if one has recently joined a team, new members have joined in, or worse, if there is a new Manager.

This article brings out the various challenges faced by Managers when working with their teams.

New Members Joining

It all starts with individual members fumbling to find a place, which sometimes ends in ego tussles. Being steady in one job for a longer period of time gives the person a better perspective of the whole team. It also helps the person actually see the dynamics at play.

Single New Member Joining

When an odd member newly joins a team, it is fairly easy to accommodate the new-comer. Depending on the designation of the new writer and years of experience, the writer’s position in the team is determined. When the designation and role are clearly defined, it is easy for the new writer to fit in.

If the writer is experienced, it is really a matter of understanding the documents, the products, and the processes. Getting into the groove usually takes a month or so for the experienced writer.

For a junior writer, depending again on the experience it usually takes up to three months to settle down and be productive.

Multiple New Members Joining

If multiple new members are joining the team, the situation becomes a bit more complex. The new writers are generally a mix bag of experience. Some are fairly new to the industry. Others might have been in the industry for more than 10 years.

The experienced writers carry a certain agenda, perspective, and understanding of documentation. They usually have some set expectations from their team members in the new company. The feeling of self-importance in the team is also very critical to these writers, which in turn makes a big difference to the team.

Again, if the roles are defined, it is comparatively easier. If the roles are not defined, it becomes difficult to understand what is expected from the new writers. This problem arises not just for the new writers, but also for the old team members. Nobody knows what is expected from the new writers, what tasks the writers will do. The situation in the team becomes quite confusing.

A New Manager

Team dynamics change drastically when there is a change in the Manager. The new Manager can be from within the team or from outside. If an outsider, the Manager has a lot to do. The new Manager must not only learn the new tasks at hand, but also get to know the team members, understand their aspirations, and try and work towards helping the writers achieve them.

On the other hand, a Manager from within the team poses a different set of difficulties. At times, existing members can get hostile, refuse to cooperate or even accept the new Manager. The new manager also suddenly has an elevated position and needs to learn how to handle all team members, even the hostile ones. The tasks of getting to know all team members, understanding their aspirations, and career goals also exist for this new Manager from within the team.

What does a Manager do?

All these new changes challenge the team to operate as cohesively as possible. Sometimes, there are ‘non-cooperation movements’, ego clashes, overwork, and a general confusion in the team. The Manager must address these issues without causing chaos in the team.

The Peacemaker

Here is where the Manager’s job is to bring harmony to the team and help each one achieve their goals. It is now up to the manager to ensure that old team members still feel valued, and at the same time make space for the new members.

Help New Members

There is a thin line between how much hand-holding should be allowed for new members of a team (whether experienced, or new to the industry). The Manager’s job does not end there. The manager also needs to ensure that not only are the new members getting enough help, but are also given a chance to perform independently and prove their mettle.

Define Clear Roles for All Members

The Manager also has to clearly define roles for each member and ensure that there is no stepping on others’ toes. It needs a person who has vision, innovation, persuasive and negotiation skills.

Lead by Example

The Manager needs to lead by example. The team must be able to look up to the Manager. Only then is the team confident and more responsive to the Manager.

Take Advice from Senior Members

The new Manager should not shy away from taking advice from senior members of the team. Their perspective and experience will always help the manager to take appropriate and useful decisions. One always needs a sounding board to talk things out that matter to the team.

Good Manager = Good Career

No wonder it matters a lot to have a real good manager to have a good career. No management training can teach you the team dynamics as much as the on the job trials and tribulations.
Brave Task

Ultimately, donning the hat of a Manager is a brave task, and definitely not an easy one. So much depends on one single person, not just the delivery of documentation, but also the health of several individuals, including their careers.

So the next time you think of progressing to a Manager’s role, just give a thought to all that you will be handling, not just your progression alone, but that of others’ too!

About the Author

Prajakta Pradhan is a technical writer working with IBM in Pune. She’s the mother of a beautiful two-year old daughter. She’s also a writer and editor.

Prajakta loves creating new documentation, editing others’ work, and conjuring up something new. She’s inclined towards information mapping and minimalism, and has recently started taking an interest in design thinking.

You can contact Prajakta by sending an email to prajaktacpradhan@gmail.com.

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