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Confession of a Manager: Navigating the Challenges of Leadership

06/13/2024 Nisha Paudel
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I’ve been working at Spiralogics for almost seven years now, and I would be lying if I said that it's been a smooth ride throughout. From joining Spiralogics in August 2017 to switching to remote work in March 2020, and now leading a department with six members, challenge seems to be the main constant in this journey. 

You might be curious about the source of my frustration - well, I wouldn’t call it frustration. Let's call it ‘inspirational frustration’ - a situation that I hope inspires you in a positive way. Or perhaps you're here to empathize with me, believing you can relate to the reasons behind my ‘frustrations’. However, I want to clarify that my intention is not to discourage anyone. Instead, I'm here to dispel some misconceptions one might have about what it's like to lead a group of people. 

Like everyone else, I too always aspired to be a manager. Of course, now, my aspiration has gone beyond that. But coming back to the main point, I clearly underestimated the struggles that go into managing a group of diverse people.  

I understand that the role of a manager and leader can differ, but I will be using these terms interchangeably for this blog. For me, being a manager is not just about the title, it's about the ability to empower and develop others, and create a positive impact on individuals.  

Here comes the confessions 

The role of manager is not for the faint-hearted. This is something I’ve come to learn through my own set of challenges this past year. Behind the calm and confident demeanor lies hidden frustrations that many managers deal with but don’t really discuss openly.  

Through this candid write up, I would like to share four confessions and the resilience that keeps me (and possibly other managers) going. 

Confession 1: Expectations can be overwhelming 

Sure, the manager's role may seem glamorous, with visions of leadership, decision-making, and team empowerment. However, the weight of expectations from all directions can be overwhelming. Balancing the demands of superiors, the needs of the team, and personal aspirations can create a mixture of frustration.  

What keeps me going: I understand that feeling overwhelmed is a natural response. Where possible, I break down overwhelming goals into smaller, more manageable steps. Some things I do to mitigate this feeling are: 

  • Stop trying to micromanage everything, instead empower my team to handle work independently. 
  • Be open with my team about my struggles. This helps build trust and form connections. 

Confession 2: Need to make the ‘perfect’ decision leads to self-doubt 

Every decision a manager makes carries consequences, and the weight of these choices can be mentally exhausting. From strategic move to team dynamics, the responsibility to navigate your department in the right direction can cause stress. It would be a lie if I said I’ve never had moments of self-doubt. 

What keeps me going: Whenever self-doubt creeps in, I rely on my team to give me helpful insights. I also view decision making as an opportunity to gather information, gain experience, and refine my skills. 

Confession 3: Navigating remote team is not that simple  

I'm sure my fellow managers will agree with me when I say that one of the biggest challenges right now is effectively navigating the complexities of remote work and distributed teams. With members working from different parts of the world, I find myself spending a lot of time thinking of ways to maintain team cohesion, communication, productivity, and their well-being in virtual environments. Not just within my team, but as a Communications manager, I need to think about other members too. 

What keeps me going: Managing remote team has allowed me to look for creative solutions and experiment with different approaches. To attain better team cohesion in a remote work setup, our team even started scheduling bi-monthly Virtual Happy Hour. We usually share stories, play games, or simply catch up with one another during this virtual meet-up. In fact, the Communications team is planning to soon incorporate VHH across other departments.  

Confession 4: Leadership can get lonely 

Leadership can be a lonely road. The higher you climb, the fewer peers you find. There have been moments where I’ve experienced the isolation that sometimes comes with leadership. It is hard to find confidants who understand the unique challenges.  

What keeps me going: I’m fortunate to have fellow managers I can count on in times of crisis. They truly are the support system who help weather the storms.