Meike BeckfordBy Meike Beckford, Dosh Financial Advocacy Manager

It is one of those steps on the career ladder that seems to hold a lot of significance. You’re moving up, you probably get a pay rise and you become more ‘senior’ (whatever that means). You are also conscious of all the negative stereotypes about ‘managers’ (see any number of Facebook memes and the like) and wonder how you’ll turn out.

Having made the move in February 2016 it now seems an opportune time to reflect on the past year. I have learnt a lot not just about the team I work with but about myself as a person, manager and leader. Here I want to explore a few of those things, although I am by no means an expert, and how I am looking to develop these going forward.

  1. Being a manager is a privileged position – not in the sense that it’s an earned ‘bonus’ or reward of some kind, but that the people you work with and line manage put an incredible amount of trust in you. Through meetings and 1:1s with each person, you get to hear about the incredible work they are doing every day. It is motivating, humbling and inspiring to see what everyone is doing.
  2. Listening is a skill – really listening, without just thinking about what you’re going to say in reply or your next meeting, is something you have to keep working at and consciously and actively do every time you speak to someone. Understanding where they’re coming from and asking questions to check understanding and explore the issue is essential to good communication and your ability to support and work with people, whether you’re managing them or not.
  3. Being responsive and following through are vital – I’m still working on this, as it’s always a challenge when we have lots of things on. Each person needs to be able to trust you and know they can count on you when needed. Leaving them without support, or just without an answer, undermines that trust and they will be less likely to come to you next time and you will end up reducing that person’s satisfaction at work, their effectiveness and energy.
  4. Leadership is not the same as management, but it’s incredibly important. My feeling (so far) is that it’s about maintaining focus on your overall goal and leading your organisation towards that. If you are in the trenches to the extent that you lose sight of the bigger picture and cannot shape what is coming, you will only ever manage the current situation, not lead towards a future one.
  5. You never stop learning – this works in two ways: both learning from your colleagues to improve your knowledge and the organisation’s work; and learning about yourself to constantly develop as a person (including as a leader and manager). I am sure that if I stopped doing this and assumed I had it all sorted I would very quickly start to go backwards and would certainly not be an effective leader or manager.

So where do I go after the first year and what am I working on for 2017? I have been lucky enough recently to attend training on personal resilience from Effective Challenge and good conversations from Inclusive Solutions. These reinforced for me some leadership ideas I have come across (such as Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits) in the last year and this fantastic TED talk from Laura Vanderkam, which really inspired me recently.

For me 2017 will be about being conscious of what I’m doing and reflecting on how this relates to my goals and those of my organisation. This includes how I am enabling my organisation Dosh to develop and achieve more for the people we support; how I support the people I line manage (see above!) and the whole Dosh team; and looking after myself and my development so that I can keep getting better.

What does this look like? I have started trying to developing some helpful habits: I am being more conscious of how I spend my time and trying to use it effectively; writing a weekly plan for work and free time to help me prioritise and placing our business plan in my line of sight so I don’t lose direction.

I definitely won’t get it right, or stick to the plan all the time, but we can only try! Maybe that’s something else I’ve learnt – getting it wrong sometimes is inevitable and I will keep working on being okay with that but being better next time.