My Pivot to People-Focus

I’m a new “full time” manager, and to be honest, I thought I’d be really good at it. I like spending time with people, listening and learning from them, and helping them unstick business problems. And, I’ve spent plenty of time in leadership roles in finance and investment banking, where - and this is crucial - I lead project-based work. No one reported to me full-time on my small, horizontal teams.

It turns out it takes more than just “natural” skill to be a strong manager (I know, you veteran leaders are rolling your eyes), and leading different groups of people on project-based work is very different from leading the same people on multiple projects over time.

My biggest problem? Following up on the things I said I’d do. As an individual contributor and leader working cross functionally, I’d never had a problem with this. Lists and project-focused tasks kept me on track.

As a director, I had a much harder time. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why. Functionally, I was doing much of the same work, but practically, I was failing.

And then, I finally had an aha.

It’s not that my job changed, it’s that my company social graph did.

Before, I was managing different people for short bursts of time, and we were only focused on one project at a time.

Now, I’m managing down, across, and up across multiple people and projects. It all got too complex for me to manage with lists. There were too many dependencies for me to get my work done. I couldn’t keep track of who owed what to whom, and what I needed to get done for other people, including and especially my team!

I started implementing weekly 1-1’s with other VPs in my organization, alongside my 1-1’s with my direct reports and our CEO, my boss. I hoped these “horizontal” 1-1’s - not just “vertical” 1-1’s - would help me keep track.

It kind of helped. Mostly these meetings turned into working sessions on whatever was top of mind. We didn’t have time to prepare for the most urgent and important areas across the multiple projects we worked on together. It was better, but still unsatisfying (not to mention expensive to have two director level folks in a marginally impactful zoom meeting).

And then, I implemented a Clickety 1-1 group, and it all finally clicked (pun intended). I created a Group with a stack for 1-1’s, and I can see all of my top interactions with each person. Activities created a space for me to take notes and clear action items, and I could easily flag the actions that needed follow up - either by myself or my colleague.

Clickety helped me organize my work by my company social graph, not the projects we worked on. Now, it’s as easy for me to track what needs to get done in advance of our next meeting. I can quickly see what’s most important for each person and each 1-1. The meetings have become more productive, actionable, and efficient. And, do what I said I’d do.

I was stuck, my team was stuck, and Clickety helped me unstick.