Becoming a Manager


I’d like to start off by saying, I never thought being a manager would be easy.

Let’s be honest, we have all had those bosses that leave you wondering how they got the job because you just know you could do a better job. While you sit in your check-in with them you think about how they are struggling to manage the department, how they never remember deadlines, how they are not open to innovation, and how the half eaten granola bar on their desk has been there since last week! You have probably even had days where you thought these about your best bosses. My experiences made it clear that being a great boss is incredibly hard. I just did not realize how hard it would be to avoid falling into the horrible bosses category.

On my first day as a manager, I was nervous but prepared. I had my onboarding plan, my new supervisee and I discussed expectations and work styles, and we even had a candid conversation about our weaknesses. I was ready to go! I was going to be the boss with several emails a week from up and coming young professionals asking me to be their mentor. I wanted to be the type of boss that people brag about to their friends over drinks — my boss is so cool! (Note: I have never actually been called cool by anyone in my life).

Reality quickly set in. The questions started, the deadlines approached, priorities changed, and life happened. I felt the pressure of managing my staff while managing up to a new Executive Director. I found myself needing multiple reminders and overwhelmed by emails and what seemed like a constant barrage of questions and meetings. I was supposed to have all the answers but felt stressed out and overextended.

I started thinking about all the managers I had had over the years. I found myself thinking of all the questions I asked them and all the times I called my mom to vent about my boss who just didn’t get it. I also thought about all the times I must have acted like the professional equivalent of a teenager.

Now that I sit on the other side of the desk and have staff that probably call their mothers to vent about me, I get it. Being a great boss is hard but being a halfway decent boss is really hard too.

While my career as a manager has been short, here are some of the rules I live by:

  1. Carve out uninterrupted time to do your work. Otherwise your entire day will be answering other people’s questions.
  2. Check-ins are a sacred time. This will help your staff feel valued and accountable.
  3. Bond with your colleagues about something other than work. When people know and like you, they are more likely to do their best work.
  4. Be honest and transparent with your coworkers. If you need reminders or something fell off your radar, just be honest people will understand.
  5. Take your lunch breaks — I often use mine for yoga! You will be a better and more productive employee and manager it you take advantage your break time.


About the Author


Stephenie Lazarus is the Development Manager at LIFT, a nonprofit working to help Chicagoans lift themselves out of poverty for good. Stephenie is a graduate of both University of Michigan and University of Chicago and volunteers her time with Erie Neighborhood House’s TEAM program and the Junior League of Chicago.