From Work Manager To People Leader

A woman looking over an ipad.

I wrote an article telling some of the stories of how I went from a work manager to a people leader and some lessons I’ve learned along the way. Rather than post it here, I thought it might be neat to try it out on MasterWP.

Over the last few months, I’ve spent a lot of time with the folks there professionally as the Director of Brand and Product Marketing for StellarWP (we sponsor MasterWP), and personally, by chatting on Twitter with Nyasha from their team about all things BTS and KDrama.

They are excellent folks. You’re probably wondering why I posted there, it’s a bit of an experiment for me. I’m writing here about things I haven’t seen discussed much in the broader WordPress community and I thought with their reach, it would be interesting to see what might happen. Also, my DAU is, well, what you might expect for a personal blog and I thought this might draw some new people in. 😀

So far, the response has been really awesome. I’ve had people reach out to me on social, in Slack and Dan Knauss even wrote an epic compliment over on the Post Status blog. I’m allowing his words and compliments to carry weight, which is new for me. Usually, I find a reason to dismiss compliments or elevate criticisms but not today. Thanks Dan.

Okay, with all that said, here are some extra bits I thought it might be fun to share here to compliment that article and dig a little deeper for those who are interested.

A woman puts up a poster.

A People Leader Is Intentional

People leadership doesn’t just happen… It takes a commitment to an extremely high level of intentionality.

If there is one lesson I hope anyone with professional accountability and responsibility for others takes away from this article, it’s to choose the path rather than just walk it.

Culture-setting managers and people leaders (in my opinion) are the ones who are stepping out of the fray of day-to-day tasks and helping their direct reports make intentional, well-reasoned steps forward by being prepared for their interactions with their teams.

I learned so much about how to work with my team by role-playing with other managers and trying out different scenarios. It was really insightful to learn about the challenges other team leaders were facing and work alongside them to come up with approaches and ideas to help them navigate them with their team.

Here comes a sports analogy for leadership. We expect and accept that athletes will train for their big pressure moments, I suppose it’s something we can and should expect to do as leaders too. After all, athletes lose a game or a match or a competition, if we lose, people can be really seriously impacted.

office workers looking over a computer screen.

A People Leader Aims for Learning not Winning

Writing these articles is kind of like the Instagram of my experience. You’re getting a lot of the glossy and not a lot of the grunge.

I’d love for you to read an article and get something of value out of it but I really hope you don’t walk away thinking I’ve got it all figured out or that I always get it right.

In fact, that’s been one of the prime reasons keeping me from writing all these years. I didn’t want the people I live with, work with or have worked with to read these articles and see me minimizing the failures while building myself up.

So I took on this mantra for my writing and my leadership; rather than aim for winning or being the perfect leader, I’ll aim for sharing what I’ve learned through success and failure. Mostly failure, if I’m honest.

I think that’s something worthwhile for us as leaders to strive for too. If we’re after winning and being the perfect leader, we trample on psychological safety and limit our team’s ability to offer us the kind of feedback that will have a long-lasting impact.

A People Leader Assumes Positive Intent

I’ve said it before but was reminded recently of the power of assuming positive intent. I was on a podcast panel discussing some of the news in the WordPress ecosystem and beyond. It was a space where planting a flag on a hill or drawing a line in the sand was encouraged. After all, an entertaining show is one where opinions are strongly held and argued for.

Toward the end of the show, some strong opinions were shared about a crying CEO who took a selfie of himself crying about layoffs at his company and posted it on LinkedIn. Yeah, you can imagine what happened next.

Remember earlier when I spoke about how culture-changing leaders are intentional? Yeah, there was some good discussion about just how intentional this leader was for good or bad.

If you’re curious I’ve posted the video below. See what happens when our discussion about intent changes from assuming a negative or malicious intent to something more humanistic.

Finally, Thanks

I am really enjoying writing about all this kind of stuff. I’ve wrestled for a long time with trying to figure out how to contribute to the WordPress ecosystem in a way that combined what I was passionate about with what I knew a little bit about.

It’s been awesome hearing your stories, receiving your comments and feedback and seeing the conversations that happen as a result. Keep it coming. Also, if you’re in San Diego for WCUS 2022, come say hi, I’ll be around the StellarWP booth.