From the Director
The Managing 101 column in this issue outlines the objectives and program for the New Managers’ Conference 2000, which will be held in August. I’m very excited about the conference and the enthusiasm of those of you who have volunteered to speak. Over the past 25 years, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor many new managers. I have trained and promoted many; I meet some at workshops and conferences; others send me long emails; still others send pleas for help through various listservs. Most of the time, the new managers have had management “thrust upon them,” to paraphrase Shakespeare. They are the first hire in a new company or startup technical communication department and have graduated into management as more people are hired. They are promoted from the ranks of senior writers by higher level managers whose responsibilities have expanded. A smaller number are eager to pursue a management path and find management opportunities in new companies.
In each case, the new manager is surprised by some or many aspects of the new job. Those promoted from the ranks often have a difficult time handling the transition from peer to manager. They are reluctant to “give orders” to people they have been working alongside. Others learn quickly that there is more administrative work to do than they had imagined. They find their hopes to “keep on writing” quickly dashed among meetings, one-on-ones, crises, reviews, and budgets.
New managers suddenly understand that they are expected to support company policy publicly, even if they disagree privately. They learn that decisions that are best for the business take precedence over decisions that may result in more fun, foster someone’s personal interests, or even support a highly esteemed value of the entire technical communication organization. With tough decisions comes the realization that a manager’s decisions and actions are not always very popular.
Perhaps most dramatically, new managers are surprised by the spotlight they suddenly find themselves under. They haven’t anticipated how every action and every word is scrutinized by staff members; they didn’t realize, as I was once told by a management consultant, that they are the chief topic of dinner conversations in many households.
New managers also find that they have to spend time learning about their organizations, becoming expert in the politics of managing up. If they imagined that they could ignore the idiosyncrasies of their own managers, because they found them annoying or inconvenient, they soon learn otherwise. They learn that it is their responsibility to be prepared with answers, not questions, when they meet with their managers to solve problems or promote change. They also learn that they have to spend more time than they anticipated making certain that they communicate effectively, not only with their managers, but with staff and peer managers as well.
The New Managers’ Conference is designed to speak to these issues. Katherine Murphy has planned a series of carefully orchestrated presentations and activities that we hope will add up to a significant learning experience. It is, we hope, like no other conference anyone has attended. The sessions are presented by Center members, many of whom are new managers themselves.
I hope that all Center members will support the New Managers’ conference by sending those staff members who are interested in expanding their skills and their horizons. I believe the conference will be an invaluable tool to help new and potential managers get a head start. I hope the conference will help make progress easier and faster.
The participation of Center members in this conference and in the Best Practices Conference is part of the goal of the Center to create a collaborative environment. We don’t want to put on events; rather, we seek to bring people of like mind together in a supportive learning environment.
Remember the importance of working on your networking. We have an established Best Practices listserv that could easily handle more interactions. Please use it to bring up issues that you want to discuss with others outside your organization. Respond to the messages you read as well. I’m following the listserv closely, as are the Center Associates. We and your compatriots are here to help.